"The Power of Dress Up" With Katya Zelentsova
In a small town in Russia, Katya Zelentsova grew up spending much of her free time drawing. Eventually, these drawings developed into sketches of clothing and after noting Zelentsova’s interest in fashion, a family friend, who at the time was a chairman on the board there, recommended she apply to the University of the Arts London (UAL) when the time came. Zelentsova stayed true to those goals and now, more than 10 years later, she is developing her own unique style, addressing issues of identity and investigating the space she inhabits between two cultures.
When Zelentsova first arrived in London, she was met with stereotyped misconceptions of Russian people and their culture. Although she describes the experience as non-violent, in order to fit in with her new environment, Zelentsova attempted to shed certain aspects of her Russian identity by using the name Kate and mimicking the British accent for so long that she now doesn’t remember sounding any different. “It’s a new type of immigrant” she explained, a dichotomy inside of oneself where you want to disassociate yourself from your born identity in order to take on a new one (especially if you are from somewhere with a poor reputation), but simultaneously you are unable and unwilling to let go of your born culture. Although Zelentsova still balances questions of her identity today, she learned to appreciate her Russian culture and to understand its importance in her life. Zelentsova explained that she will always be “too foreign” to completely assimilate. She is put in a position she describes as “an observer” because she is unable to fully fit into either identity. This issue is apparent in her work and due to its personal importance, it was also the focus of her academic dissertation.
Although Zelentsova explores themes of identity in her work, she makes clothes with a specific purpose: to make people feel good. Inspired by how both her mother and grandmother handled things throughout their lives, Zelentsova wants to take their mentality of making the best of negative situations, and incorporate it in her work. She explained that oftentimes people find themselves held down by the weight of the world, especially when politically, things feel “quite unfortunate.” In order to combat this she strives to make things for people to wear to “maybe feel a little bit better, a little bit sillier, in a good way.” Zelentsova loves excessive accessorizing and has a soft spot for lingerie, “underwear as outerwear! That’s a fun one” she mused. When things are difficult, Zelentsova explained “the power of dress up” in her life. “You really are trying to create this kind of bubble in the immediate vicinity of you,” she said, “ and I think dressing up, what you wear, should be part of that.”
Since being featured in Dazed Magazine, Zelentsova has been presented with more modeling opportunities but expressed her commitment to her work. Right now she is developing her own line of clothes and at the end of this semester, UAL holds a professional runway with models and makeup artists, where she will debut six original looks. Although Zelentsova does not yet have a site where people can buy her work, she is working on establishing her brand and is always willing to do personal commissions.
Photo courtesy of Dazed Digital