Quick Q&A with Irina Dzhus | Fashion Designer & Brand Owner
"To me, creating innovative designs is a piece of cake in comparison to that business aspect." -Irina Dzhus
By Michael Suber | CEO & Founder of Promo Magazine
-What & Who is DZHUS?
DZHUS is a Ukraine-based conceptual womenswear brand, run by me, designer Irina Dzhus.
-What is your typical day when running a brand like yours?
Every my day is different from another one. Besides multitasking for the brand (I do design, patternmaking, art direction, branding, graphic design, styling, sales, pr and some other directions), I also work as a fashion stylist and makeup artist for local and international projects.
My timetable is very tight, but, at the same time, very changeable, because great opportunities always occur very spontaneously, as well as unexpected concerns.
I almost never have weekends, but my everyday life is diverse and exciting, so I don't regret having no time for hobbies.
-In a brief description, how do you approach the business side of fashion when you first started?
Finding balance between creativity and business has never been easy, but for me it's very interesting to combine the unique concepts DZHUS is recognised by and absolute wearability of the garments. When I'd just released my first collections, there was quite a dilemma in which direction to move in the brand's development, as DZHUS had many followers, but this popularity didn't influence the sales - our audience tended to admire the designs but not buy those for themselves.
When, eventually, I got an order from The Hunger Games' stylists team, I have clearly realised that, although the level of this collaboration was very flattering to me and I was happy to make some pieces for them, costume design wasn't my ambition. What I wanted to create was intellectually designed ready-to-wear, which independently thinking and spiritual personalities would use in their everyday reality. Since then, I've changed the course of DZHUS' identity and presentation so that our products became completely utilitarian although featuring unique cut concepts and our followers don't feel any concerns to wear them.
-As the owner, do you see yourself more on the design side or more on the business side? Or is it pretty much balanced?
Fashion design has been my dream since I was 5, so, naturally, I see myself much more on the design side. However, the brand cannot exist without the business side, so I had to learn how to manage that aspect as well. Eventually, now design as such takes probably about 10% of my time, whereas the rest has been spent on different kinds of management as well as other creative processes, such as graphic design, styling etc.
-Were there any setbacks to getting your label off the ground? How did you overcome that?
So far, the financial aspect has been our biggest issue. Although we have good sales, DZHUS is a niche brand, so our audience is initially very limited, yet still, the brand's development requires very big investment, to eventually maximise recognition and demand among these potential customers. It's such a challenge for an emerging brand to survive this period.
To me, creating innovative designs is a piece of cake in comparison to that business aspect.
-Who are your target consumers & how do you get them to look at your products?
A DZHUS woman is an independently-thinking intellectual who treats clothes as embodiment for their unique inner world.
Besides international concept stores where our collections are stocked, our customers often discover us for themselves on fashion press and social media. Many of our clients come from leading architectural and design platforms' audience, as our styles often get featured there as well, because of their architectural aesthetics.
-Obviously you created a unique brand, we would like to know if you collaborated with anyone to help you produce such a phenomenal collection?
I always do all of the design part by myself. The seasonal DZHUS collections are created by our team only, but from time to time we release capsule lines, designed by me in collaboration with other brands or within projects that I find interesting and familiar to DZHUS aesthetics and philosophy.
-How would you describe yourself as a person & artist?
I am a desperate perfectionist and a radical nonconformist. Whatever I do will refer to certain principles of my individual worldview, which is very different from the nowadays archetypes.
I don't divide my personality and my professional activity - moreover, my design has always been the only means of self-positioning for me.
-What made you so interested in becoming a fashion designer?
My enormous interest in apparel design has appeared in early childhood, so now it's hard to define a particular reason. To me as a child and a teenager, it felt very natural to spend every spare minute sketching outfits, so I just don't know what it's like to live without this need.
-Do you have a favourite designer who inspires you? Why is that?
I adore early Margiela and Yamamoto, because of their ingenuous and revolutionary approach to cut and fashion as such. Something as different from anything else can hardly be found in the nowadays fashion.
-What story are you trying to convey through your designs?
