Models wearing children masks took to the catwalk to showcase Paris-based, Ukrainian fashion designer Anton Belinskiy’s new collection. Belinskiy is known for his nostalgic and poetic garments, always bringing his Soviet and familial heritages to the plate.
Shortlisted for an LVMH prize in 2015, he has come a long way since, and cemented his reputation around the idea of ‘Never forgetting where you came from’. It’s a motto and way of life that has been at the forefront of his vision from the get-go. Torn between the past and present of his native country, Belinskiy is impressively good at mixing traditional details with a very modern aesthetic, all the while refraining from designing for a specific gender category.
Belinskiy’s eponymous brand saw the light in 2009, shortly after he graduated from first the Taras Shevchenko Republic Art School, and the Fashion Institute of Technology soon after.
Religion and spirituality were the themes of his previous collection, a nod to his beloved mother. This new AW19 collection titled ‘Utrennik’ is named after a traditional New Year Party held at Kingergartens all around the Soviet Union. Evidently proud of his roots, he took inspiration from his ancestor’s background, willing to perpetuate traditions and solemn rituals. ‘Utrennik’ means ‘Morning’ – on this occasion, the children are getting dressed in costumes, often homemade, and perform shorts plays or recite poems for their family and guests. This collection is wistful yet optimistic – emotional about the past but full of hope for the new generation. Belinskiy has elegantly found in fashion an artistic way to spread his political views but also to pay tribute to his loved ones.
Can you explain the importance of your roots and how the political landscape of your country influence your collections?
My roots are very important to me, where I was born is my place of power. However, I stepped away from political matters and now I am rather inspired by other things – like childhood memories and family.
How different your work is from other Ukrainian designers?
It is quite hard to say, I do not follow the local industry much even though, I am good friends with some Ukrainian designers.
Are you trying to convey a message through your work? If so, what is it?
Always! My earlier work was more politically charged, but lately, it has been mostly a study of one’s roots, family ties, and good memories.
Do you feel like your work could make people question about themselves or their situation? Could it bring change in Ukraine or anywhere else?
Yes, I feel like our team is always trying to do something to make people think, question themselves and develop an opinion – whether positive or negative but never ambivalent. I think that ambivalence is the worst thing you can do.
What would you like your work to bring to the fashion industry and the Parisian scene? How different do you feel compared to other brands?
I think it is not for me to judge but to others.
What part do you enjoy the most about making and designing a new collection?
I like the whole process – starting from an idea and see the final outcome.
What specific know-how did you learn and bring over here? Is there anything specific to yourself or to your brand?
I don’t know really, it is hard to say. We grew up in a different country still influenced by the iron curtain, and we do have a different view on things. We have a different mentality and vision, and this is still apparent even after so many years.
Can you talk us through your influences for AW19?
It is an Utrennik, a traditional partly for kindergarten kids held around the New Years all around the former Soviets. Children dress up in costumes, often handmade, and perform a little play. I was once a stargazer which I loved a lot. In this collection, I would dress all the moms and children of that 1997 play.
What’s next for the brand and yourself?
Time will tell where the fashion industry is moving. Fashion is not the most important thing for me. I express myself through clothing for now but things might change in the future, we will see.
All clothes Anton Belinskiy AW19. All images © Kate Oliynyk
Interview by Léa Federmann / Published 8 March 2019