This season the fashion industry saw a change in the tide of sustainability, with many designers now considering their footprint. Whether through fabric choices or supply chains, they were challenging the notion of sustainable fashion as something that could be as dynamic in its design as its ethos.
One designer who is most adept at this is Constanzia Yurashko. She has long been an advocate for conscious fashion. Her brand of the same name launched in 2016 in Moldova and is fully committed to working sustainably through domestic production. She not only leads the way environmentally but also in terms of inclusivity. Her designs are high-end and androgynous, taking cues from historical references and exploring gender divides, resulting in collections unhindered by differing body shapes, instead embracing them. Her beautifully structural coats and jackets complement both men and women, and blouses, skirts and dresses, dramatically voluminous, are constructed to flatter all body shapes.
With each collection, Constanzia takes her customers on journeys through autobiographical narratives that are at the essence of her meticulously constructed tailoring. Elements of the past lend a timeless quality to each contemporary piece. The ambition is that they will remain essential parts of our wardrobes, cherished and passed down across generations.
Like many of us, the pandemic distorted Constanzia’s sense of time, and through that experience, the inception of her current collection. Her fashion film “A Passage Through Time’ takes us across centuries; her bold sculptural pieces punctuating the hauntingly beautiful black and white landscape with leitmotifs of isolation and our brief existence at its heart.
We spoke to Constanzia about her stunning collection, her atmospheric fashion film, turning challenges into triumphs and her hopes for the future.
Congratulations on your latest collection, which we loved, and which was shown as part of Fashion Scout’s digital LFW program. It’s called “Passage Through Time”, and we wondered how much of it was influenced by these difficult times we are living through and what other influences informed the creative process?
Thank you so much! This is our second presentation at London Fashion Week. The first one was in September 2019 with ‘The Abyss’ Collection. This was exactly the time when I decided for myself that I am ready to show my work to a wider audience. This season though, we were taken by surprise as we were granted the much-acclaimed Fashion Scout’ Ones To Watch’ Award for our’ Passage Through Time’ Collection and the possibility to showcase during digital LFW.
The work on the collection was planned to start mid-March, but this was exactly when the first lockdown started, and everything changed. Covid 19 pandemic swept the world in one day, and the same happened to the feeling of time. My distorted sense of time this year left a strong mark on the collection as well. It can be observed in deformed, twisted silhouettes, spontaneous curves and unusual human figure shapes and proportions made to confuse the perception and common sense.
This was a true fight with myself, as I could not find a focal point to start with. It was a general mood, and I needed to dig deep for the inspiration theme that will help me shape this illusory image I had in my mind. This time it wasn’t a single reference, but there were many, far from being interconnected, but this is inessential. The most important is that finally, the dots connected, and the entire collection fall into place.
‘Passage Through Time’ is an artistic journey of time travelling, from 16th – mid-17th-century men’s clothes cut and construction to the archetypal Julia Cameron’s Victorian figures, Hammershoi’s solitary atmosphere of peculiarly closed ‘home’ without the least sense of the world outside, and Traditional Dutch Costumes from the beginning of the twentieth century.
We loved the sculptured, twisted silhouettes and textures, which have such a timeless dramatic quality to them. How important to you is it to make pieces that are contemporary, but which also have that wearable longevity?
I love making clothes that have a longer shelf life than one season and certainly out of recurring fashion trends. As for my customers, I want them to put more sense and consciousness in the way they choose their clothes. It will take time to educate the consumer in this direction, but I will never compromise, as long as there will be a meaning.
As I designer for whom the entire supply management is essential, transparency with the end customer is indispensable. In each of the garment that I create, I put the best and everything I have, in terms of quality, design and, most important – emotions that I’m experiencing every day. I want my pieces to resist in time and worth being passed down from generation to generation. This is my way of achieving timelessness.
What I do is total self-expression, a desire to communicate a message, a voice that I use according to the change in time of my mental and physical condition. Afterwards, I “drip” in each article of clothing the state of mind and the emotions I live every day. The final garment is thought through down to every detail and always has a story behind it.
Maybe that is why I am never inspired by a piece of fabric. First, I need to feel the mood, the concept and the timelessness of what I want to create.
The film that you made to showcase the collection is truly captivating. It has a haunting, ethereal quality that transcends the fashion film genre. What story do you want to tell us through this film?
The film brings out a silent, static world abandoned by humanity. The absence of life is even more pronounced in this slightly dense, oppressive and almost ghostly atmosphere. The presence of the human figure here has a sense of homelessness because of his fleeting presence in the eternity of time and space.
While the pandemic has had forced the industry to wholly embrace digital, cinematic storytelling has always been central to what you do. Is it your preferred option, and would you also like to show in physical spaces when post-pandemic circumstances allow?
Humans have a unique and beautiful way of communicating with one another. Thus, digital communication will never replace that.
I remember receiving messages and feedback from our guests months after our physical presentation at LFW in September 2019, but one of the stories I will always remember. It was about someone who went to our presentation with her mom, who was an artist and sent me amazing artworks inspired by our collection. Here are her words:
‘I went with my mother to see your presentation, and we spent almost all time there because she was so impressed and is still telling everyone about it, and your creations and fashion kept her mind that busy that she is now inverting it into art pieces…it is a great process to see for me’.
