15 May 2017

Alina Zamanova is bridging the gap between art and fashion

"Stay Ugly".

[A]lina Zamanova is a Ukrainian fashion illustrator, artist and textile designer, who graduated from London College of Fashion’s Fashion Illustration course in 2015 and is constantly exploring the gap between art and fashion.

Using traditional illustration techniques learned while studying graphic design in Kiev, and her signature hand-painted illustrations, Zamanova aims to erase the boundaries between beauty and ugliness.

Zamanova’s AW17 collection, shown both at Ukraine fashion week and at the International Fashion Showcase at LWF, is dedicated to the female body and the ‘ugliness’ of our skin, represented by the nude colour palette and the movement performed by Ukrainian dance crew Apache Crew.

We caught up with her below to talk about nipple rings and staying ugly, follow her on Instagram @alinazamanova.

How did you realise you wanted to start your own fashion label?

I would not call it a fashion label, because I am more an artist than a designer, I like to call it my “brand” as there are no limits to what I can include in it. There was a time after graduating when I didn’t know where I was heading, but I guess it just happened naturally, I was just where I was supposed to be at that present moment. For me now, it is important to be an artist and explore the world while sharing my art and thoughts to my audience.

You practice as an artist, fashion illustrator and textile designer, do you think the gap between art and fashion is something that needs to be explored more?

Well yes I do feel this need to explore this exact gap between art and fashion. I think there has always been rules and stereotypes about who you have to be and how you need to grow, especially in Ukraine where I’m from. My grandma for example, still believes that my career path is very difficult and that I should’ve become a translator or a teacher instead. I feel that you should just be yourself, in general and in your creative career, not limiting yourself to the labels of art and fashion. Art and fashion are always intertwining and will meet at some point, like I show in my Artwear collections.

Talk us through your latest AW17 ‘Artwear’ collection, what do you want people to think and feel when they look at your work?  

There’s a big concept that’s growing behind my collections, which is the phrase “Stay Ugly”. Fashion is one of my favourite tools I can use to share my vision, so, when I was thinking about how I will showcase my vision, I thought why not use fashion, as it’s the perfect canvas for me, whether it’s a dress, a model or a backdrop behind the model. I don’t want to make collections that don’t mean anything, I want them to tell my story through art and performance. This year, I performed my new AW17 “Ugly Skin” collection, where I depicted the concept of idealising female forms and how women are an essential part of the history of art and fashion. Objectification of women became normal and beauty stereotypes were set by those who had no knowledge to dictate to us what is beautiful and what is ugly. The male gaze is a way of presenting women sexually for male pleasure by building beauty rules. Nowadays, in the media it is a main attention which we young creatives must finally break. I was exploring the female body and our ‘ugly skin’ no matter what form it has visually, as I feel that the female body is an interesting story that has a lot of secrets. We made an art performance, where I wanted to show the real female body and her ‘ugly skin’ in movement, by asking the dance crew from Ukraine to perform in my Artwear collection. 

You mentioned the phrase ‘Stay Ugly’, do you think there is too much pressure from the fashion world for people to look a certain way?  

There was a lot of pressure definitely, but now people are starting to react to beauty stereotypes and try to break them. I am one of them, because I feel there should be no boundaries to beauty and ugliness in our modern era. 

The collection featured nipple rings pierced onto garments, what do you think about the ‘free the nipple’ movement?

There are few garments pierced and it is a provocative sign to show in public, just the same as the “free the nipple” movement. I totally support the movement, but I’ve never actually put deep thought into it. I’m definitely sure there are so many artists who struggle to showcase their art to their audience because of rules, especially on Instagram, but this rule is to break, that’s why there is this movement – to break one more stereotype. 

Your signature is hand painting and drawing onto fabrics and garments, do you think it is important to pursue these traditional techniques in a digital age?

At this stage of my career, I feel it is something I am more interested in doing, but I’ve always loved the digital influence on our generation and I would love to explore this more in the future.

How has the digital world / social media influenced your work and practices?

I started to grow my audience through social media years ago, and the most significant and interesting projects I achieved through Instagram. Without a doubt, it is amazing that we have social media and that we can meet creative people around the globe, I’ve met amazing artists and creatives just through Instagram and I couldn’t be more happy about it. You should always remember that social media is not your social life, but sometimes it can open new doors in your career. 

Who are some other interesting talents from Ukraine that we should look out for?

Definitely keep an eye on young designers and artists from Ukraine, as there are so so many talented people! I personally like the aesthetics of Masha Reva, Nastya Ptichek, Sasha Samsonova and Cate Underwood.

Thanks Alina !