Interview with Svetlana Fedina

Winner of Fashion Design Awards

Award Winning Designer Svetlana Fedina shares insights


Interview with Svetlana Fedina at Wednesday 4th of July 2018:

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?
SF : I always loved drawing from a very early age. While I was at school, I attended all possible extra-curricular arts and crafts courses. Then, I went to Moscow University to study Humanities. There I studied marketing and advertising design. After graduating I decided to go to the UK to learn English. Only there I realised that fashion is what makes my heart skip a beat. After completing my Master’s Degree in Fashion Marketing at Oxford Brooks University, I went to live in London. Shortly after I signed up for an evening course at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, covering Photography and Fashion Magazines Business. I haven’t stopped learning since then, my ambition is to continuously learn more about pattern making and natural techniques of dying wool.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?
SF : I get great satisfaction from the creative process. It starts with a glimpse of idea. If I think about it for a few days, my mind automatically goes through every single detail. I store colours, shapes, sizes and general aesthetic inside my head. Then I make one or two rough sketches; take some notes of materials and then watch how it all comes to life. My motivation to create comes from within. I have a need and desire to create that is why I am a designer.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?
SF : I really wanted to stand out at the school disco and wear something that turns everyone’s head. I quickly joined sewing class. For my first sawing project at school, I made silk flared trousers with snakeskin pattern on them. Then I though that my look would not be complete without snakeskin tunic. I rocked the disco looking fabulous and that is how my journey began.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?
SF : At the moment I specialize in designing unisex jackets and coats made from organic wool. Recently I’ve been given a task to design for Dutch Sustainable Fashion Week. For this show they will be working with the four elements all representing consequences of the industry. They want to convey the message that consequences are unnecessary and can be solved. My task will be to show an example of alternative methods, and to design a sustainable collection. I can choose one of the four elements: water representing the pollution and waste of water; fire representing all the textile waste that is being burnt; earth representing the pesticides being used, and air representing all the emissions of production and transport. It will be a great challenge and I am exited to design organic biodegradable clothes that carry an important message to take care of nature and think about the effect we have on the planet.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?
SF : As a self-taught fashion designer, I think its important to be brave and never say ‘I don’t know how to do it’. Instead say ‘I want to try’… and the good news is, no matter what stage of your career or how far afield your background may seem, if it’s something you aspire to, it’s entirely possible to find your niche in the design world.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?
SF : Great designers understand their role in the production process and always have a timeframe within which to come up with their concept and show unquestionable execution. Great designers understand how to solve the problem creatively and they can focus on being the best at it. Great designers have a constant desire and drive to make existing products better or they are able to come up with something completely new and shake the minds of others.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?
SF : Good design should serve a purpose. There are lots of useless 'innovations' that don't have any meaning. The most important stage of evaluating a design is first to know if it serves the purpose and second to see if it has meaning and value to others. Also, you shouldn't forget about great aesthetics!

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?
SF : In my opinion a good design should solve a problem. I designed a greener alternative to a classic leather biker jacket, made from organic wool. The aim of this design is to educate people of the importance of caring for the environment. I think investing in this particular design can solve multiple problems at once. Harvesting wool does not cause harm to the animal, it is much better than paying money for death of the animal. Wool products have a long lifespan, meaning that they can be worn longer. Wool jackets need to be washed less frequently, which has lower impact on the environment. Wool is one of the most recycled fibers and it biodegrades readily.

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?
SF : I want to pursue a career as a fashion designer with a main focus on sustainability. I want to design clothes that have better impact on the environment that is fair and ethical. I want to design for people in general and make them confident and happy, wearing clothes that have great value within.

DL: What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?
SF : I want to have a shop in Amsterdam, showcasing good quality sustainable fashion. I want it to be appealing to everyone who is aiming to have greener lifestyle. I imagine it could also be a platform for influencers, who can educate young people about where the clothes come from, how they are made and how we can help them to become more conscious in choices they make.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?
SF : To achieve success in design you need a big bunch of happy thoughts, a pinch of determination, mixed with skills and creativity. The secret ingredient is a simple belief in yourself. Never add doubt, it will make your design soup taste a bit bitter.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?
SF : I am inspired by designers such as Vivienne Westwood, a vocal activist for sustainable fashion and a climate change. She is also one of the Ethical Fashion Initiative’s first partners, with whom she developed her “Handmade with love” collection. All styles are created using recycled canvases, reused roadside banners, unused leather off-cuts, and recycled brass, all produced in Kibera slum (Nairobi’s biggest slum). The collections include a range of bag styles for men and women, including unisex rucksacks and totes. Vivienne Westwood also works with artisans in Burkina Faso who produce hand-woven fabrics for her womenswear lines.

