First, I saw Irina Dzhus’ designs in the spring, on some link on the Facebook. And I was simply dazzled by those minimalist and perfectly constructed pieces from that collection. Therefore, I had to find out more (like details that Dzhus’ designs have been featured in the top international media, including Vogue Germany, Vogue.com, Dazeddigital, Vogue Ukraine, Marie Claire China, Marie Claire Ukraine, Harper’s Bazaar Ukraine, Dash and more). And when I put my eyes on the first looks of the Fall/Winter 2016/2017 collection, “Nihilism” (pictured above), I knew that I had to do an interview with Irina. So we talked about the philosophy of the brand, the inspiration challenges and architectonic references and the perks of being a young designer. (http://dzhus.portfoliobox.me/)
Every piece you design carries a philosophical message. What is the whole message, for your entire work?
The main ethical principle of my work is to fulfil only unique concepts that are worth production in our era of oversupply. Naturally, all of DZHUS products are cruelty-free and vegetarian-friendly. The important message I want to deliver with my designs is the necessity of being humane and future-oriented in the modern reality. By producing cruelty-free fashion products and communicating them to intelligent, independently-thinking audience I aim to prove that it is possible to look edgy and avant-garde, yet remain in peace and harmony with the universe.
How does your brand started? And what would you have done differently, if you look now, after 6 years, at the beginnings?
Since I was 5, I could never imagine my life without fashion design. To gain artistic skills, I went to a children’s professional art school, where well-known Ukrainian artists became my teachers. After the art school, I went to Kiev National University of Technologies and Design to study fashion design, which, however, appeared to be quite outdated and way too theoretical. Therefore, at 18, I decided I needed a real practice in addition to it, so during the following 2 summers I did an internship at an established Ukrainian designer brand KRASNOVA, which was brilliant experience.
After graduation, I have finally launched my own label. My early collections were pure avant-garde. Accordingly, they received much more publicity and fans than real customers, whereas I clearly realised I’d always wanted to do fashion but not costumes. In my dreams, DZHUS pieces would live a real life, interacting with their owners, helping them display their unique individuality. Along with that, I have realised that creating extravagant show pieces was just the easiest and the laziest way to embody my concepts, whereas I preferred more exquisite methods, such as making my conceptual cut totally wearable at the same time. And it seems I’ve managed to do that successfully in my recent collections.
Now, analysing my work from the perspective of the already gained experience, I wish I didn’t waste 5 years on the local fashion education, as there is no long-termed fashion tradition in my country, unlike the great fine art history. Instead, I should have tried my best to study at one of the well-known European fashion schools.
Another mistake I continue making even now is being too critical about my own work, which is typical for people who have spent years learning fine art professionally. We are used to develop hundreds of concepts, letting just a few to be fulfilled and spending a lot of time trying to make every result perfect, whereas many other creatives who are not familiar with that academic approach tend to be proud of every single piece of work they’ve done. They publish and promote sketches and designs which I wouldn’t even have considered worth looking at once more, if those were mine. This makes me understand I should have valued, photographed and showed more of my work, which would have been very helpful for DZHUS’ recognition, especially since followers we have now are often interested in the brand’s story and work-in-progress pictures.
Why you clothes are all so minimalist, so geometrical, so black-and-white?
According to my vision of the universe, any object’s structure has countless edges, which divides it into modules, creating a potential for numerous modifications. Many of DZHUS garments are transformers, too: the angular shapes make it easy for the complex pieces to unzip and unfold, turning into very basic clothing, therefore, offering different style options for their owners. In my opinion, everything we use nowadays has to be functional, compact and mobile to help us cope with the crazy rhythm of the modern life.
As regards colour, I’ve never felt a need to use it to express my vision, which is all about shapes, structures and textures. On the other hand, I’ve learnt so much of the cultural and psychological meaning of colours at the art school that now I don’t want to burden my designs (which are already complicated) with all that huge legacy of any of the colours.
Where does references for your latest collection comes from?
The name of the collection, “Nihilism” is supposed to express that my designs were created without speculating on any particular source of inspiration, neither do I consider a necessity to put attention-drawing labels or make up exciting stories around them, as long as they remain nothing more than high quality apparel with innovative cut. I didn’t need to appeal to any trendy theme to work on the concepts, I generated them using just my personal understanding of the world’s complex structure and its architectonic potential.
Speaking about the style of my work in general, it has always had architectural principles. My vision of the ambient is all about its construction: forms and their antipodes, volumes and silhouettes, surfaces and voids, contours and textures and the ability of all that diversity to interact and transform.
What is the remedy for an inspiration gap?
Spirituality and technologies have always been the most intriguing themes for me. Naturally, a mix of them has formed the identity of DZHUS. All things I get charmed with, be it ancient Christian iconography or industrial uniform, have another, deeper meaning besides of their obvious visual peculiarity. These objects embody certain social and psychological aspects, which balance on the edge of mental and spiritual perception. Their controversial ethos helps push the boundaries of conscience.
What is the biggest challenge for a designer, nowadays? Why?
In my opinion, real design is all about innovation and authenticity. I think, the mission of slow fashion is to provide the sophisticated audience with unique and conceptual products, which they would never find at mainstream stores. However, frankly speaking, the slow fashion’s rhythm is still far not that slow. Now that I’ve been in a permanent rush, working without weekends, literally all the time, and still going to sleep at 4 a.m., I really wish it was much slower. As a conceptual designer, I would love to have an opportunity to think my ideas over more thoroughly, without having to fit in numerous deadlines, to once at last end up with a truly high-end result and to be able to go for a walk just in search of inspiration, instead of seizing fragments of the world around me only while heading from a business meeting to a fabric store.
The next project / collection will be… about adding more distinctive textures to my structured designs. In my SS17 line I’m experimenting with sheer textiles as well as fabrics finished as if they were worn-out or spoiled. I’m also continuing to develop DZHUS signature concept of graphic contours extending past the edge of fabric.
The designer that influenced you mostly… Early Issey Miyake.
Your brand piece signature is… transforming Capote Top from the AW16 line.
Fashion will never be… of interest to me as a way of life and thinking, because my creative worldview has always had much more in common with object design. The only difference is that objects I design are clothes.
Your DZHUS’ favourite collection is…AW16, “Nihilism”.
Irina Dzhus, in 3 words…nonconformist, introvert, perfectionist.
Photography: (c) Irina Dzhus ((http://dzhus.portfoliobox.me/)