IN Interviews : Kzeniya Oudenot
While attending New York’s biannual tradeshow, Capsule, I met designer and entrepreneur, Kzeniya Oudenot. Oudenot’s bubbly attitude and openness made her great to speak with. Discovering Oudenot’s collection of bags and accessories for the first time was quite astonishing. I was immediately drawn in by the small intricate detailing and color. Every piece is made with care. I was also ecstatic about the unconventional construction details, and shapes and materials used. After seeing all the great collections for this SS13, I have noticed a considerable amount of leather and metal pairing. Marrying perspex, which is also know as lucite, with precious metals and leather is certainly untried and chichi. After viewing Oudenot’s SS13 collection in person I knew it was imperative that I request an interview. See below for full interview.
What is your name? Kzeniya Oudenot
Where are you from? I am originally from Kiev, Ukraine, but have been living in London for 10 years now (I came to study at St. Martins College, and after graduation, decided to stay). My husband is French and I took his surname after the marriage, so that’s why my name sounds French!
What is your profession? Leather accessories designer and entrepreneur.
How would you best describe your personality? Very passionate in everything that interests me: ambitious, shy very often and a bit of a dreamer.
Do you have any obsessions, foodie facts, rarities, hobbies, etc.? I am obsessed with random facts about nature, psychology and science discoveries. As for the hobbies, I do paintings sometimes.
What are you reading these days? Do you have a current favorite magazine(s), Book(s), Website (s), etc.? I love Wallpaper and Vanity Fair magazine and How to Spend It (FT weekend supplement). My homepage on the laptop is Business of Fashion, I love that website! At the moment reading Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff; the research in the book is just amazing!
At what point did you know Fashion Design or Design was an interest? I remember telling people that I will become fashion designer from the age of nine, since then it has always been my passion. I had no one in my family with a creative background, so it came as a shock to my parents. I was pursuing my passion usually at night, drawing and painting first, fanatically watching all the fashion shows, imagining the shows myself. I collected all those dreamy works and sent it off to St. Martins by post, and then received a letter inviting me for studies without exams!
How has your educational experience at St. Martin's influenced your work? I became confident in my design abilities, but I also learned that the designs have to be well executed technically and have a clear story. I also understood the importance of good research.
What would you say is the hardest part about being a Designer & creative person? The hardest for me is knowing that I have financially and technical limits.
What was it like to work for Alexander McQueen? It was totally inspiring and very creative. Everyone was a bit on the edge as we all felt under pressure to do the best of our abilities!
When did you design costumes for operas and ballets? I studied design for performance (costumes, set design, lighting). We had to analyse characters and design something not just according to our ideas, but to serve a purpose and to fit in the context of the surrounding. This skill I find very useful now.
Tell us the story behind your new fall/winter collection. It is inspired by the snow fight scene from the Kill Bill movie. I just love the contrast of traditional Asian and Western modern outfits, also the colours are amazing – white snow, red and blue. It is very peaceful but sharp and dangerous.
Your lookbook is stunning. How involved are you with the creative direction and photography? I usually come up with creative direction and I tell my ideas to makeup/hair artist and photographers. It’s the second season that I am working with Nikolay Biryukov, he is an amazing photographer and I love his aesthetic.
What materials are you using this season? All the bags are made with leather, embellished with customized laser cut and engraved metal and Perspex, layered in various colours.
Do you place emphasis on handcrafted in London? There is such a back to basics slash craftiness movement happening in the United States. How important is locally crafted product to you? I try to manufacture everything close by so the quality can be maintained and easily checked. The bags are made in Italy, close to Venice. We then receive the bags and [place] all the embellishments ourselves in the studio, in London.
What comes first for you, materials or the conception? I work first with the shape of the bag and then select the material.
What are your favorite materials to work with? The contrast of leather and plastic or metal, I love to play with different textures: soft and hard, light and heavy.
What was your process like when finding inspiration for this season? It comes naturally, I don’t look for it. I don’t know where it comes from, I guess the way I see it is every new collection is the gradual improvement and development of the previous. I take the feedback, see what people like, and then move more in that direction. Various elements are inspired by many things, it’s never just one, otherwise it would be too obvious; will be more like a copy, not a new product.
Any future collaborations, projects or things to look forward to? I am planning to collaborate with jewellery designers to have some unique jewellery-like metal elements on bags!
--Special thanks to Kzeniya Oudenot. Interview by James Buford, and edited by Alicia Fairclough for Infashuated © 2012. No part of this content or information included therein may be reproduced, republished or redistributed without the prior consent of Infashuated.
All image via Kzeniya