interview with Vetements stylist Lotta Volkova

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Stylist Lotta Volkova is the brains, the muse, the collaborator and the model of selection for Vetements, the cult eastern European decorators currently shaping manner. Meet the woman of the moment

People are already calling it the way moment of 2016. In Galeries Lafayette, an upmarket department store in Paris, cult label Vetements, purveyor of elevated streetwear, is staging its latest rule-breaking collect. The brand is opening staid old couture fashion week with a display featuring genuinely unexpected collaborations with various other fashion labels waist-high Manolo Blahnik boots, rejuvenated Juicy Couture tracksuits and models with a haute level of scowl. But it is when stylist Lotta Volkova strides past on the catwalk, modelling a floral white and blue Vetements dress, with a dismissive hand holding the corner of a white clutch bag, that the front rows iPhones are raised in unison. Because thats the picture. Lotta Volkova modelling the Vetements dress that self-consciously references the Vetements appear. In an industry that constantly seeks to label things cool, Lotta Volkova has just been crowned as the coolest woman in the world.

Volkova is arguably fashions most in-demand creative. She is stylist and muse for the Vetements collective, the Paris-based group of decorators currently subverting the barriers between streetwear and high fashion. She consults for manner home Balenciaga on the casting and catwalk indicates where Demna Gvasalia is creative director. She also works with her friend, the menswear decorator, Gosha Rubchinskiy and a raft of other labels. She somehow squeezings in editorial shoots with the likes of Juergen Teller and DJs at her friends fanzine launchings. Volkovas is a seven-day running week.

Lotta Volkova relaxing. From her Instagram feed Photograph: Lotta Volkova Instagram

A few days before her Vetements fashion moment, Im sat in a cool-but-you-have-to-know-its-cool-to-realise-its-cool coffeehouse in the 10 th arrondissement of Paris , not far from the Gare du Nord, asking Volkova how she, as a 32 -year-old woman, feels about appearing as a model on the catwalk. Since starting work with Vetements, Volkova has strolled in every depict alongside kids cast from Instagram and regular models with an edge. Between swigs of Perrier and sips of black coffee, she chuckles fast and loud before snapping into her brusque-sounding answering mode.

It came about really spontaneously and out of the blue. When we were prepping for the first depict, we did not have enough models, so Demna was like, Oh, you are gonna model and I was like, OK penalty. Of course I was flattered. But for me it was like a friendly gesture. Try this black turtleneck and sweatpants, and I merely want to see you in it and I put in on and he was like, Oh yeah, this is the opening seem. I was like, Nawwwww …. Her speech is peppered with a Baltic-accented vocal fry that is too obligating not to mention.

Spontaneous and out of the blue are phrases that Volkova returns to regularly. Those and the fact that she and her gang are just doing what we laaaav. Volkovas rise to the spire of high fashion was neither exponential nor intentional, but not wholly surprising either. Born in Vladivostok, Russia, in 1984, Lotta become subject to uprising early on. Her father had jumped on a train from Siberia when he was 16 to captain a ship. Her mother, a prof of physics at medical school, instilled in Lotta the idea of doing things her own way: For her that was a uprising against communism, against this pre-packaged life. It is her mother, too, that she has to thank for her Led Zeppelin-inspired name( shes named after the ballad Whole Lotta Love ). She liked the whole post-punk, early 80 s, alt-rock era, so I grew up sucking in all those references. It was also her mother who fuelled her love of style, taking 12 -year-old Lotta on shopping trip-ups to London and Tokyo. I had Prada shoes and Dior by Galliano jumpers, she was wearing Galliano herself. She is tiny and has really big boobs and is blonde, but then she pretty much looks like me.

The way moment of 2016: Volkova in the Vetements SS/ 17 show in Paris. Photo: Giannoni/ WWD/ Rex/ Shutterstock

The sociopolitical scenery of the early 90 s also had a powerful impact on Volkovas taste; apparently high fashion in 2016 owes quite a indebtednes to Antoine de Caunes and his 90 s Tv depict Eurotrash. After 1991 the culture influences from Europe and America inundated into eastern Europe: Suddenly you had these crazy things on television and people started talking about style and art, Volkova remembers. I feel like its a Russian character trait we look for something new and we are quick learners in a way. That, coupled with Marjan Pejoskis swan dress for Bjrk at the 2001 Oscars ceremony, indelibly formed Volkovas left-field savour. For me way was about conveying how different you are, you know?

