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Interview of Mykhailo Voronin, a fashion designer
Mykhailo Voronin, one of Ukraine’s leading couturiers, will turn 70 on July 10, 2008. Mr Voronin, who designs men’s clothing, is an academician and president of the Voronin Concern. He was interviewed by Nika KRYZHANIVSKA.
Recently, Mykhailo Voronin has been awarded The Legend of Fashion prize by the World Fashion Channel, one of many awards that he has received. What are the main reasons for his success? I think it’s his talent, his phenomenal industriousness, his desire to keep learning, his knowledge of etiquette, his humanity and his benevolence. Mr Voronin is much more than a tailor. He is also a scholar, inventor, successful businessman, and a true patriot who, for the past 50 years, has been striving to uphold culture and contribute to the successes of Ukraine so that it thrives and prospers.
I believe that today Mykhailo Voronin continues to pursue the most important task of his life — to see people beautiful (not only in appearance, but in their inner nature), elegant, self-sustained, successful and happy.
“I’m convinced that one has to struggle for one’s brand, for one’s name. I’ve been earning my reputation all my life and I’m pleased to have the respect and trust of people. That’s why I treat every stage in the process of making clothes and their popularization very seriously. I’m trying to revive the culture and art of dressing well.”
It is not only Voronin’s designs for high-quality and impeccably made clothing that serve this purpose. Even his manner of speaking and the atmosphere he creates around himself wherever he may be that creates an aura of success. His social manners are never affected. He is simple and sincere, embracing the philosophy of creating, above anything else, the image of a personality.
“If people look at you and say, ‘You’re wearing an interesting coat,’ it means that the image created by this coat is wrong. The right image is when people see you and what you happen to be wearing. If people say, ‘He looks so elegant,’ it means that the image of you coincides with your personality, and you look better in your clothes.
I often quote this example, and today, when I design clothes for someone, I want to place emphasis on this particular jacket, or this particular shirt, or these particular trousers… The comprehensive image is when we do not pay attention to the details but see a person. Clothes should not draw attention to themselves. Details should complement each other carefully, and if some people say, ‘I don’t remember exactly what he was wearing, but I remember it was very elegant!’, then it is evidence of your clothes being a success.”
There is another characteristic feature of Voronin. He is faithful to his native Kyiv, to his long-time friends, to his wife. Voronin loves Kyiv and says that he would not be able to live anywhere else. There is a Ukrainian saying, ‘Where one is born, one is needed most,’ and it applies well to Voronin.
“I was born in Kyiv and this city is always in my heart. My brother Boris, who is 11 years my senior, told me (smiles) that I was horrible when I was little. I did not want to walk and had to be carried around. In 1941 (when the war broke out), we were evacuated to Soviet Central Asia. I remember those times and places dimly — Makhachkala, Jambul… Just trains and bombings…
We left Kyiv among the last evacuees and came back only in 1944. My father came back from the front four months later with medals decorating his chest. He was wounded and shell-shocked. We were poor, like everyone else, but in a friendly communal atmosphere. For food we had mostly potatoes, cheap sprats and oil cakes. Black bread, sprinkled with salt and dipped into vegetable oil was a gourmet dish — we were happy when we had it. Once, when I was about six, mother bought me an ice cream, the cheapest brand there was, but I was overjoyed. I held this cold miracle in my hand and said, ‘I’ll take it home and eat it with bread…’
Once I found an abandoned puppy in the yard of the house where we lived. I called him Nerka. My joy was overwhelming. He was the first dog I ever had; he was my good friend. He must have been attached to me too and lived with us for many years.
Then came school, and mischievous childhood, and lessons of life and justice. Those were the Stalinist times… It was horrible what was going on. Our neighbor was arrested as an enemy of the people, and he came back home only 15 years later, and he was rehabilitated… Everybody attacked his family, but I was sorry for him. I did not believe, for some reason, that this neighbor was bad. Since my childhood I never thought or talked badly about people, and honesty, which was laid down in our family above everything else I’ve preserved to this day.”
This is what Mykhailo Voronin says about his choice of occupation:
“When I was in the eighth grade, I liked a girl, a classmate. She was doing some needlework, and maybe because I wanted to imitate her, I put a piece of paper to fabric and embroidered a cushion and gave it as a gift to my mother… It was my first spontaneous experience.
Incidentally, there have been no tailors in our family. But, I’m getting somewhat ahead in my story.
I can say that I’ve achieved in life what I’ve achieved thanks to the woman, that is, my wife Inna. From the very first days of our marriage I realized that she was very willful. It sometimes got to the point of being ridiculous. If we were on our way to some place, I’d suggest, for example, taking a street car, but she insisted on going by bus. I would yield to her demand, but then, at the last minute, she’d say she changed her mind.
She is my best assistant, and at the same time she is an opponent. Whenever I began doing something new in life, she would say, ‘You’ll fail, nothing will come out of it.’ I wanted to prove to her that I could do it, I pressed on, I got bumps, I fell, I got back on my feet, worked my butt off, and I won! Fifty years have slipped by so fast, we are still together, my wife is even more willful than ever, and I’m stubborn. I keep doing things my own way and carry out my new and most fantastic plans on an international level!”
Mr Voronin recollects the first suit he designed and made:
“Once, a newly married couple asked me to make a suit for the man. At that time I did not have that much experience making clothes yet, but I had a high opinion of myself. It is from my vantage point today that I understand how little I knew. I remember it so well — a room, an antique iron with coal inside to heat it, an old sewing machine — a Singer driven by a foot pedal. I took the measurements, cut out the pattern using a tailor’s reference book, and presto, the suit was ready. I was standing, looking at it, my hands in the pockets of my trousers and thinking: ‘Well done! What a fine fellow I am!’ (laughs).
