Tell us a little bit about your journey before you became a designer?
I was always a very creative person. As a kid, I was playing piano, performing in kids and school theater and my biggest passion was craftsmanship classes and creating clothes for my dolls. Crochet, knitting, and making clothes is my cultural heritage, we learn it in school as part of an official program. I took it further; I was swapping dolls' clothes with my friends and sometimes candies were my payment. It was my first entrepreneurial experience! In school, it was very clear that besides being creative, I’m also very intellectual at the same time. I finished high school with a gold medal for being excellent in all disciplines, you need to show top results all semesters during 3 years of high school.
Also, I became a student at National Aviation University (computer engineering) with a scholarship before I even finished school. Very quickly, I understood it’s not what I wanted to do in my life, but learning high math, physics and theory of probability is still helping me a lot. I was missing creativity and connecting with people, I was missing fashion so much! Cosmopolitan Harper’s Bazaar magazines became my next destination for 8 years. I worked closely with brands like Dior, Givenchy, Burberry, Bottega Veneta, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Loro Piana, Graff, Harry Winston, Chopard and many others. They taught me a lot. Before I moved to NYC, my last few years were dedicated to working as a co-publisher of CASAVIVA Italian design magazine. The biggest surprise for me was that Italian design week is a few times bigger than fashion week, and design trends are more advanced vs fashion. It took for me some time before I was able to realize my dream. When I moved to the US, I wanted to represent Ukrainian brands and show the whole world how our culture is beautiful. But my professors strongly suggested that I create something of my own, I guess they saw a lot of talent and passion in me. I decided “now or never”. I felt like a kid in Disneyland. I learned how to work in a very sophisticated way with a color, visual representation, proportion, styling, and production cycles. In terms of knitting techniques and working with the yarns I felt like I’m the one who could teach the students. This is how my 1st knitted designs saw a life!
When did you know you wanted to become a designer?
Since I was a kid. Sometimes it takes a lot of time before we become brave enough to follow our dreams.
What is your earliest design memory for your brand?
When I visited design week in Milan for the first time, I was impressed and inspired at the same time in what can be done with cashmere, patterns, yarn textures, and how different yarns can create different effects. Each yarn’s type has its own structure, spinning and finishing. And I asked myself “what if I combine my cultural heritage and these amazing Italian yarns?!” From that moment, the idea about hand-knitted products didn’t leave me.
“When you put together new and timeless trends, sophistication of craftsmanship, it creates another level of fashion.”
Where do you find inspiration?
History and Art. I strongly believe in eclectic elegant style. When you put together new and timeless trends, sophistication of craftsmanship, it creates another level of fashion. People used to see visual art only as something creative and intuitive, the reality is it is working with a color. It's a combination of creativity, craftsmanship, science, and psychology. It’s deep. Colors have their own balance, proportions, accents, and story. Different colors make us feel different ways and communicate a different message. As an artist, you set this direction through your imagination, feelings, skills, and mindset.
How would you describe your personal style?
Elegant and eclectic, style is eternal, and not trendy. Accessories are so powerful. Also, I'm a big fan of red lipstick and nail polish. Red is one of my favorite colors.
Tell us more about how you embed the Ukrainian spirit in your products?
There are 2 parts. Cultural heritage and a social one. In Ukraine, the women are unfairly treated by the local job market, which is allowing only those aged under 40 to 45 years old to be hired. Companies even mention in their hiring ads that they are interested only in people of a certain age group. I disagree with that. It’s painful to feel that way and it’s very unfair. Giving them the opportunity to work with us it’s a chance for them to feel valuable and appreciated again. One of our knitters said to me “Thank you for bringing me back to life”. This message will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was a moment when I got inspired as never before. Giving back to our communities is very important.
What is your favorite fashion film or show?
I love a movie about Yves Sent Laurent. We both appreciate elegance, style, and believe in timeless fashion.
“Nataliya Nova is a combination of quality, craftsmanship, aesthetics and helping other people.”
What sets your brand apart from the rest?
Nataliya Nova is a combination of quality, craftsmanship, aesthetics and helping other people. Our designs as well will give you a lot of comfort. Beautiful clothes should be comfortable.
