Standing at the meeting point of the vanguard and the utilitarian, DZHUS‘ visual identity plays with shape and structure while keeping true to its deep spiritual roots.
In 2010, designer Irina Dzhus launched her eponymous label DZHUS. Reserved coloring and technical textures are characteristic features of DZHUS, with each piece conveying its own special philosophical message. We sat down with the Ukrainian-based designer to discuss what inspires her delicate yet strong creations.
Irina, you are from Ukraine, a country that is steadily gaining recognition for its innovative creators. Do you take inspiration from your homeland and how do you incorporate your heritage into your designs?
The style of my pieces is quite utilitarian and brutalistic. I was brought up in Kiev, a city with vast Soviet heritage: factories and monuments, architecture and social customs – all glorifying industrialisation, and that environment has influenced my creative mind crucially. Every time I see an abandoned plant or a former ceremonial palace I can feel the powerful spirit of the bygone epoch, sublime and oppressive at the same time.
Many of my artistic ideas derive from that controversial existence. Most people consider this legacy of the past ugly and dreary, as it reminds them of the bygone regime. As for me, I’ve always admired the aesthetical aspect of the Soviet urban tradition: strict lines and monolithic shapes, the cult of concrete and the stern spirit.
The garments you present seem to walk the thin line between the organic and the sleek industrialism – how do you find the balance?
The industrial look of my designs fulfils my aesthetical preferences, whereas sustainability meets my moral values. In my mind, these categories don’t compete with each other, so I balance them quite naturally.
A very intriguing subject you touch in describing your brand is the “edge of perception”. Is that a purely spiritual place or do you find inspiration in its material embodiment as well?
I find inspiration in diverse material places with controversial spirituality. I have already mentioned the cultural contrast of the Soviet past and the modern reality of my country, which has embodied in so many aspects and places.
However, my favourite source of inspiration has much deeper historical roots. It is an Orthodox Christian monastery called Kiev Pechersk Lavra. What makes it truly phenomenal are spontaneously mummified ancient saints, buried in glass coffins along man-made underground caves. Being literally a stronghold of spirituality, Lavra is filled with very powerful energy and at the same time, it picturesquely displays the grotesque side of religion as such.
Your Spring / Summer 2016 collection was done solely in black and ivory-grey. Is your minimal view on color an aesthetic choice or does the humble palette carry very specific ideological messages?
I perceive the world around me through the prism of its complex structure, in which solid shapes and fragile constructions; contours and spaces interact with each other and contradict. I feel a strong need to analyse these delicate connections profoundly and interpret their peculiarities in my experimental cut concepts. What concerns color, I’ve never experienced any special emotions about it, neither have I had any personal preferences of palette. That’s how the nature has probably balanced my exaggerated perception of shape. Along with that, during my artistic education, I have learnt the physical, symbolic and cultural features of every color so thoroughly, that, since then, all colors seem too meaningful for me to choose just some. For me colors exist rather metaphysically, I never use them in my own wardrobe, neither do I consider them necessary for my designs, especially since the monochrome palette accentuates my innovative cut suggestions in the best way.
All of your materials are vegetarian-friendly. Are these ethics an important part of your standpoint as a creator?
The important message I want to deliver with my designs is the necessity of being humane and future-oriented in our modern reality. By producing cruelty-free fashion products and communicating them to intelligent, independently-thinking audience I aim to prove that it is possible to look edgy and avant-garde, yet remain in peace and harmony with the universe.
The fabrics I select are produced without harming animals. I don’t mind cooperation with animals, as long as it happens in an ethical way and they remain healthy and undamaged. Thus, I use natural wool, provided that it is produced without cruelty, but when it comes to leather-looking materials, I obviously opt for high-quality polyurethane. Sometimes it’s even more fun to replace leather with rather experimental materials, such as rubberized cotton or neoprene. As regards the manufacturing, I don’t outsource the production so far – all the pieces are made at our studio, so it’s easy to make sure the whole process is clean and meets the brand’s ideology completely.
The inevitable question, what does the future hold for DZHUS?
So far, I have invented enough experimental concepts to surprize DZHUS‘ clients and followers during several future seasons, and I continue working on new ones. As regards the brand’s development, ideally, I see DZHUS collections stocked at top concept stores worldwide, so that unique personalities around the globe have an easy physical access to my designs, can feel their authentic structure, touch the fabrics’ textures and probably find a reflection of their own personalities in my creations. At the moment, I’m doing my best to expand DZHUS’ international stock list.