“You were the first person I told about my plans for this brand in June 2011 and now most of them are coming true,” remembers our friend Ksenia Schnaider animatedly, who welcomed us in the capital city of Kyiv although she has recently moved her studio to the Ukrainian countryside. Together with graphic designer and husband Anton Schnaider, she continues to expand her plans to bring her vision combining tradition and technology to the world. So far, her signature collections inspired by utility, history and codes have already been shown on the catwalks in Kyiv, St. Petersburg and Chengdu in China.
Although we have not seen each other in a while, a trip down memory lane and we re-live the good times. “I remember that crazy shoot at our apartment we shared with friends!” recalls Ms. Schnaider her Summer 2011 shoot with us. “The living room was overcrowded with the Playing Fashion team and my flatmates, but we were all very quiet, because my 1 month old baby was sleeping in the next room. Now she is a boss, telling me every morning, ‘I grant you the right to go to work today.’” She laughs. To that, we must of course extend our gratitude to her “boss”, as the result of going to work include invigorating digital projects such as the Camouflage Generator app, 3D lookbooks, video presentations, and art collaborations. This season, the brand indulges women with a collection focused on the protective function of clothing. Coveted pieces of the season include long white orthodox dresses, monochromatic camouflage-printed sweatshirts as well as metallic mini skirts and shorts. Looking good as a couple in the independent label is soon possible, as a men’s collection is introduced this fall.
Here, Playing Fashion catches up with Ms. Schnaider and becomes even more engrossed with her strong character from her particular childhood dream to her philosophy and beliefs.
AS A CHILD
I did not dream about fashion at all, but I remember that I wanted to be 30 years old. So, now I can say that my childhood dream came true this year and it gives me a strong sense that everything will be fantastic.
TO BE HONEST I MADE THOUSANDS OF MISTAKES
I started working in fashion at 16. I had my debut fashion show at Ukrainian Fashion week at 18. Can you imagine how raw I was at that time? I was always consumed with acting spontaneously. Now I become more and more alert, aware and attentive. Spontaneity can kill a business. I know now for sure.
I AM MULTITASKING 24/7
to make Ksenia Schnaider a world-renowned brand. My challenge is to create unisex clothes that will not look androgynous but allow a man to look masculine and a woman feminine with almost the same cut and fabrics.
A COMBINATION OF TRADITION AND TECHNOLOGY
glues Anton and my marriage together. (laughs) I am responsible for general ideas, moodboards, cuts, fabrics, PR, and sales. Anton is more like an art director - a person I can ask for advice. He is focused on the digital side of the brand and innovations.
THE LOST SPIRIT OF SOVIET LIFE AFFECTS ME
even though I do not realize the full extent of it. I think I am able to create something understandable worldwide but my designs always have a hint of nostalgia, even something orthodox mixed with modern Ukrainian clichés. I cannot close my eyes and pretend that I don’t see reality. I am confused how most Ukrainian designers can do so. I describe our everyday environment as “ugly beauty” and I work with it in my studio, trying to transform it into “flawless beauty”.
FASHION BECOMES MORE POLITICAL
than ever in history before. I am not sure I like it, but I use my collections to express my statements anyway. I did “Corruption” embroidery for our fall/winter 2013-14 collection and when the collection reached the stores, a revolution started. So a lot of Ukrainians bought the sweatshirts and caps to fight at Maidan and at the same time my Instagram feed was full of pictures of IT-girls wearing that line to private dinners, front rows and parties.
is something only strong personalities possess. Fashion suicide is uncertainty, I guess.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR KSENIA SCHNAIDER?
I don't like to talk about something that might happen in the future, because it might not. But believe me, we will not stop!
Photography by Inna Franco; styling by Ksenia Schnaider; hair by Zina Morino; make-up by Vera Lavrik; model: Arina / L-Models, Kyiv.
All pieces in this story - by Ksenia Schnaider.