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Ian Frazier

Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova

By Olga Gertcyk, Vera Salnitskaya
12 December 2015

Her unique style reflects her love affair with her Yakutian motherland.

'My dream was creating dresses that every woman would dream to wear'. Picture: Victor Li-Fu

Her breathtaking designs are born from local legends as well as materials - among them fur, birch bark and even ivory from extinct woolly mammoths - that easily come to hand in her native Yakutia, officially known as the Sakha Republic, the largest region in Siberia and the Russian Federation.

Aged 67, Avgustina runs and creative fashion lab and atelier at the Pedagogical Institute of the North-Eastern Federal University, where she trains students in different methods of sewing, use of textiles, embroidery and design. She makes costumes for traditional Yakutian celebrations, and has a hungry market for her exceptional work in pop singers, dancing troupes, catwalk shows and weddings.

The approximate cost of a dress - 200,000 rouble or $2,880 - means the buyer gets an entirely unique creation, and her work has been seen on the catwalks of Moscow, Paris, Cannes, and Rome as well as in Scandinavia although she has resisted offers to go and work permanently in the West, preferring her beloved motherland of Yakutia. 

Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova
Avgustina with design of the Chyskhaan's costume, and a real life Chyskhaan. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya, Victor Li-Fu


Avgustina became famous more than two decades ago when she showed her designs at a local festival and received Grand Prix for it. Now she organises annual fashion festivals and contests for designers in her republic.

'I'm from the middle of nowhere, I was born in an area where one house makes a village, with no civilisation and no maternity hospital at sight, at home,' she explained. 'I was the oldest of nine children, and was like a mother, older sister, nurse, cook and housekeeper throughout my childhood. I sewed for my siblings, did the washing, and all the housekeeping was on me.

'Of course, it was very hard, I even ran away from home. I was 13 and in my fifth year at school, I was ready to go anywhere. I hid under a bus seat, it was extremely cold, I nearly died while hiding, but was found in 30 minutes. 

'It was extremely cold, always below 50, sometimes even below 60C. And all of us wore scarves, you could only see our eyes. If you spit, it freezes before touching the ground. Those were terrible but beautiful winters. All the trees were white as in a fairy tale.'

Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova
Avgustina Filippova and close ups of her designs. Pictures: Vera Salnistkaya 


It was from this extreme but stunning climate and scenery that Avgustina developed her idiosyncratic style.

'Of course, not everyone thinks it's a fairy tale, it's too harsh, but I like it. I will never ever leave this place.'

Home for her today is the village of Berdigestyakh, some 185 kilometres west of Yakutsk, the regional capital, where we met Avgustina. 

'I'm asked to move to Cannes but I can't create anything in a different place. I am an owner here, and who am I there?'

While her designs have graced the fashion capitals of the world, she resists supplying her creations to the international market. 

'People buy my ready-made clothes and ask me to manufacture some dresses specially for overseas shows, but I haven't done it yet,' she said. 'Every dress is very dear to me, it's easier for me to sell the costume if I know it stays in the motherland.'

Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova
Stunning - one of Avgustina Filippova's models. Picture: Victor Li-Fu


Avgustina said: 'I often travel across Yakutia and can see particular images which I later transform in my works. I go to an ulus (a district), speak to people, listen to legends and imagine how they look. I learnt to sew and embroider in my early childhood. 

'All the women in our villages know how to sew. God gives plenty of talent to some, and just enough for a household to others. Some people don't realise their talent and they pass away without discovering it.

'I could see spirits since my childhood, they were already wearing costumes. My river, every tree. You can't get this feeling in a city.'

Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova
'If I work alone, a costume can take up to a year, even longer sometimes'. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya


The Yakutan way is to try to combine all the colours of the year in a costume. Black stands for the soil and spring, green - for summer, brown - for autumn, silver jewellery - for stars, snow and winter.

'You need to be close to nature, then you'll feel the breath of nature, will know how it feels. I'm blessed because do what I'm good at and it is close to nature.

'I created this fairy tale myself. Why did I get this talent? What is it for? I don't know, but as long as I'm alive, will be giving it back.

'I have two children, four grandchildren, six great grandchildren'.

In this sense Avgustina calls herself 'rich': she has a big family.

'I no longer sew costumes for my grandchildren, I don't have enough time for that. Though, I do have time for my students, I don't only show them but get them involved so that they see results of their work.'

Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova
Avgustina with her husband, and close ups of her designs. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya 


Avgustina started making clothes in her Soviet childhood.

'I have been making costumes since my childhood. We were poor, my mama and papa didn't earn a lot and had quite a few children. When I was in pre-school, my older cousin sewed me a clown costume for a New Year celebration, and I got first prize with it. 

'Next year he joined the army and I had no costume to wear. It was necessary to have a fancy dress to get a present. I shed a few tears and started doing the costume myself. I cut a crown out of cardboard and it was ugly. We didn't have beautiful textiles, so I found an old pullover belonging to my mama.

