Women on top

Four multicultural designers refining the feminine touch

Text by Dora Mentzel

Photography by Pani Paul

Styling by Rebecca Lundin

Featured on these pages are the next generation of womenswear designers. They are talented, international and come from eclectic backgrounds. Alessandra Rich and Edeline Lee came to the fashion industry via career diversions. Vika Gazinskaya and Olga Vilshenko studied in Russia at a time when its fashion industry had only begun to develop. Previously, the Soviet Union's planned textile economy had left no room for creative freedom.

Three of the four womenswear designers operate out of London, two produce in Italy and all of their designs focus on high-quality materials, elegant silhouettes and in bringing distant worlds into everyday lives.


London-based Edeline Lee's collection nods to Wiener Werkstätte. She updates the Austrian art and interior design company's art nouveau aesthetic by using "honest, natural materials and juxtaposing their textures with contemporary technology". The Canadian-born designer worked on her fashion portfolio while studying for a law degree. A true multi-tasker, Lee has a meticulous eye for detail. Designs by this Central Saint Martins alumnus are aimed at women who need to fulfil different roles, both formal and informal.


Vika Gazinskaya is early evidence that the catwalk is shifting from inside the fashion show to just outside. Photographs of Vika Gazinskaya wearing Vika Gazinskaya are filling the blogosphere. Although the Moscow-based designer believes it to be her job to "dress as many people as possible", she adds: "I wear my designs only because it is an essential expression of my creative process." Her aesthetic is distinctly individual, and the silhouettes somewhat exaggerated. She operates on the cusp of a hyper-reality.


Olga Vilshenko grew up in the former Soviet Union where "the only things to buy in the shops were identical and unattractive". Like many women in the socialist bloc, her mother reverted to making her own clothes, teaching her the processes of dress-making. Vilshenko's designs reference Russian and Ukrainian folklore; her autumn collection takes its inspiration from interior elements of late 19th-century Russian aristocrat's homes, such as the "Russian stove, decorated with multicoloured tiles". Vilshenko is designed in Moscow, manufactured in Italy and promoted in London.


Alessandra Rich's luxurious designs are handcrafted from a small town just north of Venice, Italy. The designer explains that the collection takes shape during the fittings. Her trademark design is the elongated ankle-length dress that immediately gives women a statuesque silhouette. For her current autumn collection "Sleeping Beauty", the designer had a "lazy, moody, fairytale world" in mind, along with a woman who is strong, clever and confident about her abilities and beauty, but does not need to flaunt it. "Women often underestimate themselves," she believes. Alessandra Rich will be showing during Paris Fashion Week this October. §

  • Women on Top – Pani Paul #1
  • Women on Top – Pani Paul #2
  • Women on Top – Pani Paul