Of all the designers I met at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia in Moscow this season, Yasya Minochkina was by far the most business conscious. With a background in finance, she's kept a shrewd eye on global expansion since we first took notice of her feminine womenswear line in 2014. And during a studio visit the day after Minochkina presented her fall 2016 collection in the Russian capital, she told us that her hard work courting press and buyers in post-Soviet countries has paid off. With seven store accounts in Russia, 10 in Ukraine and new orders from Belarus and Kazakhstan, the designer plans to present a runway show in either Paris or New York next season, potentially in addition to Moscow.
She's shown in Europe before. It was after her first runway show in London five years ago that Sara Maino, Vogue Italia talent scouter, spotted her and launched her onto a global stage. Lots of press coverage followed, as well as a Paris showroom visit from Anna Wintour and an invitation to show in Moscow, but it took time for retailers to catch up with the buzz. "It took about three years... they need to know about the brand and then people [will] want to buy." Minochkina now has a few stockists in Europe and is available online at Luisaviaroma.
Meanwhile, she's established a production system in Ukraine that allows her to keep prices relatively low even though she uses high-quality fabrics from France and Italy and much is handmade: dresses are typically €500 and max out at €1,300. "In Ukraine there is much cheaper production but quality you can see," she said, adding that she still produces about half of her collections in Italy for when she needs a faster turnaround. Also, French buyers don't like to see a "Made in Ukraine" label because of the fighting in the region, she said.
Minochkina now designs with different regional markets in mind, too. She has been invited to show at fashion week in Dubai and started conversations with buyers there. She showed me a section of the fall collection designed specifically for the Saudi Arabian market: elegant, covered up evening wear with long hemlines and black lace with gold embroidery. "I'm trying to find some solution, to [produce] styles for everybody," said Minochkina. That means there are also short skirts for a younger shopper and outerwear for working women. Day to night transitions are top of mind.
"I'm traveling a lot, maybe half [of the] time per year all over the world," said Minochkina. "I'm trying to be everywhere, to meet the buyers, to meet the customers, to go to the fashion weeks." She lives between Paris and Monte Carlo, so the U.S. is the most foreign market to her at this point. But if fellow Ukrainian designer Anna K's recent debut here is any indication, the potential to make a splash in New York exists. "It's time to change," she said "It is really difficult to choose between Paris and New York — two huge platforms, two huge fashion cities."
When I suggest the idea of a presentation instead of a runway show, Minochkina rebuffs it as a step backward even if it's in a new city. "It will be catwalk, I already have a lot of strong catwalks." She recognizes, however, that it doesn't necessarily make sense to have more than one runway show per season. "It's the same picture from Paris and London and New York... I just need one strong picture to send all over the world." With that pragmatic understanding of the global fashion industry and a strong brand identity of sexy and feminine clothes, Minochkina is ready for the next stage of her business.
See Yasya Minochkina's fall 2016 collection in the gallery below.
Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia paid for my trip and accommodations to cover the event.