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Olesya Telizhenko, a young fashion designer


Olesya Telizhenko is a young fashion designer who uses ethnic motifs in her design and is inspired by the traditional Ukrainian culture and arts, which, in her opinion, are a source of inspiration that can never be exhausted. Ms Telizhenko was interviewed by Marysya HOROBETS.


Ms Telizhenko graduated from the Lviv National Arts Academy, majoring in artistic fashion design, in 2007.

She has taken part in a number of Ukrainian and international shows, exhibitions and conferences. She received a President of Ukraine Grant for talented youth in 2005 for creating a collection of clothes, Drevo rodu (Tree of the Tribe), in which she used motifs from the Ukrainian decorative embroidered rushnyky (towels) traditionally used in the south-eastern part of the Land of Cherkashchyna. The collection was shown at the Ukrainian Fashion Week within the New Names Program.

In 2006, Ms Telizhenko created another collection, Miy dobry zvir (My Gentle Beast) which was inspired by the art of Mariya Pryimachenko; this collection was shown at the Ukrainian Fashion Week within the Fresh Fashion program. Her third collection, Skifiya zolota, Velyky step (Golden Scythia. Great Steppe) was shown at the Ukrainian Fashion Week within the main shows program. Her latest collection, Tatkova vytynanka (My Fathers Decorative Paper Cuttings), was shown in October 2008.

Ms Telizhenko, is there anything in your latest collection that you would like to speak about in some detail?

Well, Im pleased that this collection has become the basis for the Ukrainian Ethno-Renaissance project at the latest Ukrainian Fashion Week. A totally new method of laser technology in cutting the fabric was used for achieving artistic effects. The main source of inspiration was my fathers vytynanky

My interest in art and design must have begun in my childhood when my father (Ms Telizhenkos father is Mykola Telizhenko, an accomplished artist in his own right) invented a game which he called Figli-migli. He would draw a line and I had to continue it to create an image or an ornament. The images and ornaments created in this way were really very unusual and sort of magical. I do think it was what later led me to become a fashion designer!

The show of your collection was opened by your father. I saw him backstage right before the show  he was busy cutting out his vytynanky and did not seem to be eager to appear on stage. How did you manage to talk him into introducing your show?

I think that for the sake of art hed be prepared to do anything! Incidentally, he is a versatile artist  he paints, he sculpts, he does graphics, he carves, he makes interior designs. A book of his vytynanky has been recently published in the series Maystry narodnoho mystetstva (Masters of Folk Art). From his recent trip to the Land of Chernihivshchyna he brought over a hundred sketches of vytynanka designs and told me that I could use them for my new collection.

Aha, now I understand what lies in the heart of your collection!

My fathers vytynanky are very artistic and inspirational. In creating them he uses chisels, gouges and knives rather than scissors. And Ive made another move  Ive started using the laser!

What do you pay a special attention to in your design?

Decorative elements. In my case, they are all based on the traditional Ukrainian folk art designs. Ukrainian culture for me is an inexhaustible source of inspiration. While designing my first collection, Drevo rodu, I was inspired by the authentic applique decorative towels. I went to the Ukrainian Center of Folk Culture Ivan Honchar Museum to look for authentic designs but even there I found only a few of rare patterns which I could use in my work. Some inspiring designs were discovered during my ethnographic expeditions. In fact, it was my mother who emboldened me in my search.

Was it for creating this collection that you got a grant?

Yes, I won this grant in 2005. I wrote an application for it when I was a third-year student and some time later I did indeed win it! With the 50,000 hryvnyas that came with this grant I created my collection Drevo rodu. I was only twenty years old then, quite naive and not very sure of myself, and it was my parents who kept encouraging me.

Do you know which character traits or talents you have inherited from your mother and from your father?

I think no one can know it for sure. Maybe we should talk of inheriting character traits from both parents. My father has a great sense of humor but I seem to be on a more serious side. I think Ive inherited my mothers determination in achieving a goal and the feeling of responsibility. My mother is the head of the Union of the Folk Artists of the land of Cherkashchyna. Shes also running a business  a company that makes embroideries. They create expensive items such as richly embroidered mens shirts, embroidered rushnyky, embroidered table cloths and banners  the things that are usually purchased as souvenirs.

My parents together with Danylo Narbut (1916 1998, a prominent Ukrainian artist) used to make designs for Ukrainian heraldry. They created, for example, the coat of arms for Cherkashchyna in the center of which is the sun with ears of grain that are woven into a right-side Svarga, which is the symbol of progress and success. My parents artistic achievements are a great encouragement for me!

