Janhkoy Our Exclusive Designer Interview
BY KRISTINE KELLER
Maria Kazakova thinks of fashion as a medium to bring people together. It’s this inclusive approach that makes her debut at New York Fashion Week: Men’s all the more exciting. One of the few female menswear designers to show, she started her journey in womenswear at Central Saint Martins in London before a tutor encouraged the switch to menswear. After that, “I couldn’t stop,” she rhapsodizes. “I loved it. It was just more natural for me.”
She views fashion with a philosophical and metaphysical worldliness. “Clothes exist not just to cover and protect your body – they have a much more sacred and spiritual meaning,” she says.
My clothes are not muted. They are alive. They speak through the bodies of the wearers.
The foundation for this savoir vivre was shaped by the designer’s path towards establishing her own line. Kazakova started sewing in elementary school, and after becoming inspired by a John Galliano show for Dior, she knew fashion was her end-goal. “We didn’t really have any fashion schools in Siberia, so I studied economics for a few years,” she recalls. “Then I traveled to San Francisco to work in service jobs. After that, I moved back to Siberia and then to Moscow, London and, finally, New York. It was a journey.”
A sojourn well worth it. These collective experiences are imbued through her designs, which she views as “the state of our society.” She works primarily with upcycled sportswear and garments that are recut, reused, repurposed, and layered in a deliberate manner. Each piece is embellished with hours of handwork. “It carries the memory of the ancestors on the path of tomorrow. It values the celebration and the revival of culture, craft, and tradition, through sustainable practices,” she says.
The designer hopes to “collaborate with artisans to revive and spread cultural textiles and traditional techniques throughout the world” for future designs. When asked about advice for other female designers trying to break into the menswear space, she insists, “You just have to love what you do and work very hard. And you have to challenge the norm.” To her, this notion is “empowering.”
“I have a very personal connection with the garments that I wear,” she says. “It is a second skin, an armor, a language. So, in my practice, I speak through the garments that I create, which represent my point of view, interests, and beliefs.”