Philippe Pourhashemi took the opportunity to explore the philosophy and background regarding the work of Los Angeles-based designer, Austin Sherbanenko. His Odyn Vovk label has quickly become a rising star in the fashion world for its innovative aesthetics and executions. A series of our favorite answers can be seen below while the full interview is over at A Shaded View On Fashion.
That’s the obsessive element within fashion, I guess. Actually, it’s interesting because I sense something rather intense in your clothes and shows. Do you put a lot of yourself into them?
Yeah, definitely. We don’t really work the way most brands and designers operate. It’s a super small thing: me, my sewing team in-house and Christina, my other half, girlfriend and life assistant. It’s a very organic way to do things. We live and work in this warehouse in downtown LA. I think I’m very fortunate in a way -despite the area we’re in, with all the crackheads and terrible things- because not having the luxury of a twenty people team is what drives me. You just draw something, then someone makes it, you get the sample back and correct it. It’s very tight and that is very special to me. I don’t draw the collection and then send it to China for production. Everything is made in-house, it’s very hands-on and that’s something I’m really passionate about. I’m involved every single step of the way and I’m proud of that.
This idea of a guy wearing your clothes in the desert made me think of pioneers and individuals with a sense of self and adventure. Did you have some of these ideas in mind?
Yeah. That kind of goes back to the original meaning of the name “Odyn Vovk” which means “one wolf” in Ukrainian. It relates to my grandfather’s life when he came to America from Ukraine, having worked in German Nazi camps. It’s this idea of hunting to maintain your existence, doing anything to survive and anything for you family, too. But that relates to my story as a designer as well, starting out in this business alone, figuring things out on my own and doing most of it myself. I definitely didn’t want to create this brand concept or design for someone else. I wanted to learn by myself and not have any kind of guidance, with someone telling me what was right or wrong. I wanted to figure out what was wrong myself. That’s how the desert relates to my story. I remember driving on a motorbike and getting lost there once, with no gas, trying to figure things out and thinking how I would find my way back.
Does living in LA give you a sense of being removed from the fashion world?
It definitely does. The thing is, it doesn’t matter that much where I am, I could be in Alaska and still make clothes. My brain still works the same, I’m still inspired by what I’m inspired by. My life experiences feed my work, as well as my surroundings. I love going to Paris for sales or visiting friends, but I could never live there. I feel you start taking advantage of things when they are too accessible. I’d rather stay in LA and be in my bubble, in my warehouse, not surrounded with any fashion people, unconsciously inspired by other fashion designers. A lot of people take these fashion cities for granted once they move there. When I come to New York for the show, I don’t spend the whole time at parties with trendy people around. I like getting to know about the history of the city and discovering something new each time. In LA, I’m in my own zone and it’s not normal where I am, but that’s me.
What do you think about the way men dress now? Do you think you could have done what you do now twenty years ago? Has there been a significant shift?
Yeah, there’s definitely been a shift. It’s hard to explain… I feel like a lot of brands, like Uniqlo, H&M and American Apparel, are kind of ruining things for the designers though. They want to dumb things down, make them in China and get it at a lower price, making it more accessible. I mean, it’s fine, but I think it’s really messing with the industry in a way, because it’s taking the specialty away from classical tailoring, the craftsmanship and quality control. I see guys who are stylish, but you know that the looks were not created by them, the designs were just stolen from someone else and I don’t like that.
Are we experiencing fashion overload then? Is there too much stuff around?
Yes, that’s what it is. It’s very overwhelming. It’s hard to explain. It’s like that LA hispter scene with the skinny pants, little t-shirts and trendy guys listening to the same bands, going to the same clubs. In a way, I’m blaming these brands and the people behind them for creating that generic thing. These people don’t need to come to my show. It frustrates me, you know. This whole “buy one get one free” thing is just junk to me as it defeats the whole purpose of crafting unique, minimal pieces. I just feel that America is very saturated and all over the place.