Waist-length dresses, sun skirts, light overalls - Muscovite Ekaterina Blinova works in retro aesthetics unusual for Russia and gives a second life to the original silhouettes of the 50s and 60s. Among the clients of her brand Ginger Jackie are blogger Aida Dapo and dancer Dita von Teese. We asked the designer where to look for characteristic fabrics, what are the difficulties with retro patterns and who buys her work.
TEXT: Svetlana Paderina
I had a talent for needlework since childhood. I became interested in sewing during the "doll" period: I made everything myself, and each time the dresses for the dolls only became more complicated. I successfully graduated from art school and entered the Kosygin Textile Institute: I went to study as an ornamental artist, when I could not get a couturier. My specialization is the development of prints and patterns for fabrics that are used to create clothes. After graduation, I tried myself in various fields, including airbrushing and painting motorcycles, cars and even T-shirts. Together with my husband, we came up with the Ginger Jack brand: my husband brought ideas, and I thought out models of wallets and other accessories made of thick leather with embossing and painting. When my friends and I started going to music festivals in the style of the 50s, the question arose sharply - what to wear? And since I already had a little experience, I began to sew retro dresses, focusing on the illustrative material.
At first it was difficult to find sources: our retroculture is less developed than in Europe or America. Then there were no cool vintage stores where you could see things, feel them, understand how they are designed and sewn. I searched for sewing patterns and old magazines on eBay, once even ordering fabrics from Hawaii. “Jack” turned into “Jackie” when I realized that I make a lot of such retro clothing - however, these were not yet full-fledged collections, but literally several models, made in two or three copies.
The name suited what it was at the very beginning: colorful dresses in the style of the 50s, breeches with wavy braid, boleros, short lightweight jumpsuits, everything is playful, festival. Uncomplicated, striking models, in which there was more frivolous stylization than verified style. With these things, I went to foreign markets, studied the demand. In Russia, my clothes were first bought by my friends, and then word of mouth worked, people came up and asked: “What kind of dress are you wearing? And can I sew this too? " I started promoting Ginger Jackie on portals such as the "Masters Fair" or "VKontakte" groups. I still use the “Masters Fair”, to be honest, there is a storehouse of all kinds of customers there. For example, I have several very wealthy clients who sit at the Fair.
With the advent of Instagram, it has become much easier: you post work - and now they already know about you. I tried to communicate with foreign bloggers: they are easy-going, absolutely devoid of snobbery and do not roll out a price tag for publication instead of a greeting. I studied how they use such elements in modern clothes, but it's not easy to find the line between a retro look and an outfit like from a dusty grandmother's chest. I subscribed, followed them, commented, and they commented in response and were surprised that such things are sewn in Russia. I was one of the first to start doing retro styling in the country. In 2013, the first full-fledged Ginger Jackie collection was released, some of which I still repeat.
Let's just say: I know how to sew quality things with my own hands, but I have a big gap in marketing, in organizational matters. There are designers and there are entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur is a person who feels how to sell, how to promote, how to develop.And the designer is more about creative searches, when you struggle to make everything look perfect, fit well, and this is far from making money. It's not enough to do just good things - you need to unfold your thinking so that you understand what kind of product you have, who your audience is, how to interest it. At some point, you start to get tired of the fact that this profession does not at all look like a picture from magazines and films. Of course, if you have investments, then your business processes will start much faster than when you yourself are slowly walking towards the goal on your own.
Patterns and models
I work with models of clothes of the 20th century - I make replicas of things from the 40s and 60s and I do not see anything wrong with that: this is how I learn to feel the form, proportions. I'm interested in taking a picture and bringing it to life. Clients often turn to me with a request to sew a suit, dress or coat “as in the photo”. I even get a little upset when, in the process of work, a client asks to change something, because I am interested in recreating a thing that has been verified in silhouette and details. Everywhere I indicate authorship, I write that this is a replica, and not my own design. For example, my favorite skirt "Dorothy" was restored according to the museum patterns of Charles James, since the patterns can be studied on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In general, I have a large collection of patterns from the 40s and 50s, and partly with their help I develop my models. When you study this amount of material, you begin to notice the nuances that you want to introduce: an unusual arrangement of darts or a new cut of the sleeve. Then, in the process of selecting the fabric, the accumulated ideas begin to form a picture, into a product.
