During a complicated period in Russian history, resourcefulness came hand-in-hand with creativity. Ustina Yakovleva’s great grandmother mastered the process of reusing fabrics and making things from scratch. Her grandmother became a pro at embroidery, and her mother, Marina, has been sewing and knitting since she was a kid.
‘My mum says that it’s much more inspiring to take a small patch as a catalyser in the sewing story and imagine the whole coat growing from the little piece of fabric. In her eyes, it’s very important to give a new life to old textiles and leftover clothes,’ Ustina explains, reminiscing the collection her mother designed and created a few years out of old denim collected from friends.
Since 2000, Marina Yakovleva began incorporating patchwork into general household items, gradually moving onto clothes. ‘She used leftover fabric to embark on more creative processes, a bit like a game, or like making a painting with a very complicated colour and pattern range to match,’ her daughter says. Now, textiles are selected from flea markets and vintage shops stocking such from Soviet times, or else new fabrics are mixed with old for collections like the iconic jacquard coats.
Once the shape and style of a garment is discussed between the mother-daughter duo, Marina embarks on her journey, and Ustina has the chance to model it for the first time. Yakovleva pieces aren’t advertised – the women wear them themselves, and, if passers-by, friends, or exhibition attendees like them, they can place an order. ‘I am really happy that it’s always super nice people with good taste who end up wearing our clothes, like a growing community network of Yakovleva coat lovers from all over the world!’ Ustina says.
‘Sewing and assembling [the pieces] is an artistic process which takes a long time in a natural flow not dictated by fashion's changing seasons. I like this ecosystem, building itself naturally from person to person, not becoming huge, so that we are able to keep doing everything ourselves in small quantities,’ Ustina says. Their pieces are unisex and have recently gained a place at INDEXFLAT, a Moscow showroom dedicated to promoting Russian and Georgian designers.
‘Each piece is unique and for me it's very special to follow the whole process evolving from beginning to end,’ she says. The result, in her eyes, is so much more than a piece of clothing; it’s an artefact.
Thanks to Javier Rodriguez / Standart Thinking
Photographs by Anastasia Soboleva.