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Shoes to Fly
Olena Savchenko is a young Ukrainian fashion shoe designer who has studied abroad and now lives in the city of Odesa in the south of Ukraine, running a successful shoe designing and shoe making business. Ms Savchenko was interviewed by Yevhen Budko.
Olena Savchenko’s collection of shoes, Ivlisa, was shown at the Ukrainian Fashion Week in October 2010. It was the first time that the designer showed her collection in Ukraine. She was educated at the Instituto Marangoni in Milan, Italy, and at the University of the Arts in London, UK. Her shoe design has been praised by leading fashion shoe designers.
Ms Savchenko uses a lot of feathers in her design and other “bird” motifs” and the Savchenko shoes are sold in bird cages — “to prevent them from flying away”.
Ms Savchenko, you have shown collections of your shoes at the Ukrainian Fashion Week but, as far as I know, the shoes were actually made abroad. Is that correct?
Yes, it is. They have been made in London where I studied. It is only in England that I can use technologies that I use in shoe making.
In Kyiv, I have joined a new project, Kyiv Fashion Days: New Look of Kyiv, within which I’ll promote my brand.
Your shoes do look unusual — what was the reaction to them at the Ukrainian Fashion Week?
Mixed. Most of those present exclaimed, “Wow!” but there were some others who did not appreciate my design. They could not accept the heels in the shape of a bird’s beak — it looks crooked to them.
I think that it is good that the reaction was mixed — it means that my design is really groundbreaking.
I believe that fashion design simply must be innovative, and I love it when my design surprises, provokes, makes a splash. I like the unusual, bright things, but I realize that likes and dislikes differ. I know some graduates from the Instituto Marangoni in Milan who are doing a great job for some leading brands but there is hardly anything innovative in their design.
Is your design something that has been totally unexpected at the fashion market?
Not really. Ms Li Edelkoort, for example, a trendsetter who works for Gucci, Louis Vuitton and other leading fashion houses predicted that such “bird” trend in fashion will be popular in the next ten years. When I showed her my collection, she was quite pleased with it and said she would put some items from my collection into her trend books for the fall-winter season.
If you google “Ivlisa”, you’ll find a lot of references to it from various sources — Arab, Israeli, German, Polish, English, French and others. But so far as the reaction from the Ukrainian fashion press is concerned, it has been less enthusiastic.
Your interest in fashion design is not something recent, is it?
No, of course not. I had my first experience on the catwalk when I was four — I walked by the side of a model who was showing a wedding dress. It was at a fashion show held in the Opera House in Odesa. Since then the world of fashion has been my world. My studies added a very important element to my fashion design experiences.
I am twenty three years old but I do not think of myself as a young fashion designer. I’ve earned a lot of experience studying abroad, training with Alexander McQueen, and also working with popular showbiz stars.
Studying at the Instituto Marangoni in Milan was also a tough competitive experience — when I joined the studies there were 30 of us, but only nine managed to complete the course and be awarded graduation diplomas.
Well, I can’t help asking why you chose birds to be your inspiration?
Once, when in London, I visited the Museum of National History which displayed an exhibition of birds, living and extinct. When I looked at a model of the bird’s beak, I was impressed by its perfection, and when I was preparing my graduation project I realized that the shape of the bird’s beak could be easily modified to serve as a heel for shoes. I devoted weeks to further research — attended exhibitions, read books about birds, watched documentary films on the Discovery Channel. Once the idea was born, it had to be brought to completion — and voila! — I’ve got the shoe heel shaped like the bird’s beak.
Could you dwell a bit more on your education in London?
I attended the Cordwainers Footwear Design Course, London College of Fashion which is a part of the University of the Arts. “Cordwainer” is an old word for “shoemaker.” Cordwainers’ trade guild has been using natural materials for their shoe design and shoe making since the 13th century. Leather is a superior material, much better than plastics or other such materials. The heels I design are made from wood by Ms Caroline. She is one of the twenty honorary members of the Cordwainer Chamber.
Where can one buy shoes of your design?
At the Internet shop at www.ivlisa.com, and in the Concept Store Jardin of the Luxury Gallery Sady Peremohy in Odesa.
What will be the next animal that will inspire you — the giraffe?
No! (Ms Savchenko laughs). I hope it will be something unusual, something surprising. History and nature provide a lot of fascinating ideas.
The presentation of Olena Savchenko’s collection