I study everything that can be studied: collections of fashion museums that scan patterns, illustrations, photographs. Auctions are also an excellent information base: for sale, people photograph a thing on a mannequin in good resolution, turn it inside out, thoroughly documenting the elements. Old magazines, fortunately now there are many enthusiasts who post them on the Internet. When I travel abroad, I always find museums, fabric markets, vintage shops - I love to delve into them, although I don't buy anything.
Today the proportions of female figures have changed - it is useless to take retro patterns and try to apply them in production in their pure form. In the middle of the last century, women were shorter, they had narrower and higher-set waists, a different shoulder girdle, a different shoulder turn. Modern figures are more athletic, with less emphasis on the waist, and have straighter and more extended shoulders. This becomes noticeable when you try on the original dress from the 50s.
According to my feelings, customers like everything created according to the canons - with petticoats, lining, corsets and other retro elements. Previously, such clothes had a frame made of linen and means for adding volume: bodice, onlays, petticoats. Bras had a special shape - the breasts turned out to be high and sharp, - now such underwear is not worn. In the 50s, sloping shoulders were in vogue, so one of the favorite designs was the one-piece sleeve. To achieve a similar silhouette, you have to trick: for example, apply shaping elements to create a steep hip, since the waist cannot be tightened now. To create a sharp drop between the waist and hips, I "hang" the basque of the jackets or the sides of the fluffy skirts and use a booster to help stiffen the hem.
I use Italian stock fabrics, that is, materials left over from the production of other brands. It is difficult to find permanent collections of textiles: what suits in terms of quality is sold from a thousand meters per article, plus it needs to be brought to Russia and cleared through customs. Therefore, I use stocks and can only sew a limited number of things, especially given the high consumption of fabric. One-piece sleeves and fluffy skirts eat up the lion's share of the footage - sometimes it turns out that only ten products can come out of one roll of thirty to forty meters.The materials, of course, are modern, but I try to look for ornaments in retro style or choose classics like polka dots, stripes, cells.
The Ginger Jackie collections are made in a modest range. I love neutral shades, I choose only red from bright colors - however, in the new line I want to introduce dark blue as an alternative to black. Occasionally I work with vintage materials: acquaintances often bring fabrics, lace, buttons from my grandmother's stock, and I use something that is in good condition. In the case of old fabrics, there is a problem: they were shifted with mothballs for preservation, and this smell is not removed at all; they often lose color and strength. I tried to print a roll with my own print, but I was not satisfied with the quality. Embroidery is another matter - I independently draw ornaments, digitize them and bring them to production. This is how elements of machine embroidery appear in the collections, which makes things special.
Now there are four people in the team. Additionally, there are outsourced people who make gradation of patterns or advise on various issues. There is also a third-party production, which sews products as needed, because the main circulation is produced by our workshop. Probably, from a business point of view, it would be wiser to rent a showroom in the center of Moscow, take orders there and give them to production, and not spend money on renting premises for a workshop, depreciation of equipment, tailors' salaries, etc. But I do not want to move away from creating things: I love being in the atelier, and besides, clients come there to talk to me about private orders. When asked questions on Instagram, I'm always happy to answer. I like to establish a dialogue with colleagues, designers, production workers - the exchange of experience is very important.
Someone is ready to wear retro dresses every day, someone chooses these outfits for special occasions. Very young customers rarely come to me, but sometimes clients bring daughters who need outfits for graduation or house parties. In any case, these are clothes not for fuss, but for special events when you want to pamper yourself. Roughly half of the purchases are private custom made orders, because complex silhouettes do not fit universally on any body type. Recently, a girl from Ireland came specially to try on a wedding dress. We also sew remotely: for example, we had a customer from Atlanta who said that in America the price for such targeted tailoring would be like that of a major fashion house. We made a dress without fitting - Gabriela has already sent photos from the wedding.
Brand ambassadors are mostly foreign bloggers. We made a wedding dress for Aida Dapo, pink - now almost every month we are asked for a dress like hers, although it will not work to repeat it. I communicate directly with my muse with Dita von Teese: she has already appeared in Ginger Jackie clothes and now wants to order a coat - we are discussing the model and plan to finally meet in person. In general, foreigners buy a lot, it's a pity that the store in Munich, where we supplied our collections, has just closed. I would like to present the brand somewhere else, because customs duties in the European Union are high - the buyer must pay an additional 20-30% of the cost, which we always warn about. And all the same, things come out cheaper than those of similar European brands. There is even a separate category of customers who regularly buy several items from each collection, actively mark us on Instagram and ask to open an offline store in their city.