As with all stylists, Volkovas taste is her currency, and hers is especially esoteric. Her Instagram account forms a visual stream of consciousness which for those in her aesthetic network attains complete sense. Not everybody will understand quite how a picture of a wolf with a glass of red wine on its back chimes with raw 4am post-DJ stint snaps and Soviet era tracksuit bottoms. But thats the phase. Her taste relies on a balance of street and haute. Grunge for a generation of likers. So specific and someone is her look that the phrase Thats a bit Lotta has, in fashion terms , now become synonymous with anything unexpectedly cool with merely a clue of a scowl.

When we satisfy, Volkova is looking very Lotta. She is wearing a blue Vetements pinstripe shirt, jeans by John Lawrence Sullivan, a label she consults for, lace-up Vans with white socks which betray her skate kid credentials, a diagonal neon green Shellac manicure from a no-frills salon, her trademark severe parted short hair and large steel-framed glasses. Its a strange cocktail of Wall Street and backstreet, coupled with her extraordinary face, blank yet engaging, and her gangly frame; Volkova is not someone who blends in. Does she know she is physically intimidating? I think a lot of people would describe me as extremely direct! Its quite a Russian thing that you come across as quite stern and a little bit cold, but once you get to know me I am quite a warm person.

Volkova in the Vetements AW/ 16 show in Paris. Photo: Rex/ Shutterstock

At 17, encouraged by her mother, Volkova arrived in London to complete a three-month course in art and design at Central St Martins. Was she nervous? No. I was excited My whole childhood and teenage years I was just bored, waiting to grow up and live life by myself. Unsurprisingly Volkova didnt return to Russia when the course finished, instead submerging herself in London life, partying at electroclash nights such as Nag Nag Nag and Trash. By 2004 Volkova had started her own brand( which of course came about really naturally ), dressing herself and her friends for that scene. The label Lotta Skeletrics riffed heavily on DIY punk heritage and featured T-shirts overloaded with studs and sandpaper-distressed jeans. In classic Volkova hi-low style, these clothes were worn with experimental makeup, but also with beautiful Prada shoes.

It wasnt until 2008, when she moved to Paris, that Volkovas styling career started to crystalise. She gratified Gosha Rubchinskiy, the Comme des Garons-backed Russian decorator “whos also” a crucial part of the Paris/ Russia style nexus. Rubchinskiy is also part of the Vetements family his catwalk turn in the Vetements DHL T-shirt on the AW/ 15 catwalk was broadly hailed as the way moment of last year. We became friends instantly. We were both born in 1984 and I think that makes a big difference. We have the same references and are interested in the same subcultures.

Lotta Volkova on Instagram Photograph: Lotta Volkova Instagram

Three years ago Volkova gratified her main co-conspirator Demna Gvasalia, who currently designs both Vetements and Balenciaga. We were introduced by a reciprocal friend and he asked me to check out a look-book shoot and I was like, Wow, the clothes are really beautiful, really well made and really interesting but I truly didnt like Demnas styling. I told him and he said, Well, why dont you do it yourself then? Volkova has since morphed into stylist, consultant, muse and, crucially, proto-customer for the designer. For Demna its important to hold a real woman in his clothes. I am a woman and a customer.

Volkova, Gvasalia and Rubchinskiy are a gang unified by their backgrounds and style references growing up in the former Soviet bloc. They combine street labels and a left-field way approach which owes much to Maison Martin Margiela, where Gvasalia once worked. And it is the crews take on beauty that is exerting the most influence on way right now. Of course conventionally beautiful things are beautiful but everyone sees them beautiful and I find that boring. I want to be inspired by things that not everyone knows.

This translates into high fashion in unexpected routes from an anorak on the Balenciaga catwalk presented in the way an atelier would have shown a fur coat in the past to office chairs, rather than gilt opu seats, for the front row. The chairs were comfy! Volkova tries to convince me.

But she is right. This outlook cuts to the heart of the prevailing mood in fashion. Actually practicality is quite important to us. For everything, in a manner that is. That mentality; things have to be functional. Awarded Volkovas look isnt practical in the way most people would understand the word. Vetements hooded tops and steroid-level Balenciaga anoraks are not practical in the hiking sense nor comfortable in the TV dinner sense. There is a level of subtlety and caveat; a gap that Volkova virtually manages to vocalise. I know I am saying its all about practicality but I hate to be comfortable in a manner that is. Im good at putting on heels and doing a appear. Im actually shit at genuinely dressing down.

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