Luxury Chapters exclusively interviews Anastasia Zimikhina, the founder of an accessory brand Irène Paris. A fashion designer, a painter and an illustrator, who lives and works in Paris, France.
When did you first decide to pursue a career in fashion?
When I was a child, I would draw non-stop. The question “who I want to be when I grow up?” never even popped in my head because somehow I always knew I wanted to be an artist. When my parents noticed that I actually had potential they signed me up for an art school. It was quite a long commute but I didn’t mind it at all, my desire to learn to paint was much stronger. When it was time to choose a college, I hesitated between two great schools in Saint Petersburg, Russia: one was more academic and another one focused on monumental, decorative and industrial art. That was the one I chose – Saint Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design. The entry competition was very hard but I made it in at the department of fashion design. My choice was based on the fact that this particular school was famously strong not only in fashion design but also in drawing and painting as well. It was important for me. Later on, I continued to study fashion design in Paris, France, at Ecole Nationale Supèrieure des Arts Décoratifs. In terms of profession, painting and designing garments are two different things but there are so many amazing fashion designers who are also outstanding painters.
Where did you get the inspiration for your Irene Paris collection?
Every Irène Paris collection has its own theme. But there is one bigger theme that unites them all – life. Life is my biggest source of inspiration. A color palette of a painting, a piece of music or just my emotions at the moment – all of it inspires me. All these elements combined transform into new ideas and creations. Our scarves are rich in colors and shades of colors. I am not afraid to experiment with color combinations. It is like painting. And Irène Paris scarf collections are like paintings that you can wear. I like to create my own mythical creatures for the collections. For example a fish tiger or a butterfly elephant. Even the logo of Irène Paris is a lioness with wings of a butterfly. But there is meaning to it. Because symbols are important to me.
Your Carré Royal luxury scarf collection is beautiful! Where did you get the idea for some of these lovely patterns?
For every collection of Irène Paris I create a few Carré Royal scarves. These are exquisite scarves made of the finest and softest silk, hand rolled. They are truly luxurious but they always follow the theme of the collection they belong to, like the music collection or twin sisters collection, the sea collection with a fish tiger or the secret garden collection with flying mythical creatures and others.
You also have things for men. Was there any reason you decided to expand your brand?
Through out my life I designed mostly for women and never asked myself why. Irène Paris’ early collections were also designed for women with few exceptions. But then I noticed that men also expressed interest in scarves and liked to wear them, this gave me an idea to add a couple of masculine designs to my collections. Now I am thinking of pursuing in this direction. I have an idea about a men’s t-shirt line with Irène Paris prints as well.
You also decided to expand to T-shirts! Did anyone inspire this collection as well?
While working on prints for Irene Paris scarf collections, I have had an idea to step outside of the square shape, the shape of a scarf. Thus, I came to the decision to make a t-shirt. And this was a somewhat different experience and process. First, you print the textile and then you sew the garment. This allows to have the print all over it. We worked hard on perfecting the t-shirt’s cut in order to make it comfortable, flattering to any body type and added a beautiful plunging neck line. The outcome turned out to be great. The inspiration for the t-shirt prints came to me in a funny way: I was working on illustrations for a novel by a French author Max Milan. The novel is about a dancer who walked on roofs in Paris at night. I associated the heroine with an angel. That is how angel wings appeared both in the book and on the t-shirts. It often happens so that my projects intertwine and inspire each other. Thus the collection is called “Paradis” (Eng. paradise) and it consists of seven original prints. The moto of the collection says: “7 printed t-shirts for 7 messages of happiness”, meaning that I believe that every t-shirt from this collection will be a lucky charm for its owner.
You’re also a fantastic artist! Where did you learn how to draw like this?
My style as an artist is the result of two cultures very dear to me – Russian and French. At this moment, I live and work in Paris, France, but I used to live in Saint Petersburg, that influenced my point of view as an artist.
The schools I graduated from in Saint Petersburg and Paris, my artistic surroundings and just living in such bohemian cities shaped my style and gave me an opportunity to express myself. I still draw, paint and work on illustrations. I have many projects outside the fashion world, though I often bring them together.
Where do you see your career headed in the future?
By the way, the name of the brand is not random. Irene is one of Zeus’s daughters, a goddess of peace. It is very symbolic for me. So I probably wouldn’t use the word “career” to describe my vision of the future. I have an ambition and an aspiration to keep creating beautiful things and not only to express myself, but to please other people. It gives me a great joy to see people enjoy wearing our creations. This is what I want to pursue, to create more, to grow and develop. Also I have many ideas and projects both individual and in collaboration with other artists whether in fashion or in painting, or in graphic design.