DL: What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?
SF : Around the world, Scandinavian design is admired for its simplicity and efficiency. My latest purchase was a Humble Co. bamboo toothbrush. I love the design, but more so the idea behind it. The Humble Co. develops reliable health and wellness products, which are eco-friendly and socially responsible with an innovative twist. The health professionals at The Humble Co. translate evidence-based innovations into eco-friendly consumer products that are beneficial and fun for everyone to use, including underprivileged people living in remote communities. Humble Co. was founded to create products that are good for you and kind to the plant. Every Humble purchase goes towards funding projects for the benefit of children in need.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?
SF : I think my latest unisex collection is the best project I’ve done so far. It challenges the concept of gender equality. Unisex clothes are not yet accepted by society as a norm, this suggests that the sexes are not yet truly equal. The solution was to blur that line, in order to demonstrate freedom of sexual roles. I used baby blue color of wool for both male and female jackets, challenging color as gender perception.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?
SF : With the current situation of human-caused climate change, designers should start utilising renewable resources. Having a conscious mind and making conscious choices adds value to the designer, but also helps to preserve our planet.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?
SF : I would have liked to work in an animal preservation organisation or company that helps to clean the ocean from plastic.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?
SF : Design is materialising thoughts into objects or projects that serves people and helps them to integrate easy use of resources in their life.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?
SF : My father always helped people, buying furniture and books for schools, supporting church and helping them to pay their gas bills. He taught me that the more you give the more you have in return. He is my inspiration and my biggest supporter.

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?
SF : My confidence and ambitions helped me achieve my goals. Also, a desire to change people’s perspective on overconsumption and creating a value that not only can be measured financially, but also has an ethical aspect.

DL: What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?
SF : The biggest obstacle was to find trustworthy production partners, who can help me to produce a high standard product. I went through a series of people with big promises, but not able to execute what I needed.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?
SF : The French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal once sent a letter to a friend in which, at the end, he wrote: ‘If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.’ I believe that simplicity is a key. I see a lot of products that are presented in a complex and cluttered manner, which can be distracting from its main purpose. Simple is hard. So designers should think how to write a shorter letter.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?
SF : I want to have a collection with fixed number of designs that serve two purposes: good quality and ethically produced, and to make people feel good about the purchase. I would also love to create a sustainable fashion showroom in Amsterdam.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?
SF : I believe that fashion can be an effective way to convey a message, serving a higher purpose other than merely improving the appearance. My ultimate goal as a fashion designer is to create products that help to spread awareness of climate change, animal care and more sustainable way of life.

DL: What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?
SF : They will soon find out.

DL: How does design help create a better society?
SF : Design can be empowering, inspiring and enlightening. Great design can go from local to global, as an example of the bamboo toothbrush that I spoke about earlier. I think this product has all these qualities. For example, The Humble Smile Foundation brings together people that have chosen to share the responsibility of preventing oral disease. They work with like-minded organizations to deliver effective solutions that make a real difference to the lives of many.

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?
SF : I am working on the project for Dutch Sustainable fashion week. I am very exited to show my work to a wider audience and meet like-minded people.

DL: Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?
SF : Two years ago I was working on a capsule collection of coats where 10% of all profits were donated to an animal welfare organisation and ocean preservation campaign. It felt good doing it.

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?
SF : Mahatma Gandhi said ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world’. It is a very powerful quote that can inspire designers to create a product, idea or campaign whose goal is to make meaningful change in the world in which we live. I love the idea of Veronika Scott who came up with idea coat design that unfolds and turns into a sleeping bag, especially designed to help homeless people.

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?
SF : In recent years more people started to design with a purpose, a message and with a meaning to educate and make people more aware. People are creating techniques for cleaning up the oceans or coming up with delivering systems to distribute medicine to the parts of the world with poor roads. I hope many others will pick up the trends and collectively we can change the trajectory to preserve the planet for the next generations.

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?
SF : I prefer to be efficient with my work, so I can finalize a design within short duration of time.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?
SF : First, I have an idea then I work my way around it. I do some research and write down all the steps from materials to final execution.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?
SF : I already stated my two favourite quotes from Grandi and Pascal, other then that I try to ‘Stay calm no matter what’. For me clear mind and well-rested body is very important.

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?
SF : It can be both. When we face crisis, like the problem of coral bleaching, people activate all their responses. This event set designers and scientists to find a solution to prevent this from happening. Another example is a company who created a showerhead that minimises the use of water, while keeping the same pressure. Many companies that produce bathroom appliances picked up the trend and started to utilise it in their production design.