Spirituality and technologies are the main sources of inspiration for me and this mix forms the identity of DZHUS. All things I get inspired with, be it ancient iconography or industrial uniform, have another, deeper meaning besides of their obvious visual peculiarity. These objects embody certain social, psychological aspects that balance on the edge of mental and spiritual perception. Their controversial ethos helps push the boundaries of conscience.
I deeply analyse an object that inspires me, extract the crucial details, interpret them and, using these modules, construct a utilitarian product with an artistic soul.
I concentrate on the very essence of the garment I create, play up the characteristic features and the emotional content of my source of inspiration in the structure, texture and fabric finishes of my design.
As a result, an independent artistic existence lies in the core of every garment, a pure avant-garde cosmos with its own principles and structures.
-Did you ever see yourself to be so successful in establishing a known brand?
I knew I would launch a fashion brand since I was 5. At 15, I've made up my mind on what its aesthetics would be like. So, frankly speaking, for me this has always been the only acceptable life scenario.
-Tell me about your latest collection. What was your vision when you created it?
DZHUS Spring/Summer 2017 line, “Carbon”, is dedicated to the phenomenal element that forms the key component for all known life on Earth. Carbon is a quintessence of black, the fundamental colour of DZHUS’ identity. Carbon is coal, traditionally mined in Ukraine, my homeland. The workers’ rigid routine, uniform and stern industrial constructions have inspired the surly, utilitarian leitmotif of the designs. Carbon is graphite, used to draw harsh lines and delicate shadings, which have embodied in contoured edges and sheer textures of DZHUS monochrome garments. Carbon is ashes, which will remain when we are gone, as a symbol of life’s fragility and the eternal cycle of nature.
-To be a designer, you had to undergo a lot of struggles. What was the most difficult obstacle for you when putting together your collection?
With my early collections, I used to convey very edgy industrial aesthetics. My work often got featured on blogs and social media, however, DZHUS had much more admirers than real customers. Moreover, I've gained a reputation of a futuristic costume designer, which had never been my aim, even despite my collaboration with The Hunger Games and some celebrities. What I always wanted to create was a conceptual fashion product worn by intelligent and independent individuals in their everyday life.
Having realised that I had to move further in my approach to design. I started to develop my technological skills, as well as my aesthetical taste and ethical worldview, and have reconsidered my vision of a modern fashion product. I found it even more exciting to adapt my innovative cut concepts to the ready-to-wear reality, in terms of customers' comfort and quality requirements. Now I mostly use natural fabrics, yet accompany those with my signature industrial-inspired finishes and accessories (I impregnate denim with rubber, bleach linen, pipe DZHUS’ signature exposed seams with elastic etc.) - and I see how people's impression of DZHUS has changed, along with increase of demand.
-If you could showcase your designs anywhere in the world, where would you start and why?
There are several concept stores I'd love to get stocked at most of all: Dover Street Market, 4, Antonioli, Daad Dantone, Ink Clothing, 24 of August and a few more. Their atmosphere and vision of fashion goes very much in line with DZHUS identity.
-Who excites you the most (Celebrity) & why?
I am very rarely inspired with people who I don’t know in person, neither I have celebrity idols.
What I’m always excited about are objects: their shape, surface, properties, origin and symbolical meaning.
-How is your brand different from any other designer brands?
The most important thing about my designs is their innovative and alternative cut. I perceive the world through the prism of its complex structure. In my constructions, I interpret shapes and silhouettes of various objects or phenomenons. These might be elements of architecture or human anatomy, but mostly, I'm into exploring metaphysical geometry: forms and voids around them, their contours, coordination and interaction, transformation and projections on to space.
The main ethical principle of my work is to fulfil only unique concepts that are worth production in our era of oversupply. Naturally, all of DZHUS products are cruelty-free and vegetarian-friendly.
-What are your world-dominating goals for DZHUS?
I always feel like there's an objective need for me to bring my innovative concepts to life, - a mission, if you want, - otherwise they would remain just a fantasy, whereas they deserve to be introduced to the world and to have their own independent existence and relations with people who understand and value them.
The other and probably even more important message I want to deliver with my designs is the necessity of being humane and future-oriented in the modern reality. By producing sustainable and cruelty-free fashion products and communicating them to intelligent and open-minded audience, I aspire to prove that it is possible to look edgy and avant-garde, yet remain in peace and harmony with the universe.