Then the customer came. He was fat and short. He put the suit on, but the trousers turned out to be too short and too tight! I was horrified. A silent scene followed. And here is where new lessons in my life began. Then I understood a good opinion that others have about you can easily turn into a bad one, but it is almost impossible to change a first bad impression into a good one.
And here’s an example of the opposite. I heard about a wedding suit designed by Voronin that has been kept in a wardrobe for the past 30 years. The lining is worn out but the suit itself is in ideal condition. The suit is dear to the owner for its sentimental value — it reminds him of his happy moments.
The enormous scope of Voronin’s work, including philanthropic activities, remains largely ignored by the media. He never talks about it, but modestly goes about his business. But if one takes a closer look, the vast scope of everything that he does becomes difficult to imagine.
“I’ve always been in a hurry to live. It always seemed to me that I’d done much too little, that I didn’t have enough time. The inner struggle has always been within me. I’ve always wanted to improve. But I also wanted to help everyone I could.
It’s always been important for me to clothe the people of Ukraine in good-quality, modern and fashionable clothing of the European level, so that every customer would look decent in any country and on any level and be proud that he is from Ukraine. Our Concern is in the vanguard of the most recent world trends in male fashion. Our suits are made from expensive, light, high-quality wool, SUPER 130-180s, and from innovative mixed fabrics with a high silk content. High-tech production on special equipment is used, and it can’t be reproduced in a tailor’s shop. All our products are ecologically clean and comfortable.”
Mykhailo Voronin has devoted many years to the implementation of his unique invention — the model-vest method of making clothing without taking measurements, and the level of his services keeps improving.
“In our company’s stores, any man can find clothes that suit his taste and fit him. There are over 150 variants. The suits are made in 15 sizes, five heights and six fullnesses in 450 constructions. For one model only, more than 5,000 construction-patterns are worked out. For men with non-standard figures, who like one of the suits on display in a Voronin store but no right size is available, an additional service has been introduced. A cutter takes measurements, assesses the differences and a short time later the customer gets his suit tailored to his measurements.”
At 70 years of age, Mr Voronin is as young as ever and vigorous, surprising his clients constantly.
The new product for 2008 is Voronin Perfume, which has been specially created for successful men. Mykhailo Voronin is the only Ukrainian designer who has joined such couturiers as Armani, Valentino and Paco Rabban, who have been producing perfumes for men for a long time. Voronin Perfume is made by a leading French company, Expressions Parfumees, which has created perfumes for Nina Ricci, La Coste, L’oreal, Pierre Cardin and Yves Rocher. It took two years to create Voronin Perfume and, according to French perfumers, Voronin Perfume was one of the best scents for men of 2007.
Legends about Voronin’s life and work — the many things that he has done, and the many things that he likes to do — can probably fill volumes, but I would like to mention only one of his hobbies — his passion for travel.
It is easier to name the cities and countries where he has not been. But in his travels vacationing is not the priority. Mr Voronin’s exceptional powers of observation allow him to notice the subtle nuances in the dress of different countries, as well as details of etiquette, people’s habits and new fashion trends. Voronin can rightfully be called “a walking encyclopedia of continental dress codes and etiquette” rather than just an encyclopedia of fashion.
Photos have been provided by Voronin concern
The international tailoring concern Voronin is one of the top three enterprises in the world making high-quality clothing for men. There are over 50 Voronin stores in Ukraine. Voronin products are exported to 16 countries of the world, including Europe and the former Soviet Union, as well as the USA.
Custom tailoring takes only 5 to 7 percent of all the production; the rest is mass produced. Five hundred units are produced daily. The Voronin factory can produce up to 250,000 items a year. The Voronin Concern is one of the few enterprises of the Ukrainian fashion industry that has managed to move from making clothes for individual customers to mass production without losing its exclusiveness and individual style in the process.
The Voronin Concern produces items under four brands:
TM Voronin — an exclusive line that targets respectable customers with a high level of income. Clothes are made in small series or individually by a special brigade using elite fabrics, state-of-the-art equipment and hand assembly.
TM Mikhail VORONIN — a popular mass-produced line of classical-style business suits preferred by officials, middle and top-level managers, actors, diplomats and politicians.
TM Makentosh — a classical line that targets youth in a reasonable price category.
TM VORONIN sport — for people who prefer comfort and an active mode of life. It offers an assortment of jeans, jackets, etc.
Voronin Concern products have won many international and Ukrainian awards, including the Peace Prize, a Certificate of Recognition from Italy and the USA, the Golden Thimble of Paris, Best Trade Mark of Italy, Spain’s Golden Arc of Europe, as well as a great many Ukrainian prizes. Voronin is also mentioned in The Guinness Book of Records for making the biggest tuxedo in the world — a size 1,000.
Voronin was entered into the Guinness Book of
Records for tailoring the biggest smoking jacket
in the world — a size 1,000.
The collection, Flirting with Life.
The Spring-Summer 2008 joint collection
with Ukrainian designer Diana Dorozhkina.
A collection shown as part of the presentation
of Voronin perfume. March 2008.
Left to right: prominent tenor Volodymyr Hryshko,
respected theater director Roman Viktyuk, and
Mykhailo Voronin at the Lyudyna Roku (Man
of the Year) award ceremony. Kyiv, 2007.
At the presentation of Voronin perfume. March 2008.
Well-known Russian designer Vyacheslav Zaytsev
and Mykhailo Voronin at a joint press conference.
The first perfume under the Voronin mark
is already on sale.
Well-known photo journalist Ihor Kostin, who is in
the top 100 professionals in his field in the world,
and Mykhailo Voronin at the perfume presentation.