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?
SF : I am one of those people who will never switch from book to a kindle. I still design patterns by hand and use mannequins to fit the clothes. However, I do not underestimate the importance of technology. My goal is to learn more about technology of natural dying for fabrics and find new ways to make clothes durable and sustainable.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?
SF : Normally, I work with Brother sewing and embroidery machines. Recently my boyfriend got me a new sewing machine from Toyota for my birthday. It is soon due for a test drive. I also use Adobe Illustrator for creating sketches of my designs and sometimes work with PatternSmith, but most manufacturers I worked with are using Lectra Software.

DL: What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?
SF : I admire people who choose to stand out and experiment with colors. I love designer Miranda Makaroff for her adventurous spirit and desire to enrich life with color. She takes her Instagram followers on wild roller coaster of different styles full of injections of various colors. Personally, I am more minimalistic with choice of color, but I try to include one or two styles in the collection that are more ‘out there’. Once I designed a purple coat with big anime eyes embroidered on the shoulders. I sold zero of them and found out that people in general think that purple color clothes are ugly. I totally disagree and I’ve been wearing this coat season after season.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?
SF : It is always nice to speak about the importance of recycling materials, longevity of the design and in general spreading the word about the importance of ecological and ethical design methods.

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?
SF : I think how great that it exists and makes people happy.

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?
SF : So far I have been working by myself, but I secretly wish that I had someone by my side that shares my philosophy and values. If such a person will ever cross my path I will be very grateful. I believe in co-design and I think it makes the overall experience of the process much more satisfying.

DL: Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?
SF : I am an introvert with some extravert qualities. I do not think that people I interact with have an influence on my designs. I believe that books I read and everything that goes through the prism of my own perception has an impact on my designs.

DL: Which books you read had the most effect on your design?
SF : ‘The Hidden life of trees’ by Peter Wohlleben has opened my mind. He starts with wise words for those entering a forest: ‘Slow down, breathe deep and look around.’ Not only is the air cleaner under trees, as their leaves filter out harmful pollutants, but pine forests release defensive compounds that kill germs. Trees also release oxygen, so a walk in the woods is ‘like taking a shower in oxygen’. Wohlleben’s aim is to let us see the trees and forests around us not just as ‘lumber factories’ but live organisms that are as complex as any animal. He says that trees are ‘social beings’, communicating with each other through their roots. They have families and kids that they care for, delivering nutrients through the roots in the situation of illness of their relative. This book changed my perspective of the forest and gave even more passion for supporting nature.

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?
SF : I learned that meditation and yoga help me tremendously with being able to concentrate. At the moment I am also learning the Dutch language and which is teaching me about discipline. I think these qualities are very important when working on new designs.

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?
SF : I would have loved to talk to Nicola Tesla, the greatest inventor of all time. He said that he had a photographic memory, which helped him memorize whole books and speak eight languages. He also claimed that many of his best ideas came to him in a flash, and that he saw detailed pictures of many of his inventions in his mind before he ever set about constructing prototypes. As a result, he didn’t initially prepare drawings and plans for many of his devices. Nicola Tesla claimed to have developed a ‘superweapon’ that would end all wars, such a remarkable person!

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?
SF : It is very flattering to receive the award and be recognized, but it is much more important that a wider audience can now hear my message.

DL: What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?
SF : My favorite colors are white and blue. My favorite place is my parent’s garden. I like eating avocado and raspberries. Summer for me is the best. I like my vinyl player and listening to old records. My favorite brand is Alpro. This Belgian company markets organic and non-genetically modified, soy-based food and drink products. This is a great alternative to milk. I think the milk industry is extremely cruel, as cows produce milk for the same reason that humans do: to nourish their young. In order to force them to continue producing milk, factory farm operators typically impregnate them using artificial insemination every year. Calves are usually torn away from their mothers within a day of birth, which causes them both extreme distress. Mother cows can be heard calling for their calves for days. Male calves are destined to end up in cramped veal crates or barren feedlots where they will be fattened for beef, and females are sentenced to the same sad fate as their mothers.

DL: Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?
SF : Once I was on the eco-market in Amsterdam selling a few of my jackets. A big bearded man looking like a Viking approached my stand and bought one of my fluffiest pink jackets. It amused me and uplifted my spirits, and that was the only jacket I sold that day.

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?
SF : A cup of green tea in the morning and astrological reading sets my day. I don’t need much more motivation for the things I like doing.

DL: When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?
SF : While I was answering the questions in this interview, I had a childhood memory of questionnaire I use to do for kids at my primary school. I wasn’t yet able to write properly, but I decorated each page with with animal drawings. I folded pages as origami and the interviewer had to find out how to access the answers. This book was full of color. I glued pictures from my mum’s magazines and dad’s newspapers for entertainment of myself and other kids.

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?
SF : I hope that people will realize that trees are the lungs of our planet. I wish deforestation will come to the end and armies of people will plant new ones in each country.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?
SF : I think I gave it all away =)