Mariya Milovidova's wearable art surprises at first, then intrigues, then you fall in love with her creations. “ I express myself through fashion,” - says Mariya. In her creations, art always goes first supported and backed up by fashion.
Though applauded at Paris fashion week by press and critiques, having her art work at the private collection of Ben Stiller, and being mentioned by Madonna on Twitter, she does not let success go to her head. She is humble, easy-going, always ready to help beginning photographers by lending them her creations, and always there to participate in local community events.
When I think about the designer Mariya Milovidova, the words that come to my mind are : art, transformation and color. As if presenting evidence to my thoughts, Mariya appears in a dress-transformer, though in black, she highlighted it with a bright eye-catching orange lipstick as we meet each other at her house in San-Jose, CA.
“ I love this transformer dress. I bought it in Paris while I was there for the fashion week,” Mariya stated exuberantly. Later she shared with me that she loves her native city, Odessa, partly because of its resemblance to Paris.
Thinking of Paris...A famous French actress, Isabelle Carré who was born and is currently living in Paris, was once asked in an interview “What is your worst drawback ?” replied “I say sorry a lot. That is why, by the way, I do not have my driver's license : I am afraid of responsibilities, to be in charge of people with me in the car and those outside the car”. Mariya does have her driver's license, but does not drive and says sorry a lot.
Photo credit: Rue1 Showroom
Was it always your dream to become a fashion designer?
As an artist, I was always looking for ways to combine art and fashion. My mom is an artist, my grandma, now retired, taught physics but painting was her hobby. My grandparents collected books. I grew up in this artistic environment, being encouraged by my parents to create. I went to Art School and later graduated from San Jose State University with an Art and Textile degree.
When I was a child, I remember watching Versace's, Yudashkin's defiles (Valentin Yudashkin is a famous Russian fashion designer). I was always fascinated by the artistic side of fashion, not materials. Somehow I was always looking for ways to combine art and fashion. Some designers paint on silk but I like to combine different textures, different types of fabric, and I love to work with leather. For my second fashion show in New York last year I created a collection combining printed elements, digital printing and painting. I also have some dresses with original paintings.
Leather dress from the Horoscope collection (Sagittarius)
Photography: Valentina Sadiul
Model: Karina La Mar
Photography: Valentina Sadiul
Model: Karina La Mar
You are originally from Odessa, Ukraine. Do your origins influence you work ?
Yes, I grew up in Odessa, a beautiful, romantic city, resembling Paris, governed by duke of Richelieu in 1803 (The grateful Odessites erected a bronze monument in his honor in 1828. The famous Odessa steps are crowned by a statue of Richelieu).
I think I have been influenced a lot by European literature, especially by my favorite writers namely Alexandre Dumas, Georges Sand, Oscar Wilde, Pushkin, especially Pushkin's Eugene Onegine. I am also influenced byAmerican and British culture through music of George Michael, Madonna, Witney Houston and jazz music.
Odessa's Memories by Mariya Milovidova
What inspires you ?
Music, books, movies, fashion.
Do you think Ukrainian women are different from Americans in terms of style and fashion ?
Yes, sure. Ukrainians are like European women, in general. I would say that Europeans pay more attention when it comes to fashion. If we go out, we would spend more time dressing and applying makeup. I just can't go to events wearing flats, only platform or heels. Even my sneakers have a platform. It is in my blood. I came to the United States as a teenager but still can't manage to change it. But what I like about California is we are all different here.
What items are must-haves in your closet?
I am all about prints but having a little black dress is a must-have.
What would you never wear ?
Sneakers if I am not in the gym, sweatpants for the party. But actually I think it all depends on the occasion, and when you go somewhere you have to dress right: no high heels on a picnic, for instance. I would only wear my sneakers with platform (laughing).
What else? I would never wear baggy clothes. No. Actually, I take my words back. We want to show our best assets but you can choose what to show. I am thinking about colorful tunics I created. You can wear them in different ways such as with pants or as a dress, or even to the beach, for casual events or with heels. I used lacing that helps adjust tunic and can fit any size. When I create dresses, I always try to include different elements like lacing, for instance, to make it flexible. Flexibility is important.
What are your favorite accessories ?
Scarves and earrings. I have a collection of scarves. You can wear them as a top or as a scarf. I also like this watch (showing her watch)
What are your plans for the future?
I try to be open to new opportunities. I worked on an orthodox Jewish wedding and it was a whole new experience for me. I designed a dress for the bride, a tie for the groom and dresses for kids. It got me really excited. I have been recently visiting a bridal exhibition as I wanted to check out this new market. I already design cocktail dresses, accessories and want to extend to wedding dresses.