|Select magazine number|
Serhiy Yermakov, a talented fashion designer
Serhiy Yermakov is one of the most expensive Ukrainian fashion designers. He is arguably the only designer in Ukraine who creates truly haute couture. Yermakov thinks in images — both in metaphoric and literal sense. In spite of the fact that his failing sight prevents him from seeing clearly all the small details of his creations, this Couturier sees his creations with his “third eye” and his visions are translated into masterpieces. While the designer is working at a new collection, his last year’s collection Oscar, continues to live its “bohemian” life — his creations appear in music videos, take part in fashion contests, and models wearing them are photographed for glossy magazines. Serhiy Yermakov was interviewed by Marysya HOROBETS.
“Haute Couture is a highly condensed fashion phenomenon, a laboratory,
in which rare, unusual forms, details and accessories are developed;
it's a true art which is as sophisticated as painting, sculpture, poetry or cinema.”
Serhiy Yermakov, fashion designer
Mr Yermakov, the moment when you start working at a new collection must be very special for you — or is it?
“It is very special indeed — the way you begin will give a mood to the whole collection. When you’ve designed, say, five or ten dresses, the rest come easier, because you already know which style you want to develop it in. This time, the ideas for my new collection have been inspired by the city. I’m working quite fruitfully at it, and the new collection will reflect the urban couture. In contrast to my Oscar collection, in which evening dresses predominated, this new collection will have trousers, light cocktail skirts with fur, leather camisoles, and costumes. These costumes can hardly be called “business suits”— probably only high society lionesses, movie stars or TV presenters would risk putting them on for dinner.
How many customers are there who may take such a risk?
Unfortunately, only very few people can afford such costumes. I think the number of women who can afford to order haute couture garments must be around 200 in the whole world. World brands create such collections mostly for maintaining their high status. In Ukraine, haute couture garments are not as expensive as they are, say, in Paris, where you would have to pay anywhere from 120,000 Euros up to a million Euros. In Ukraine, the labor costs are much lower, but the customers who are prepared to pay a lot of money for a painting or sculpture are not yet prepared to pay a hundred thousand for a dress… I have about fifteen regular customers from Ukraine — most of them are from Odesa rather than from Kyiv; five from Russia; there are customers who live in Europe or America, and who once in a while come to Ukraine for fittings. Such women are mostly wives of diplomats.
How much a dress designed by you would cost?
Up to 10,000 Euros. I’ve not yet been commissioned to design and make a dress that would cost a hundred thousand, but there was an overcoat with ermine and golden thread that I sold for 70,000 dollars!.. Recently, I read commentaries made by Snizhana Onopko, a top model, about the state of fashion design in Ukraine. In her opinion, the garments I design deserve to be shown on the catwalks of Paris, New York or London, and wearing them, film stars would look great at the Oscar presentation ceremonies. She said she had been greatly impressed by the fact that I, having a problem with my sight, still can create such things. When somebody insinuated that my allegedly poor sight is just a publicity stunt, she said, “I don’t know how well or poorly he can see, but I know for sure that it is high art.”
Creating such art must cost a lot of money. How much does the creation of a new collection cost on the average?
To create 25 haute couture dresses costs about 100,000 Euros, plus the expenses for showing them. Each dress takes me two or three months to create. Besides, I do the design and fittings exclusively on “live” models, because for me it is of a primary importance how dress will look and feel on a model, not on a dummy… Recently, I have been commissioned by a western company to create a fall/winter pret-a-porter collection for 180 models, each garment must be made in at least 500 “copies.” The garments will be made in China and Turkey, and they will be affordable for those who are not millionaires. I personally wish there would be more millionaires. In creating pret-a-porter clothes, you have to be careful not to go over a certain price, and that is why even an extra button may matter. By contrast, in haute couture creations, there are no such restrictions — the main thing is to be able to match your fantasy and your possibilities. I hope that this pret-a-porter collection will provide me with sufficient financial possibilities for creating haute couture dresses and for showing them to the world.
I know that you’ve created a corset for Madonna, for whom you have a soft spot, haven’t you? Anything else that you are designing for her?
I do. She’s like a lucky talisman for me. Incidentally, a foreign TV company is planning to make a film about me and they promise to pass it on to Madonna, through her press service, an haute couture dress from me.
Will it be shown in Ukraine first? And if so — who will be the model?
