The last time I was on a playground, I was managing a gaggle of wild babies crawling away from me at terminal velocity. Quite unexpectedly, I found myself back in the pastel space, my second time working with Atha, to shoot Elena Bobysheva’s playful SS16 collection. The location was an unexpected change of plans which, after the scramble of a last-minute theme overhaul, ended up lending some quirk and personality to our story. 6 AM call time still put us at the mercy of the children that slowly overtook the park by 10, which left us either tripping over the smaller ones or scaring them as we patiently waited in line for the slide.
To add to the stress, we were racing against the clock to get Atha to the airport in time for her flight to Oregon. With two hours to shoot, we found ourselves in a pressure cooker that put our creativity and efficiency on overdrive. The burning metal structures and fields of pastel rubber inspired a youthful interpretation of Bobysheva’s collection, the playground’s geometry adding a futuristic element against the color-blocking of her garments. The location offered a creative challenge as I began distorting and translating its familiarity, in much the same way a child would see the park as a space jungle or volcano (who played lava monster as a kid?!). As we narrated, we navigated and explored through primary-colored glasses, developing our imagery through a balance of tertiary color and native shape.
Following the shoot, I got the chance to speak with creative Elena Bobysheva on her collection, her aspirations, and the sensibilities of her label:
When did you first know you wanted to be a designer? What draws you to the field?
I've always been interested in fashion but when you are a child you don't realize what fashion is or if you can make a career out of it. I certainly didn't know fashion design was a job because nobody I knew worked in the fashion industry but my mother and grandmother were seamstresses, so fashion is clearly part of my DNA. I really became enthralled by the industry when I was a teenager. However, I decided to take the cautious path and began to study Business & Entrepreneurship in college. It wasn't until my sophomore year, that I could no longer deny my urge to design so I decided to double major in Fashion Design and Business.
What inspires you and your work--little things, life events, places/people/artworks?
Anything can be a source of inspiration. I vaguely know what my next collection will be a season beforehand but I don't confirm a specific design direction until I have an emotional reaction from the inspiration. Generally speaking, I always start with reviewing my previous season to see whether there are things that can be improved upon - technically and aesthetically. Then, I start creating an inspiration board for the new season, which includes photographs of design details, color stories, textures, photography, art exhibitions, etc.
How did you come to start your line? What was your journey like?
I was in a sense "discovered" by a buyer from a high-end clothing store in Chicago a couple months after graduating. At that point, I was still deciding whether to go work for somebody else or stay in Chicago and start my own line. When the buyer picked up my senior thesis collection it was decided. I didn't want to lose that opportunity or momentum. Nobody from my class got such a big break so soon after graduating and I definitely wasn't going to let this entrance into the industry pass me by.
Where did the concept for your current collection arise from?
Spring 16 was inspired by abstract contemporary art. I looked at several different contemporary artists around the world but Imi Knoebel's work is what spoke to me the most this season. The focus for this collection was color and shape blocking, whilst building upon the playful asymmetry from last season.
What is your brand mission, in terms of sustainability and aesthetics?
I want to create luxurious clothes for modern women around the world. It's a personal vision; one that empowers women and makes them feel beautiful and seductive at any age. In regards to my business goals, my goal is to eventually become a 100% sustainable luxury brand with a strong contribution to the fashion industry. My hope is to build a company that has longevity and will still be here 50 years from now.
Where do you see your label going? In what ways do you want your brand to grow?
Right now we are focusing on our direct to consumer business model through our stand-alone e-commerce store, as well as looking into distribution to select upscale boutiques.
Who is the Elena Bobysheva woman?
The ideal Elena Bobysheva woman is someone who appreciates luxury and quality. She's an investment dresser and seeks to find coveted, well-made, statement pieces rather than be a seasonal shopper. She's also someone who is mindful of how a product is made. She genuinely cares whether something is made ethically, because she does not like cheap excess. Environmentalism and animal welfare are important to me and I think they are important to my customers as well.
What is your personal fashion like?
I am still trying to figure that out! Obviously, I wear a lot of my own designs, which are classical silhouettes but are modernized with unique color-blocking or shape combinations. However, on my days off, I do like the occasional faux leather baseball cap, bodysuit, and ripped skinny denim - and I would categorize that as more edgy and street. I dress according to my mood so my style changes daily. You would never see me in vintage or bohemian though - that is certainly not for me!
Look 1 Red crepe t-shirt sleeve top & Red wool gabardine asymmetrical mini skirt with pleated underskirt