New East Digital Archive

Lotta Volkova — New East 100

30 September 2017

Usually the names of cult designers come to define fashion eras. A handful of photographers and models also get their moment in the spotlight. But the stylists, who often remain in the shadows, are usually known only to industry insiders. We remember Helmut Lang, but not Melanie Ward; The Face Magazine, but not Ray Petri. But times are changing: in an era of Instagram, stylists are finally at the forefront, celebrities in their own right. Russia-born Lotta Volkova is perhaps the most representative example: both her work at Balenciaga and Vetements and her own persona have shaped the cutting-edge style of today.

@vogueitalia by @harleyweir and #lottavolkova

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Volkova is no stranger to the spotlight. She walked the runway as a model for Vetements for the first time in 2014 — since then she has modelled in nearly every show by her collaborator Demna Gvasalia (the Georgia-born creative director of Vetements and Balenciaga). Balenciaga’s flowing, flowery dresses, Vetements’ thigh-high leather boots, slouchy hoodies and oversized tailoring — the rise of these statement pieces owes a lot to the creative union of Gvasalia and Volkova. Volkova’s input has also been crucial in the rise of the post-Soviet aesthetic in fashion: together with Gvasalia and Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy, they have been dubbed the “Evil Empire’s cool comeback”.

Volkova has indeed been influenced by her Russian roots. She was born in Vladivostok in 1984, and her mum, really into the post-punk 80s at the time, was a major style inspiration (as Volkova has said in a few interviews, her first name originates from Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love — a rebellious gesture in the Soviet Union). After relocating to London at the age of 17, Volkova put on club nights and ran her own brand, Lotta Skeletrics, which was largely inspired by DIY-punk heritage and featured distressed garments overloaded with studs.

��#lottavolkova & #harleyweir

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Volkova’s styling work still bears the traces of these past obsessions and experiences: subcultural references, the memories of the culture clash of the Russian 90s, the mix of street and high fashion, obsession with unconventional fits and shapes and rougher textures. Volkova has worked as a stylist for magazines like Re-Edition, Man About Town, 032c, Dazed&Confused and i-D to name a few, and her styling for Balenciaga has completely shifted the way luxury fashion houses are allowed to look. But she’s clearly already onto the next thing. Volkova recently changed her hairstyle to a bleached bob, and traded heavy-metal tees for acid coloured dresses — she clearly knows what’s going to be in tomorrow.

Nick Zedd in @anothermagazine by @harleyweir and #lottavolkova

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