Harnessing the energy of both mythology and experience, the work of Red September‘s Olga Vasyukova blends fantasy and reality to create pieces for everyone. In her most recent collection, her inspired gaze settles on the “outsider” — those who buck trends and traditions to lead unparalleled lives. The collection, which is presented as the first of a trilogy, both examines and explores these brave trailblazers as they question the undergirding of modern society, eventually attempting to remake it. To get to know the ins and outs of the collection and Red September as a brand, Schön! sits down with Vasyukova.
Your latest collection is a celebration of outsiders. What are some methods you used to capture this outsider spirit in your work?
An analysis of my experience and the time I spent at two universities in two different countries, surrounded by completely different people. Studying the impossible nature of objective normality and society’s values in [the] accepted ideas of masculinity and femininity.
What are some of the other influences of this collection?
At the very beginning, even before the idea of the collection was born, I studied a lot of literature about the universe and accidentally stumbled upon a story, which was based on a very non-classical concept. Its essence was that souls live on another planet (a kind of paradise) and accumulate negative energy over the course of life. To get rid of this negative energy, souls come in human form to the earth (a kind of purgatory) and live an earthly life in compliance with certain rules. If during the course of life these rules are violated, then life begins again, but in even more difficult conditions, which must be overcome without breaking the rules. Only after this, the soul can return back. This whole story is very deep and detailed. But the concept that the earth is a kind of purgatory for souls who came here so interested me that it became the starting point of my story.
This is the first in a trilogy. What are the themes of the other two parts, if you are willing to share? Why did you feel a trilogy was the best way to tell this story?
Trilogy Collection is a three part series made up of three seasons and few video releases arranged into sections based on a traditional storytelling format: beginning, development/twist and conclusion. Through the three seasons, Red September tells a story about internal conflict, the search for the true self and acceptance, respect and love of oneself in the balance of internal and external.
You talk about questioning “society’s values” in this collection. What are the values of Red September as a label?
As a designer, I work for all people, without exception, without labelling them and not dividing them into any classes. And if earlier there were clear norms in society, as to what a man should look like and what a woman should wear, now I work precisely to achieve a level when these norms will disappear, to help people find their way to themselves, to understanding and respecting their inner self.
What is your personal history as a designer?
Being very enthusiastic about technical subjects, right after school I got to the Moscow State University of Railway Transport, and over the next five years I studied logistics, higher mathematics and descriptive geometry. Right after graduation I was hired by the Research Institute for Information Technology on Railway Transport and accepted as a member of the Russian Federation delegation in an annual session of Working Party on the Transport of Perishable Foodstuffs (WP.11), United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Palais des Nations (Geneva). My mother’s a scientist; there was no chance for me to stop my studies after just one diploma. After a few years of an engineering career and lots of extra courses and hobbies, I had a strong feeling [that I was] wasting my time. I can hardly remember how I even started thinking about design, but I clearly remember myself late at night sitting in my pyjamas in front of the computer and studying the Polimoda website. At that moment I already felt that I was in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.
In what ways are you, personally and as a designer, an “outsider”?
When I first came to the Polimoda, I immediately realised that I was the only person in the entire course who had no design background at all. Other students either graduated from art schools or worked as design assistants, or their families engaged in the production of fabric or leather. I was the Russian railway engineer at the best Italian design university who had to start everything from the very beginning and work a lot more than everyone else. You know how at every party there is a person who leaves first? I was the one who did not go to them at all.
What inspires you in your day-to-day life (i.e. if you’re out of ideas, what do you do)?
Inspiration strongly romanticises the artistic working process and often justifies your own laziness. If there is a goal and a pleasure from work, then only perseverance, hard work, competent time management and a clear deadline lead to the result. The brain itself, processing all visual information, will look for the links with the current project. These processes are always active, no matter what I do. If we talk about strong emotions, now I am definitely going through a phase of admiration for my hometown. Moscow is my place of power. It is a metropolis with people from different cultures, with different ethical standards, financial capabilities and freedom of expression. It is a city of great contrasts, spoiled by culture and history, and oversaturated by people who often cannot appreciate or analyse this.
What does the future have in store for Red September?
We will dress up all the cool “outsider” kids in the world.