I am definitely looking forward to the time when we will all be able to see each other again! Only now, I want people to respect and value more each other’s work, effort, time and endeavour, as well as having more empathy for one another.
You originally designed womenswear and have evolved into designing androgynous, gender-free pieces such as those featured in this collection. What motivated this change in direction, and how liberating is it to design without gender constraints?
I started with womenswear first, then expanded into menswear, now defined as an androgynous line. The reason is that my collections are about one’s attitude, character, power, strength, uniqueness, sensibility, regardless of gender identity.
It’s not about women wearing male clothes and vice versa; it’s about the freedom of choice, expression and embracing one’s own identity. Nevertheless, there is a very fine line that I always try to sense and consider when designing androgynous clothes, and it’s important not to push the envelope.
Are there any practical challenges or particular difficulties that you had to overcome when designing such androgynous pieces?
Absolutely not! It gave me more freedom and space for creativity and flexibility in construction as well. There’re no internal boundaries for me now, and this is amazing!
How would you like the person who wears one of your pieces to feel when they are dressed in Constanzia Yurashko?
I am always searching for something that will make me want to dig deep emotionally, worth enough awakening something inside me that I could find interesting to mix and create something new, not so obvious to one’s eye. The answers to my questions are only for myself; for everyone else, I expect their own interpretation of the collection, even if completely different to mine. I want people to find their own story when wearing my clothes. As soon as they identify with them, this is my greatest reward!
When I get personalized messages from clients telling me, “This is the most ME Dress”, I realize how important and essential it is to stick to your values no matter how hard it can be.
You are a brand that places sustainability at the core of everything that you do. How did that manifest itself in the fabrics and fibres used in this collection, and did the pandemic present any supply chain or other challenges to preserving the integrity of your sustainable footprint?
For me, Sustainability and Social Responsibility is a way of living and a way of thinking. Because one has to realize that social reality is created from a total reaction of all our individual actions. That is why the human side is also an important part of our brand’s ethos by working in a transparent relationship with everyone involved in the process. Starting with suppliers and ending up with our local workshops where each of our garments is handmade; thus, the commitment to fair labour practices goes beyond words.
The fabric factories we work with are ethically conscious companies mainly from Switzerland, the UK, Portugal and Italy with more than two centuries of roots and valuable know-how passed down from generation to generation. When choosing the factory that produces the fabric we consider working with, it is very important the transparency and access to information on the production chain, which ranges from spinning to weaving to dyeing and finishing, and of course the use of water! All the companies we work with have an effluent treatment plant, which guarantees the regeneration of the water used in the industrial process, making it possible to be reused.
For ‘The Passage Through Time’ Collection, we have used Swiss organic cotton, melton and suiting wool, all dyed with natural substances. We have also used only real horn buttons made from the by-product of buffalo horns. All the garments are 50% handmade in our workshop with uttermost attention to detail, often using time-consuming and hand-executed techniques; thus, the entire supply chain management control is essential for us in order to deliver a human-ecological quality product to our end customer.
We understand that you worked In London before returning to Moldova to start your own label. In what ways did that experience influence you as a designer?
While living in London, I have had the chance to work in the Jewellery and Fashion Design Industry. I gained valuable practical knowledge and skills, but most importantly, the courage and a deep understanding that I need to have my own voice and start my own path in the industry. This is how I started working on my own brand in 2016.
As a brand that continues to evolve and adapt to the world around us, what ambitions and aspirations do you have for the year ahead?
This is a lifetime job! Evolving and adapting is a part of the process, and I love it! I just want to stay true to my values and keep expressing myself true to my designs. You never know where the road goes, but I am very curious about it!
As with so many designers, the pandemic brought its challenges in varying ways. It’s been encouraging to see that whilst we have collectively faced these hurdles, they have infusing designers’ work for the positive. For Constanzia, this collection challenged her creativity but what emerged was a strong collection, not just in its vision but in its stunning construction, timeless yet modern without compromise.
Free of the constraints of trends, these are designs that stand the test of time and empower the consumer to make sustainable choices. Each garment supports a community of suppliers, manufacturers, and labourers treated with respect along the chain. And it’s this transparency, this empathy for people and the planet, that further enriches the stunningly unique pieces.
Constanzia Yurashko’s designs are not only striking in shape, but they enhance and embrace all forms while also championing our freedom of expression, our individuality, our humanity and our power. The garments start as part of her story and then become part of ours. They are created in the hope of being passed between generations. Still, they also hold with them craftsmanship handed down through the generations of families who have contributed to their production.
Through each collection, Constanzia gives her all; time, painstaking attention to detail, and every emotion she experiences in between. And with each design, we feel her effort. These are the hallmarks of someone who truly cares, not just about the final product but where it starts and with whom it ends. She has been rewarded for these efforts with accolades, so it pays to be considerate. The designer expresses a wish for more empathy in the world, something from which we could all benefit right now. And as a brand that looks after its people and its planet, with clothes for all, Constanzia Yurashko is undoubtedly the embodiment of empathy.
Thank you to Constanzia for taking the time to talk with us.
To see more of Constanzia’s beautiful work visit: https://www.constanziayurashko.com