Fashion designer Zhanar, who wowed ‘em in Russia, returns to her Kazakh roots10 april 2013, 17:13
Zhanar Yerkingaliyeva remembers her fashion-design splash in Tokyo as if it were yesterday.
To get to the land of such legendary designers as Kenzo, Issey Miyake and Hanae Mori, she first had to beat out several thousand competitors for one of two Russian spots in Tokyo’s New Designer Fashion Grand Prix contest.
Then the third-year student at Moscow State Textile University faced 60 international rivals in Tokyo.
The design in the 2003 event was so wild it’s hard to describe. A short version would be multicolored with trappings of Kazakh national costumes. Photos testify that it was breathtaking.
Zhanar Yerkingaliyeva’s first big fashion triumph was in Tokyo with an outfit with blinding colors. Photo courtesy of Zhanar Yerkingaliyeva
When the competition was over, Zhanar had taken not one but an astonishing two firsts. One was for best fashion design and one for best fashion illustration – or sketch used in the clothes-making process.
The competition was a milestone in the career of the Uralsk native, who came to Astana a year ago to try to build a fashion business in Kazakhstan.
To make the Tokyo victory sweeter, the textile university president was on hand, along with the famed Russian designer Slava Zaitsev.
Zaitsev is one of several big-name Russian designers who have supported Zhanar over the years, including Slava Zaitsev’s son Igor and Tatiana Mikhalkova.
Kazakh designer Zhanar Yerkingaliyeva, right, with Tatyana Mihalkova, president of the Moscow-based charity organization Russian Silhouette. Photo courtesy of Zhanar Yerkingaliyeva
The artistic talent that led to Zhanar’s illustrating victory in Tokyo came naturally. She was so good at drawing and painting that she taught the skills for two years at the Institute of Culture in Uralsk after graduating from Uralsk State Teachers University in 1998.
Then she headed for design school in Moscow.
Although she was representing Russia when she won the Tokyo competition, it was a victory for Kazakhstan as well. “I was the only Kazakh girl at Moscow State Textile University,” she said.
Stepping into the limelight when she was still a university student validated her dream of becoming a fashion designer that she first swooned about when she was 12.
She would go on to win a number of competitions in Russia and abroad, both before and after graduating from the textile university in 2005, and enjoy commercial success in Moscow for a decade.
The success came as she held “day jobs” at Moscow’s Tsum department store between 2003 and 2007 and at the 300-shop Kira Plastinina clothing chain from 2007 to 2009.
Last year she decided she wanted to create a fashion industry in Kazakhstan. It’s been a step-at-a-time process in a country that has lacked a fashion-design tradition.
The timing for her Kazakhstan debut couldn’t have been better, however. She was coming off a big win in the Russian Fashion Week spring-summer-collection competition in 2011.
This sparkling Zhanar medley was named the top spring-summer collection in Russian Fashion Week in 2011. Photo courtesy of Zhanar Yerkingaliyeva
Her 30 outfits snatched the top prize as the event’s Best Debut Collection. You can see video of the collection at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kh9GeBMgtRM. There’s video of one of her fall/winter collections at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu-N4OE9ews.
A few months after her Russian Fashion Show triumpsh, Zhanar won the Volvo car company’s Golden Designer Award at the Moscow Fashion Week fall-winter-collection competition in 2011. Volvo was the show’s main sponsor.
Zhanar paraded her breezy-looking outfits on the Russian Fashion Week catwalk in a sequence that heralded the transition from winter to spring and then summer.
“I started with outfits in black and gray to suggest the melting snow,” she said. “Then the colors changed to soft colors,” like tans and green pastels.
Next came more colorful outfits to signify the bursting of spring, and finally “hot summer colors,” like red, she said.
Although Zhanar has crafted many multifaceted collections, she’s been concentrating on businesswomen’s clothes since returning to Kazakhstan. The target age for her Zhanar brand is 25 and up, she said.
The designs are classy and sleek – with Kazakh trappings.
Zhanar describes them as having “European style, with decorations and accessories that include Kazakh national elements.”
In her new spring-summer collection, she uses plastic replicas of asyki, or sheep joints, as belt buckles or components of other accessories.
And one colorful dress features prints of asyki against a white backdrop.
Zhanar’s 2013 spring-summer collection includes this print that features traditional Kazakh asyki. Photo courtesy of Zhanar Yerkingaliyeva
For the moment Zhanar is showing her clothes at her own design studio on Astana’s right bank. You can make an appointment to see them by calling 87072649616.
She continues to do projects in Russia, where many stores and multi-brand boutiques sell her ware.
Zhanar hopes to open a boutique later in the Keruen department store in Astana and at a prime location in Almaty.
One of her other goals is to produce her lines in Kazakhstan. They’re made in China right now.
With an established brand name, Zhanar had hoped to find a Kazakh investor to help her build a clothing powerhouse here.
But “investors here don’t believe in fashion as a business, “she said. “They invest in oil and gas but not in fashion. They have yet to want to develop the fashion industry like in Moscow and China.”
Out of necessity she’s turned to Chinese investors.
“In China they understand that fashion is a business,” she said. “Here they think it’s entertainment.”
She hopes that changes over time.
If it does, Kazakhs may finally be able to claim a home-grown fashion industry.