Backstage, behind the Vetements’s Autumn/Winter 2016 presentation at the American Cathedral on Paris’ Avenue George V, an excited yet calm energy fills the air. Lotta Volkova, the uber-stylist of Paris’s new fashion scene, kneels on a bench in the midst of it, eating a sandwich while flipping through one of the many magazines to which she has recently contributed. She clearly enjoys looking at her work, pointing out certain images to the crowd surrounding her. What does her bright-red jumper say? “SURRENDER.” But isn’t the 32-year-old Russian-born Lotta on the opposite trajectory? Isn’t she conquering?
Courtesy of 032c, here is an excerpt from an in-depth interview with Lotta Volkova, the uber-stylist of Demna Gvasalia’s Vetements and Balenciaga.
Please explain what you do.
At Vetements I am involved in the casting, the styling and I’m also consulting Demna with the collection. We have meetings about directions and shapes. Vetements is very much about attitude, therefore shapes are very important. We are trying to translate moods into shapes and silhouettes. I never thought about clothes in this way until I met Demna. He is really interested in making a jacket that represents an attitude. For example, a jacket that looks as if you just got off your motorcycle. Demna constructed the sleeves in a way so that they stay as bulky as your jacket is shaped while you are riding a chopper. This is a completely new take on constructing clothes. It’s very sculptural.
What impact would you like to generate? What is the philosophy behind your work?
I am interested in doing something that is real and true. And I would love to inspire. I am really into Instagram, for example. I really like it when people write to me that they like my work and that they find it new and different, because I am taking the side of different cultures and am mixing subcultural codes rather than just being glossy and glam.
Are you against the system? Do you want to beat the system?
No, not at all. We need the system. We just want to do what we enjoy doing. The system helps us do that.
What is the most important lesson you have learned so far about fashion?
To follow your heart and stick to what you want to do and work really hard. To do what is important to you and not compromise your integrity. I have been in this business for a long time, so I learned not to get carried away too much. I am not a youngster. I had time to develop my voice and I have the strength to stick to it. I know where I want to go.
And what is the most important lesson you have learned about the business? Are you interested in the business side?
I really appreciate that fashion is a business. I am very interested in products. I understand that the end result is a product. We are not selling a dream or a piece of art. It has to be a product that is well made. It has to be a product that talks to different types of customers.
How did you feel about the criticism that your runway casting this fashion week featured no people of colour? Was that lack of diversity an oversight, or was it intentional?
Those were some shocking allegations for us. We cast certain characters for certain looks and felt we were paying a lot of attention to diversity. We had Russian gay people in the casting, people from so many different cultural backgrounds. But I take this as a challenge now to pay more attention for the future. Not because I want to be politically correct, but because I don’t want to offend anyone.
Do you read fashion magazines?
Which medium corresponds with your vision of the future of fashion?
Instagram. It gives you the opportunity to reach out to anybody you want. I find that very inspiring. I met so many people via Instagram, I just find them randomly, and then I send them a message.
* This article first appeared in 032c's special Issue #30 — Summer 2016: NO FEAR.