Clothes by a free spirit, tied to Tolstoy

Designer Valeria Siniouchkina's Russian ancestry inspires her brand, OMSK. Source: Slava Petrakina

Designer Valeria Siniouchkina's Russian ancestry inspires her brand, OMSK. Source: Slava Petrakina

The fashion team behind OMSK Belgium are happy to explain why trend-setters around the world are suddenly wearing the image of Leo Tolstoy.

In 2002, Valeria Siniouchkina, a slender 25-year-old blonde with Russian origins, graduated from La Cambre Art School of Brussels, where she studied fashion. She went on to present her graduation collection, called OMSK, in France. At the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography, the collection was awarded the Henri Bendel prize and was bought by the eponymous New York store.

At the time Siniouchkina had just broken up with her boyfriend, and she was able to channel some of those painful feelings into her collection. She worked through that difficult time by imagining herself surrounded by free-spirited girls who go travelling all over the world and always come back with something fresh and exciting. Out of this idea came the brand GIRLS FROM OMSK.

Siniouchkina's ‘girls’ are fictional Lolitas that have leapt from the pages of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel. They live in the Siberian city of Omsk, and share a burning desire to jump on a motorbike and discover what the world has to offer. By 2007, the first collection was ready. It was in a streetwear style: jeans, t-shirts with bright prints and jackets. Over the past fi ve years, the girls travelled to Los Angeles, New York, London, Berlin, Rome and Moscow, always bringing back fresh fashion ideas.

In winter 2010, the girls visited Paris and came back with a more feminine look. Streetwear had become casual fashion. "We started using higher quality fabrics, and began making elegant clothing, but with a touch of humour and offering something quirky and alternative. And we changed our name from GIRLS FROM OMSK to simply OMSK, so that the guys wearing our clothes would feel more comfortable,” said Valeria.

Siniouchkina is the designer and the driver behind the company, but she’s not completely alone.

OMSK Icons shirts feature famous figures from Russian culture. Source: Slava Petrakina

OMSK Icons shirts feature famous figures from Russian culture. Source: Slava Petrakina

Philippe Koeune manages the commercial side of the business and designs the men's collection. Irina Kikina, a textile designer working in London for various labels, also helps the Belgian- Russian label with graphics.

"You can fi nd our clothes in multi-brand stores in many countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Spain, Hong Kong etc), but now we feel it’s more profi table to develop online trading, rather than open our own store," said Valeria.

According to Koeune, who looks after the commercial side of things, at the moment online sales bring in 25 per cent of their revenue, but the company hopes to expand this sector. Valeria, whose father was born in Omsk, thus providing the Siberian connection, expresses her Russian origins in another of the label’s quirky offerings - OMSK ICONS.

This sub-label features t-shirts and sweatshirts printed with the images of certain famous figures from Russian culture and history, including writers Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Mayakovsky, and musicians Viktor Tsoi and Vladimir Vysotsky. "We try not to bang on about our history.

Maybe some people aren’t interested in knowing who the guy with the beard is on their t-shirt, but we’re trying to offer something new, not only visually, but also intellectually," said Siniouchkina.

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