Ekaterina Tkachenko is an up and coming Russian designer who has fallen in love with Florence. Growing up around furs and a seamstress grandmother didn’t initially push her into the fashion world—she started off working in finance after university. After a few years, however, and a push from friends, she searched for another university and came upon Polimoda in Florence. Since then, everything has changed!
Lina Salameh: When did your love for fashion begin?
Ekaterina Tkachenko: It was in my family’s DNA, my grandmother was very keen on making things. During my early childhood as far back as I can remember she was making fur coats by hand because she didn’t have special equipment. She used to make wonderful embroideries and my brother and I were the best dressed kids. Later I found out that my grandmother and my grandmother’s grandmother were seamstresses. I guess it skips a generation in my family!
Anyway, I forgot about fashion when I was a teenager. I graduated with a diploma and started to work in a bank. Later on I was with my friends and they asked my opinion on an interior design or something. They were impressed with my answer and they said I had good ideas. I didn’t take it seriously but as soon as I could, years later, I left my job in the finance sphere. I decided I should learn how to stitch and sew. When I finally had enough money to travel and see the world I eventually came here.
LS: Was there any reason you picked Florence?
ET: When I was looking for an educational establishment I considered England and Belgium, but my friend working in the industry gave me the advice to study at Polimoda. The school made my choice for me.
LS: I noticed that you use both faux and natural furs in your collection but why did you choose this particular material?
ET: My grandmother used to have different furs and fur coats in the house that, as a baby, I used to touch and play with. After the first year at Polimoda I had a summer internship in a fur production company and was introduced to different technologies and techniques on how to design with it. When I came back I was totally in love with fur so I decided my final graduation collection would contain a lot of fur. I was sponsored by the well-known, European trade house, Saga Furs, and they hosted me at an event in Copenhagen. It was a huge experience for me that really solidified my being in the industry.
LS: What do you see as your greatest achievements?
ET: I can currently say that I have participated in different international exhibitions and trade shows but one of the greatest was the Taiwan Fashion Designer Awards where I was one of ten finalists thanks to my entire graduation collection. There was a lot of attention from the Asian markets and I won some prizes there and got lot of publicity.
LS: Who are your favorite designers?
ET: I really like what Gucci does now. They changed their whole strategy and what they are doing is really remarkable and impressive. It astounds everyone. Raf Simons is absolutely one of the best. I look up to the classic creators and try to understand how they work. I not only enjoy the designs but also try to appreciate the logic. They put so much work into each piece in their shows so they are very important to study.
LS: Is there anyone you want to collaborate with for future collections?
ET: Of course I have thought about it. There are two kinds of collaboration. One way is to work with a well-known brand, an economical collaboration. The other is to find an artistic soul mate. I am thinking about both right now and I know some contemporary artists that are incorporating new techniques that could be introduced into my garments. One of them is a well-known name but is too early to name this person so I’ll wait and hope! Let’s see how things go.
LS: Where do you hope to take your brand going forward?
ET: Well, there are several markets that interest me. American and European markets are, of course, exciting. The Asian and the Korean market specifically is very attractive to me because buyers are enticed by European fashion and menswear is developing at a very fast pace. And I am Russian, so participating in the Russian market makes a lot of sense economically.
LS: What influence do you believe Pitti Uomo has on the industry and on Florence?
ET: The first time I worked at Pitti I was a third year student and I helped to organize and schedule shows. It was a really good experience because I could see what’s behind the glossy surface of such an international fashion event like Pitti. Fashion in Italy is one of the main core industries and Florence is considered to be a traditional place for crafts, leather production and goods. This year they invited a lot of cutting edge designers and really important guests. This is important both to the city and the show itself.
LS: What do you believe Florence has to offer to the fashion industry going forward?
ET: Florence is developing rapidly. It has a strong community and is investing and putting a lot of effort into the development of the industry. The infrastructure of the suppliers, designers and producers has created an industrial community very much inspired by contemporary fashion trends so I see that the future should be bright.
LS: Why do you choose to stay in Florence instead of moving to Milan or Rome?
ET: Well, basically, I found a pleasant combination of the fashion world, for example we have the Pitti event which is world recognized. There’s the ability to buy fabrics and go to suppliers who are all here. In Milano it’s a bit more complicated. Here I can get all of my fabrics in fifteen minutes’ time. It is a very nice place to stay and I basically fell in love with the city.
LS: If you had to pick one, what is your favorite place in Florence?
ET: The Santa Trinita Bridge. You have the best view of all the bridges on one side and then a view of the Ponte Vecchio. You can sit on the edge in the summer time and watch the sunset. This to me is the pure magic of Florence, it’s partly why I am here and why I want to succeed in my career here!
About Fashion in Florence
In May-June 2017 ISI (International Studies Institute of Florence) will offer for the third time an innovative class in Fashion Communication for non-specialized students in design. Emphasis will be on analysis of leading fashion media critics, commentators, bloggers and influencers. During the last edition of the course students had the opportunity to visit Pitti Uomo fashion trade-fair and write their reports and blogs including one-on-one interviews with leading young figures in Fashion in Florence. Professor Emeritus Mark Bernheim headed the team, which included fashion commentator Alessandro Masetti.