You have thoroughly approached a designer's career, having received two higher educations in the field, one of which is Istituto Marangoni in Milan. Did you immediately have a clear understanding of what your career should look like?
I studied design in Ukraine, produced individual orders for practice, but I always understood that I wanted more. Once, on my birthday, I went to Milan for the first time with the money I had saved, to "explore". My friend, who at that time graduated from Istituto Marangoni, gave me a tour, and I realized that I wanted to study there. At first, my parents did not take my idea seriously, but as they saw how I was glowing with it, they decided to take a risk and invest in my studies, provided that I was in the profession - seriously and for a long time. So I had extra motivation: if I went to Milan, I had to achieve something. I took a three-year-long course in design, in Italian, and all this although before I had only taken a few Italian lessons. It was challenging, I recorded all the lectures on audio, came home and translated them. The study schedule was insanely busy, I studied until 4 in the morning, and at 9, I was already going to classes.
During the third year of the studies there is an opportunity to be chosen among the top ten graduates and present your show in Milan, where editors and designers of fashion houses come in search of talent. There were about 180 graduates, and nevertheless I entered the top ten, this was my personal victory. I would say my self-confidence helped me - even if I realized that there were certain things that I still had to improve at, I never doubted myself.
I was invited to work at Jil Sander, but I understood that working on styling the brand was not for me, and I needed to show my own vision. Even in my second year, as I presented the Panic in Vegas collection at Kiev Fashion Days, I received good feedback, and was invited to Paris. It was at that time that street style was starting to evolve, and fashion influencers came to me for interesting pieces to go out in. That collection was very avant-garde, not the most wearable, but gave the brand a lot in terms of publicity. It helped us immediately to express ourselves brightly and was very creative, so we got good feedback. While working with a showroom in Paris gave us great visibility. The New York Times, Vogue Italy, Harper's Bazaar USA, L’Officiel Mexico, Vogue Runway, ELLE Netherlands immediately wrote about us.
Tell us about how the brand started and how it transformed along with you?
Marianna Senchina girl grew up with me, developing from a girl to a woman. Of course, self-irony, signature prints, and non-standard styling remained. And if at the very start there were pieces in the collections that were pure PR, later we added things that were more wearable. Sales began to grow significantly immediately because customers cannot only wear showpieces. Now we are sold in stores all over the world. Most popular, however, are in the USA, the United Arab Emirates, Europe, and post-soviet countries, where girls love femininity and elegance. Of course, in each season, I experiment because there are some trends, but in general, things are now more wearable and practical than at the beginning.
What are the main distinguishing features or iconic elements of the brand in your opinion?
In one of the most successful collections, called Lolita, puff-sleeves became iconic: at that time, with the dominance of minimalism in 2016, they were something unexpected. We develop designer prints for fabrics that are made in Italian factories. Other essential elements are corsets and lacing, which create a fitted silhouette and feminine shapes. Our bestselling jacket dress with a dropped shoulder line has been in the brand's top sales for the third year already.
Another vital element of my collections is color, as I love to experiment with the playful and the non-standard. Also, I always start with one concept, end up with another, mix fashion eras without using direct quotes. I can take one detail and develop the whole theme, adding many features to the concept. Our new SS'21 collection is a mix of 90s and 60s: the elements and prints come from 60s aesthetics, and hairstyling and make-up are a clear reference to the 90s. Just check out the hair clips! The collection's items are relevant, modern, and do not copy retro. Our customers mostly order total looks from us, for instance, a dress, hat and brooch. Everyone wants to get a Marianna Senchina look and minimize styling.
How did you get the attention of superstars like Rihanna, Dua Lipa and Adele? Tell us about your first reaction to their public appearances in Marianna Senchina looks.
I think it's imperative to be prepared for your success. By the time Rihanna wore my dress, we were already an established brand, I worked very hard to succeed. All fashion media probably wrote about us by then, every second source was talking about my brand.
I've always liked Dua Lipa as a singer and fashion influencer, I thought it would be great if she would dress in the brand. When I think about something, I have no limits, I think I attracted it with my thoughts: I went into spam messages on Facebook and saw that her stylist Lorenzo wrote to me a year ago. During our cooperation, Dua put on about five of our looks, and once again we got a huge publicity and media coverage.
A couple of months ago, Adele wore our velvet dress-jacket, which she bought at LUISAVIAROMA. I am glad to see her among the fans of the brand, but it is even more pleasant to understand that she became a fan through her own initiative.
Mariana Senchina looks are worn by fashion influencers and celebrities - Caroline Vreeland, Jordan Grant, Eva Cheng, Eleanor Carisi, Veronica Ferraro, Sabrina Sato, Charlie XCX, Anastasia Ivleeva, Grace Chatto (Clean Bandit), and Julie Sarinanya. Our stuff has been featured in the Netflix TV series Dynasty, editorials for Vogue Korea, Vogue India, Elle Netherlands, Harper's Bazaar Spain, Nylon Korea, Vogue Italy, Elle Russia and many others.
How have quarantine restrictions in Italy and Ukraine affected the brand and your work? Has the approach to doing business changed?
The pandemic has given us a chance to rethink what we do, to feel a special gratitude to our team of over 100 people. It was essential for us to keep the team, and we did. Of course, the entire industry has a difficult period, our sales over the past year have decreased by 20-30%. In Ukraine, the state does not help businesses that have suffered from the pandemic, we have to rely only on ourselves. We made the decision to pay compensation to employees and keep the team. The strong growth in online purchases on our website helped us stay afloat, about which we were pleasantly surprised. People did not go anywhere, but, apparently, they treated themselves with new purchases, and believed that the time would soon come when they would wear these things.
During this lockdown, we understood how to move on, revised our priorities, and thought about the prospects, about which we cannot yet talk about. We have big plans for expanding, modifying our collections' format, and we plan to talk about this in the upcoming season.
We manage the brand together with my sister Natalia: she is the Finance Director, who takes care of online sales, leads wholesale orders, plans production in Ukraine, overseas outsourcing. Over the past year, we have organized a digital showroom, conducted online appointments with buyers, and shot video lookbooks in addition to traditional photos. Video is the most simple format that best shows how a piece behaves in real life.
How are the design and production established, if you live in Milan and sew collections in Ukraine, what does your work scheme look like?
Our production is located in Ivano-Frankivsk, and I frequently travel to the development of collections, as contact with the team is very important to me. Now, in the conditions of a lockdown, we have learned to do a lot online. We buy fabrics and accessories in Italy. Our production is in Ukraine, where there are a manufacturing capacity and a talented team of craftsmen. We have recruited and trained them in accordance with our high requirements for the product and quality. After the end of the pandemic, I plan to open a creative office in Milan, develop collections here with a team, and leave large-scale production in Ukraine, thereby developing light industry.