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#LOfficielFriends: Ruslan Baginskiy

Ruslan Baginskiy: «Istanbul would be a canoe with a chain strap. Its chain is not to fly against the strong winds of the Bosphorus. Its straight edges are to protect from the burning sun and cool breeze of the city.»
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Next to L'Officiel friends is Ruslan Baginskiy, the young, successful and popular hat designer of today.

“When we look at the history of the hat, we can see the symbols of different cultures. Sometimes it even has philosophical and political meanings. Sometimes used as a symbol of power, sometimes a symbol of faith. So when we talk about hats, we can't just talk about fashion,” says Ruslan Baginskiy. Everyone from Madonna to Miley Cyrus, Chiara Ferragni to Bella Hadid is after his designs. For Baginskiy, the possibilities for wearing a hat are endless. There are no limits, only freedom and creativity.

Before starting your own brand in 2015, you were working as a stylist in the fashion industry. How was your transition to design? How did you decide to design hats?

When I was working with Ukrainian designers during fashion weeks, I became curious about accessories design, as I could not find accessories suitable for the concept and aesthetics of the fashion shows. After a few seasons, I realized that designing accessories, especially hats, was what inspired me the most. With this discovery, I quit being a stylist and started my own brand.

 

As far as we know, all of your designs are produced in Kiev, Ukraine. Why Kiev?

In Lviv, the city where I live, there were no hat craftsmen that I could learn from the master. So I found the solution by knocking on the door of the last hat makers living in Kiev. I have to admit that I had a hard time at first. I am currently doing all my production in Kiev.

What are you inspired when designing a hat?

Hat design is all about experiments with shapes and textures. Each design has a different mood and inspiration. Last summer I put my collection on 'Less is more!' I wanted to create elegant and timeless hats rather than details and decorations.

At a time when hat craftsmanship disappeared from the fashion's radar, you made a second couture collection called 'TSVIT VOL. What does Couture mean to you?

For me, launching a couture line was an important step in developing my brand. Couture is the most special way to express myself. A way that makes me feel free and forget the existence of limits. I need to produce timeless designs in the fast fashion age. Couture makes it possible to slow down, look around and give time to get to know myself. 'TSVIT' is an art project that we realized with talented photographers Synchrodogs and designer Julie Pelipas. The reason we present it with the photo series is pandemic. In such a process, we decided to present it in digital format, regardless of the official fashion calendar.

At the presentation of the Couture collection, jewelery-inspired hats and hair accessories such as gold flower crown and necklace caught our attention. Do you also consider designing jewelry?

Yes, it has been my dream for a long time. The special design pieces you mentioned are a small preview of my future jewelery collection that we plan to launch in the summer of 2021.

 

The fashion system has changed dramatically in recent years. Many brands and designers are participating in the sustainable fashion movement. What are your principles regarding sustainability?

Our future is our responsibility. So is sustainability, but it is difficult to change the system at once. We proceed step by step. We ensure that our employees work in good conditions and receive fair wages; We avoid overproduction and use digital catalogs instead of printed materials. Sustainability is one of the main motives of our second couture collection and I think this is a very important message. Because couture is rarely associated with recycled materials. For example, the traditional Ukrainian hibiscus you see on the gold crown was created from recycled plastic bottles, and some of the items for the collection were collected from auctions and antiques shops.

 

We've seen hat designs from Madonna to Taylor Swift, Bella and Gigi Hadid to Miley Cyrus. How does it feel to work with such strong women, or rather icons?

The names you mentioned have inspired me for years. I am very happy to work with them. I also feel lucky to have the opportunity to meet personally. Aimee Song and Chiara Ferragni were the first to wear the hats I designed. I remember many street style photographers getting stuck in their lenses. But I had the real turning point with Bella Hadid and Kaia Gerber. They had attended a magazine's party wearing my hats. I am very excited to include new names in the RB team. I recently designed a hat for BLACKPINK.

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In history, hats have always been a symbol of cultural movements or part of uniforms. Now it is an indispensable accessory of the wardrobes of all women who love fashion… How do you explain this transformation?

I think this question deserves a separate lesson on fashion history. Nowadays, hats are not a must-have item in our daily wardrobe other than royal families' wardrobes. Still, it is now almost impossible to imagine a woman's or a man's wardrobe without a hat. I'm not just talking about fashionistas. We all need a hat that keeps our heads warm during the winter months and a straw model for summer vacation. My designs are aimed at very different audiences. Our favorite customers are hat lovers who like to take risks and try out different styles.

 

So what would Istanbul look like if it were a hat?

I only visited Istanbul twice. But it was enough for me to fall in love with the city. Istanbul is a city of contrasts for me. The city of magnificent food and tables. City of hundreds of thousands of cats living on its streets. And the city of different cultures that manages to live together. I don't know if I can describe all this with a hat, but let me try. Istanbul would be a canoe with a chain strap. Its chain is not to fly against the strong winds of the Bosphorus. Its straight edges are to protect from the burning sun and cool breeze of the city.

We are witnessing the second wave of the global pandemic. Restrictions and measures are increasing day by day. It is not possible to talk about a positive picture for the fashion industry, especially for independent brands and designers. As a new and emerging designer, how do you see the future of post-pandemic fashion?

Frankly, it's hard to guess. Everything is changing dramatically. I could not have imagined that a year ago I would have to answer this question and the industry would face these challenges. There are changes we are already seeing, observing. We can talk about them. For example, the transition to sustainable fashion has now become a conscious choice for customers. However, it should be underlined that the factors that trigger this choice are quarantine measures, logistical and economic restrictions. Conscious and responsible consumption must be on our agenda in the near future. People took time to think about their choices, choices during this time. Tough times are times to transform and be reborn. It has always been like this throughout history. This way maybe the fashion industry can get rid of unnecessary marketing gimmicks and open up new and meaningful ways to grow.

 

Finally, how should we choose the right hat? Let's ask the expert ...

First of all, it should fit your face shape, be made of natural materials and of course the right size for your head. But I think the important thing is to find the hat that you can achieve with a 'cool' and stylish look.

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