The cocktail-hour glamour of Monaco inspires Kiev-born designer Yasya Minochkina‘s sophisticated but wearable collections, says Lauren Cochrane
You can tell a lot about a person by the emojis they use. Designer Yasya Minochkina is not interested in the usual smiley faces with little hearts for eyes. She peppers her messages with classic symbols of beauty – a red rose, say, or a dove of peace. Her Instagram account, meanwhile, has her signing off with a blue butterfly emoji. The conclusion? Minochkina is a woman drawn to the serene side of life.
The designer confirms this when Baku speaks to her. “I am currently in St-Tropez,” she says. “Life here is a working holiday as I live by the sea and am often on a boat.” Minochkina’s eight-and-a-half-year-old daughter is also a factor: “She loves to swim,” says the proud mother. “Maybe this is because she is a Pisces.” Her own sign? “I am a Libra, so I do like to be surrounded by beautiful things,” she says. Librans are famously the procrastinators of the zodiac, though, but here Minochkina differs. “I don’t take a long time to make a decision,” she says. “I know from the first moment.”
This combination of an eye for beauty and quick decision making is one that has served her well. Minochkina launched her eponymous label in 2012 with a collection shown at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Days in her native Kiev. Her debut was assured and her mix of evening-ready glamour with a relaxed spirit soon had many fans. Vogue Italia flagged Minochkina as one to watch, and she was picked up by Fashion Scout, the new-talent initiative in London, where she showed for four seasons. “It was a difficult time for me because you have to work fast and make things more beautiful and better every time,” she remembers. “I didn’t sleep a lot.” It all paid off with a key moment, however, when US Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour visited the Fashion Scout showroom in Paris in 2014. “I was so happy because she never comes to see new designers,” says Minochkina.
Women including Russian model Irina Shayk and fashion blogger Natalie Joos have worn Minochkina’s designs, which the Fashionista website called “cute and girly without being too sweet – the type to take you easily from day to night”. Her 2018 Autumn/Winter collection continues this theme with jewel-like colours, contrasting textures and intricate patterns. If these designs are unapologetically glamorous, Minochkina’s clothes also have a modern ease of movement. She prioritises how they feel, with details such as 100 per cent silk linings.
As any one of her 33,000 Instagram followers knows, Minochkina is her own best advertisement. With glossy raven locks and feline eyes, she looks more like a movie star than the average fashion designer. Selfies of her everywhere from the red carpet to a horse club with her daughter show that she lives the high life, one similar to the women she dresses. It helps that looking glamorous comes naturally. “I love to be dressed well, even if I’m just going to an informal dinner,” she says.
Minochkina is well aware that this online visibility is part of how fashion works today. “At first I found it strange,” she says, “but young women dream about this, to create something and be the face of their brand.” This approach goes beyond social media, as wearing her own designs to events is a way to get them on the radar of VIPs. “I went to a Chanel dinner last week and sat at a table with the person responsible for Chanel’s marketing,” she relays. “He liked my dress and asked me ‘Which house is it from?’ He was very impressed when I said it was my own design.”
Minochkina has lived in Kiev, Paris and London but settled in Monaco three years ago. With its cocktail-hour glamour, the principality is perhaps her natural home. “When I first moved to Monaco I didn’t get any work done here,” she says. “I just wanted a nice place to live close to the sea, which is good for inspiration.” Gradually, however, that changed. “There are people here in finance, there are celebrities and lots of people from China, Ukraine, Russia and Saudi Arabia, and it’s close to London, Milan and Paris,” she says. “All these people need clothes.” Increasingly, these clients are taking a trip to Beaulieu-sur-Mer, along the coast, where Minochkina has an atelier in an art gallery.
Minochkina’s creative drive can be traced to her childhood in Kiev. Her father is a painter and her mother an architect, while her grandmother had an atelier. “I’ve been creating beautiful things for myself to wear since I was 12 or 13 years old,” she says. If the creativity was in place early on, so was the determination. “I wanted to be different,” she remembers. “Everyone at school had a dark green jacket but I wanted an emerald green one. My mother had a big fight with the teachers because she knew I was right. She won.”
Her parents initially tried to dissuade her from pursuing a fashion career. “They wanted to give me the best education,” she says. “My degree was in economics and that has been very useful, but it wasn’t what was inside my soul.” Following university, she worked at British Petroleum but before long she retrained at Central Saint Martins in London and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, graduating in 2011.
Fast forward seven years and her parents needn’t have worried. Minochkina’s eponymous brand is a bona fide success, stocked in 38 stores worldwide. “I never stop generating ideas,” she says. “In the next decade I hope to launch my brand in the US
and maybe Dubai. There is a lot to do.”
This sounds like a tall order but Minochkina has the staying power to avoid designer burnout. “Because the creative process never stops, my work demands a special type of energy, which means I also need ways to get that energy back,” she says. “Yoga and nature help me recharge my batteries, and I love horse riding.” She has created a routine that lets her flourish. “I make sure I enjoy life and spend time with my daughter,” she says. “We have studios all over the world so I have everything on my phone and online. I need to get away from office life because I can’t create in that way.” Minochkina is like those butterflies she is so fond of – she works best when she can fly free.
This story appears in the Autumn/Winter 2018 issue of Baku magazine. Pick up your copy on newsstands now.
Portraits by Thibault Montamat