We met Olga Kotova at a pop-up by In Support Of during NYFW SS20. We were mesmerized by her use of bold colors, substantial fabrics and classic but quirky cuts. Get to know Olga and her brand Masha Maria in our interview below.
What is Masha Maria?
Olga Kotova: Masha Maria is a choice to have fun with your looks and express yourself through color and unique textiles.
Who is Masha Maria for?
Olga Kotova: Curious and conscious individuals who don’t buy to have, but buy to share.
What do you mean by ‘buy to share’?
Olga Kotova: By “buy to share” I mean share experiences and emotions. Whenever we wear something we love and it makes us feel 100% ourselves, we breathe happiness and it translates into our relationships with others.
Which is your favorite piece?
Olga Kotova: My first batwing long coat. This is how it all started. I was learning millions of patterns in 4 months and I was craving to work with outerwear as it is pretty challenging. Batwing coat pattern was crazy difficult to make and it reflects perfectly my source of inspiration – movies from the 40s, 50s and 60s, with a Balenciaga style but contemporary fit and new ways to use fabric.
What inspired the name?
Olga Kotova: My name was inspired by my grandma – Maria, but in Russia Marias are called Masha. She has this incredible energy and good heart that has taught me that a smile can melt any borders.
I love that – my mom’s name is Maria. So after a career in finance at BBDO, why did you launch a brand?
Olga Kotova: Making clothes has been my dream since I was 15 years old, but I would have been too young to do it then. So it’s good that I have had diverse professions in finance, accounting, art direction, production to then land in fashion.
I don’t design in a bubble, but design clothes for real people. I know that I don’t want to do just another cute dress, I want to have a strong concept and good reasoning. That’s why I decided to start my brand with upcycling techniques, taking inspiration in transformation and pure love for the textiles.
Why handcrafted and upcycled?
Olga Kotova: It is a come back to the way clothing was made once upon a time. Handcrafted items bring a uniqueness and value to each piece. And upcycling is a must nowadays after so many garments are produced for no reason. It gives us the chance to reflect, look around us and appreciate what we already have in our hands.
What drives your design choices?
Olga Kotova: Definitely materials and color. I come from a graphic design background so color is everything to me. It brings joy and power. Material and fabrics just speak to me, I am not interested in creating complex patterns but quiet, easy, quirky fits. I like adding small details like loops on my wool coats or adding unexpected lining colors. I want to give space for the textile to speak for itself and show its beauty in my designs.
How do you define sustainability as it relates to the fashion industry?
Olga Kotova: Being sustainable in fashion means to buy less, support local forces and listen to the history of each garment. Everyone has their own way to make a sustainable line, it could be the choice of fabrics, helping social groups, working locally or producing on a made-to-order basis. What unites everyone is the goal not to become rich by selling more, but becoming rich by building communities.
That’s power. Where are you at in your ideal sustainability journey? Where would you like to be?
Olga Kotova: Sustainability to me is the style of living. It is understanding and respecting what we already have and not striving to want more than anyone. Fashion should not be a competition, but a playground where we share what we have learned already.
Brands are increasingly interested in becoming more sustainable, but many struggle on where to start. As a brand just starting out, what’s your advice to them on how to start?
Olga Kotova: Work with your strengths and remember – you cannot fill in all the blanks, you should just do your small part in this big battle to change people’s perception of the clothing industry.
What shifts would you like to see in the industry to help address current sustainability challenges?
Olga Kotova: We buy way too much, without even a clear understanding of why. We are insecure and hung up on the idea that consuming will solve our issues. We should stop buying just for the sake of buying and buy only what we believe in.
What future do you rally around?
Olga Kotova: A future where people will stop hiding in their clothes and start shining in them.
Shop Masha Maria.
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