'It was white but had turned yellow from age. Then I got some cotton from a duvet, it was also all yellow, sewed it to the pullover and thought I looked fantastic. 

'I came into my classroom and everyone was dressed up so great. Like butterflies, white snowflakes - and me, wearing the yellowest pullover ever. I hid in some corner but the teacher made me parade it.  It was the worst parade ever. That's what my first costume was like.' 

Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova
'Why did I get this talent? I don't know, but as long as I'm alive, will be giving it back. Pictures: Vera Saknitskaya


The rich and unique Yakutian culture is literally sewn into Avgustina's creations.

'I make costumes not just for the sake of it, I like people to learn to see the beauty of the world and understand nature through them. 

'Let's say, children come to see the costumes and I tell them why these particular details have been chosen, they learn to see the details, understand why this or that colour is used, why every embroidery and even every bead is used. For example, a traditional Yakut wedding dress would have multiple layers and is as heavy as 30 kilograms. 

'It was used to forecast what sort of wife she'd make - if she didn't pass out by the end of the wedding day, she'd be able to give birth to lots of children. Of course, it is hard to imagine a modern bride wearing it. But I have kept only one element of historical wedding costume, that is fur on shoulders. 

'It's some sort of a symbol of wings cut off: a girl comes down to earth to continue the human race and with her wings cut off she can't make it back.'

Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova
The rich and unique Yakutian culture is literally sewn into Avgustina's creations. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya 


'If I work with my students, one costume takes up to a month and a half. If I work alone, a costume can take up to a year, even longer sometimes. It's all hand-made, every little bit.

'Before I started creating these costumes, no-one was into them. It's possible to say that I dressed up traditional characters. 

'Let's take the main 'brand', the Yakutian Father Frost (or Father Christmas), Chyskhaan' - the Lord of the Cold in Yakutia.'

She laughed: 'I created the costume for him, my way, you can call me Chyskhaan's mother.' 

Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova


Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova

Avgustina with her team. Pictures here and below: Vera Salnitskaya 


Avgustina uses expensive textiles, decorating them with leather, fur, beads, ivory, birch bark, and horse hair. 

'Cold is the main character for us, I work a lot with it. 

'Winter is the time of wisdom. Nights are longer in winter, during this time, the olonkhosutys (fairy tale tellers and singers) walk around and sing their wise tales.

'I never liked how the traditional Yakutian costumes were represented on the catwalk. It looked ordinary and tasteless. 

'My dream was creating dresses that every woman would dream to wear.

'I'd like there to be a place where people could come after I pass away to see my costumes, so that everyone could come and enjoy them. 

'Beauty saves everyone, I know it for sure. If there is enough beauty, there won't be any evil.'

Admire the stunning Siberian collection of fashion designer Avgustina Filippova

Comments (10)

thnks
soniakanwal, dubai
10/05/2019 13:58
0
0
WOW! You make some absolutely gorgeous & truly beautiful, artistic costumes! I would soooo love to try one of these on!
Becky, Tennessee, USA
29/07/2017 03:19
0
0
We may need to invent some new words to describe the awesome beauty of these dreamlike garments. Thank you for such incredible visions.
Lucinda Formyduval, San Francisco
14/03/2016 15:31
1
0
Wow, these aren't just costumes - they are works of art, and each is a masterpiece worthy of exhibition in the most upscale museum. I just thought I had some embroidery skills myself .... but I see that I'm not even in the same league as you. Congratulations for such skill, patience and creativity.
Sandy winey, Georgetown texas USA
27/01/2016 10:37
2
0
So amazingly beautiful, you are a true artist. Thank you for sharing this beautiful treasure.
Veronica Desmond, Bantry Ireland
23/12/2015 02:34
5
0
What beautiful costumes! I love them! What a wonderful and beautiful lady! I am fascinated with your motherland, would love to go there! I lived on the other side, in the arctic in Alaska! So I can understand the cold. But I never
seen such BEAUTY and BEAUTIFUL COLORS! Thanks for sharing!
Mary, USA
15/12/2015 08:23
12
0
The third dress looks better than any candidate to the Carnival Queen in Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain)
Enrique, Spain
15/12/2015 03:20
9
1
Woouo ...navy blue, green, orange/brown for the first dress very harmonious colours ..and the others costums whole is sophisticated,.. tears come in my eyes ...This wise Lady have " de l'or dans les doigts !" Spirit of her motherland ,Yakutie is cold but so beautiful region. Very important to see young students learn this ART sewing .CONGRATULATION
Jocelyne, FRANCE
13/12/2015 16:03
20
0
Very pretty...
Doc, US
13/12/2015 10:22
20
0
what a lady! stunning costumes!
Benedikt, Moscow,Russia
12/12/2015 09:58
25
0
1

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