If you dont mind, lets move from your parents to your own family.

Yes, lets do it. Im married. My husband is Ruslan Zaychenko. He is head of the Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA-UNSO)  a nationalist organization that supports the traditional Ukrainian values and promotes Ukrainian culture. He knows Ukrainian history very well. We have a son, Ascold.

Who was responsible for choosing the name?

My husband. As Ive just said hes a history enthusiast, and Ascold was the name of one the early Kyivan princes. If we have another son, well call him Severyn  after Severyn Nalyvayko, a Ukrainian Robin Hood.

My next collection will probably be for children but also based on the art of Mariya Pryimachenko. It is my son who inspires me to create such a collection.

I heard an opinion that ethno motifs are already a thing of the past in the Ukrainian fashion design, but you dont seem to be put off by such an opinion.

I think that Ukrainian things will always be popular with Ukrainians. I insist on creating my design based on the Ukrainian traditional motifs. Ukrainian culture has only just begun to be explored in depth, weve just started to tap its inexhaustible resources. I hope well be able to make Ukrainian culture better known in the world and the Ukrainian fashion design is one of the ways to make it better known.

Who, among the world fashion designers, are your favorites?

I like the Japanese fashion designers very much, Issei Miake in particular. They are up-to-date, highly technological. Then lets mention Antonio Marras from Belgium. John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Vivien Westwood, Lilia Poustovit, Iryna Karavay are on my list of favorites too. The last two are Ukrainians, as youve surely noticed.

Is there anything in Ukrainian fashion design that can have a universal appeal?

Of course there is. Its the Ukrainian cultural traditions that must be in the lead of this process of getting the world to know more about Ukraine. In fact, it is the Ukrainians themselves who should be more exposed to their own traditional culture. We should get to know not only the superficial elements of our traditional culture but rather we should go deep into it. True art is always beautiful and is always exciting, true art crosses the borders easily and is enjoyed by all, regardless of ethnic backgrounds. Such stereotypes of the national dress as blue or red sharovary (loose pants) of the traditional Ukrainian dress still exist but even they can be used as a starting point for developing new things. Incidentally, there are very many kinds of sharovary.

Do you collect traditional Ukrainian dresses?

Not really. I have a collection of books that deal with traditional Ukrainian culture and dress, and a small collection of traditional accessories. My mother collects traditional Ukrainian shirts and my father has a good collection of various tools.

If you could travel in time, to which time in the past and where would you go?

Id go to the time of the Trypillya culture in Ukraine, several thousand years ago, or to the times of Kyivan Rus (10th13th centuries AD), or to the time of the Cossacks in the seventeenth century there are so many exciting periods and places to go to! And of course, Id study the dresses people wore in those times!

Since we cant really travel in time  not yet, anyway  do you travel in space to foreign countries?

I used to travel with my parents, now I have a child of my own, and a lot of work to do, so I dont have much time for travel, really. But I did go to Paris, Prague, Dresden, Cologne, Bonn. My latest foreign trip was to a sea resort in Egypt. I did a bit of diving there for the first time in my life. Once, when I was under water, I saw a huge fish and was so frightened! But diving is so exciting that Im eager to contunue doing it.

Did the trip to Egypt provide any inspiration for your design?

No, not really. My inspiration is Ukraine and its culture. And I think that the best places for me to go for vacations are here, in Ukraine  I just love the Ukrainian countryside, the Carpathian Mountains, the Crimea! Yes, I know I should learn as much as I can about the world but it is Ukraine where I belong.


Photos are from

Olesya Telizhenkos archives.


My Gentle Beast Collection, 2006.


From My Fathers Decorative Paper Cuttings

Collection, 2008.


From My Fathers Decorative Paper Cuttings

Collection, 2008.


From My Gentle Beast Collection, 2006.


From Tree of the Tribe Collection, 2005.


From Tree of the Tribe Collection, 2005.


From Tree of the Tribe Collection, 2005.


From Golden Scythia. Great Steppe Collection, 2007.



Olesya with her son Askold and her husband Ruslan.



From Golden Scythia. Great Steppe Collection,



From My Fathers Decorative Paper Cuttings

Collection, 2008.


From My Fathers Decorative Paper Cuttings

Collection, 2008.


From My Gentle Beast Collection, 2006.

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