I want to ask Snizhana Onopko to do it. She’s really one of the world top models. I feel honored when she models my dresses in between modeling Chanel or Valentino dresses. I prefer to work with top models when I can. I’d like my show devoted to Madonna to be opened by Iryna Bilyk. The dresses that will be shown are designed for modern, self-sustained women whose days are filled with all kinds for romantic events — such women, who are constantly in the center of attention, must always be dressed very stylishly. Silks, furs, diamonds, high heels, womanly shapes — these things are eternally beautiful… Incidentally, I wish you, Marysya, would model one of my evening dresses some day!
Thank you! I’d love to do it! Do you know who has bought dresses from your Oscar collection?
I do. Dresses seem to have their own destinies, like people. There are dresses with happy destinies, while others gather dust locked in closets. Take, for example, my dress Rusalka (Mermaid). It was featured in many glossy magazines, it appeared in many music videos, it was worn at the final of the Eurovision Song Contest and at the Vienna Ball, it appeared in films. Recently, an actress, woman from Moscow’s high society, bought this dress to wear at the next Moscow Film Festival and possibly at the next Film Festival in Cannes.
As far as I know, dresses are usually given names and are dedicated to famous women.
Correct. 19 dresses from my Oscar collection were dedicated to great film stars, but they were not copies of the dresses that these women had worn in films or at the award presentations. They were dresses-associations, that is, my visions of Audrey Hepburn, Catherine Deneuve, Vanessa Paradis, Sharon Stone, Madonna, and others. The only trouser costume of the collection was dedicated to Marlene Dietrich. It is thanks to her, trouser costumes have become so popular with women all over the world.
What about haute couture for men?
I don’t want even to think about that! I design clothes only for women! The only man I can stand as a possible customer is I myself. No, I do not design anything for men, that’s categorical. Possibly, when my Fashion House will become one of the leading houses in the world, then, maybe, I’ll design a pret-a-porter collection for men. I know I could do it pretty well and satisfy the men’s tastes, but I would not be among the best professional fashion designers who design for men.
Do you have worthy competitors in Ukraine?
Competitors? I believe that everyone should develop along the lines they set for themselves. My competitors do what they know how to do well, and that means that their creations are in demand with some customers. Usually, I do not watch fashion shows at which collections of other fashion designers are presented, but judging by the media commentaries, I do not really have any competitors, because nobody else works in the same line as I do.
Is there anything that you could surprise the world of fashion with?
There have been various things that came as surprises for the world of fashion. These surprises came from Gaultier, Galliano, Versace. You can impress the world with a particular style, with a new look, with a new approach. Fashion designers can experiment, but the most important thing is to develop your own style. I think Coco Chanel is an ideal example. I am not going to shock the world — but I can win it over by an impressive show. However, I’m not after producing an impression for impression’s sake. It is important for me that women from different countries of the world, women with different philosophies of life, women from different cultures would love my dresses as much as my Ukrainian customers do. And I just love my Ukrainian customers. Incidentally, my Moscow customers are very categorical in their judgments — they say that I am not a typical Ukrainian fashion designer, that my surname is Yermakov, and that I am Russian, and consequently, I must move to Moscow and work there. In fact, I go to Moscow quite often, but it does not mean I want to leave Ukraine for good. I’ll stay in Ukraine and work here. I will never go to live in any other country — but I want to work for the whole world. Take Valentino, for example — he lives in Rome but creates for the whole world.
How would you define haute couture?
Haute Couture is a highly condensed fashion phenomenon, a laboratory, in which rare, unusual forms, details and accessories are developed; it’s a true art which is as sophisticated as painting, sculpture, poetry or cinema. Alas, Haute Couture, this high art is dying. Yes, it is. Only the greatest of fashion houses such as Dior or Chanel can afford to organize very expensive shows that haute couture requires. Ukraine cannot yet afford anything like that.
But is there such a thing, really, as Ukrainian haute couture, and if there is — can it become well known in the world?
There is no such thing as “Parisian” haute couture, or “Italian” haute couture. 80 percent of the couturiers who work in France are not French — John Galliano is Spanish, Karl Lagerfeld is German, Elie Saab is Lebanese… So why shouldn’t there be among them a Ukrainian who creates his own haute couture?
Photos have been provided
by Serhiy Yermakov’ s Fashion House