Tell us something about Ukrainian textiles that no one knows?
Every region in Ukraine has its own techniques, style, and the colors. Vyshyvanka is our national hand embroidered clothes. Rushnyk is another home décor element that every house has. Another artistic object is Pysanka, hand-painted eggs we create for Easter, which have become recognized as an art around the world! You can find so many curtains with hand-made lace etc. Kitchen aprons also were hand-embroidered and decorated with crochet. I still have one from my grandmother.
What do you envision for the future of your brand?
Helping people and staying connected with my cultural heritage. Quality is my vision. I believe in slow fashion; we are used to living with such a consumption mindset without even realizing what we wear and why we make that decision. It should be changed. With our choices we set the direction. People are much more powerful than they think. By choosing the brands with good values, they change the world. I call it the power of small steps. The consumers set the trends and fashion companies just respond to that through their vision, not the other way around.
I see clearly how it is hard for emerging designers and startups to survive even if they have brilliant ideas and nice products. The rate of failure in the fashion industry is about 96%. I went through a lot of stuff and am still, but I already see how many things can be done in a more efficient way. Many brands are approaching me to help them, and I deeply would love to do it. It needs to be teamwork. When you see all that passion, commitments, and willingness to give to the world a beautiful and sustainable product, your heart melts. I know what it takes.
Working in the fashion media industry, I met with many talented, experienced, and influential people around the world. I want to create a team which will help other sustainable brands with unicorn products to be successful,l and not to be a part of 96%. Only by working together and supporting each other can we make it work.
Tell us how moving to New York City changed you?
When I was studying at the Fashion Institute of Technologies I learned how to trust myself with creativity. I saw that there are no right or wrong ideas, you just need to find your audiences and adjust the product. Very often, only small details will define if a product is successful or not and there is no clear answer to that. It’s all about your intuition, vision and “test-try” approach.
What were some hurdles you had to overcome in your business?
At different stages, you face different challenges. I accepted it as a part of my journey. That’s the only way to learn and grow. Your starting point is your imagination and the final one is a happy client who is proudly wearing your creation. I promise you; it will take a lot to go through this.
Establishing international production was a big achievement especially with our attention to details. The majority of our winter hats are hand-knitted, you can only imagine how carefully we need to go through a quality control of each product. The same situation with resort hats, they are hand-weaved from very fine toquilla straw in Ecuador.
You can find a lot of silk scarves in our collection based on my actual paintings. It requires from me the skills to work with canvas and silk. Each line on a piece of silk is measured under a magnifying glass. Proportions, color story, defining the dominant colors, color relativity and many other words are involved in this process. We need to go through 5-6 samples before we reach the final product.
We recently added hand-stitched silk bands to our collection to show the beauty of texture.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to a new designer?
You always need to remember that your creativity should stay connected with the people. You can’t be isolated and selfish with the attitude “It’s my design and this is it”, at the end of the day, you create for the people not for your ego. The other one is you never end up with what you started, a lot of things will be created during the process, be open to that. Very often, your clients will tell you what they love and can't find, what they appreciate in your product (and you never thought about it) etc. Keep a dialog with your clients, don’t be afraid to hear feedback! Your clients will help you much better than any consulting agency.
How would you define fashion?
Fashion will always be a very powerful self-expression tool. We look the way we feel. Creativity is deep. When we see something aesthetically beautiful, it can be very hypnotizing, and no one can explain why. It pleases you and you feel connected “just because”. It was always fascinating for me to see how beautiful clothes can change the way you feel. One of my favorite moments is to observe how people come to a shop with a casual mood, then pick our accessories, look at themselves in the mirror and you see a huge smile on their faces. Yes! They found something stylish, sexy, and flattering. You clearly see how their spine gets straighter and they are ready to rock this life. The reason why I love accessories so much, they can transform a very simple look into a fancy one in a few minutes, it’s so easy, just put on one of our scarves with art prints or an elegant summer hat, red lipstick and you are ready! Easy, effortless, elegant. To see these transformations and emotions is priceless for me!