“I have another way. I want to create clothes for normal people with fantasies. I don’t create things for IT girls. It is my way.” It was challenging to visit Lesia Paramonova‘s showroom and try to speak to her about her trajectory, given the language barrier between us but the few precious sentences told me everything I needed to know. I’ve written about Moscow-based designer Paramonova and her three year old label LES’ numerous times before so even on this brief trip to Moscow, squeezing in time to go and meet her in person and see how she works was absolutely imperative.
Our conversation may have been sparse but then again, Paramonova has always communicated plenty with her imagery and her visuals as well as her clothes. Her clothes are embedded with endearingly fantastical narratives and they’re made to be worn in real life as well as being somewhat accessible in pricing. When Paramonova talks about “normal” people and providing a way into fantasy for them, perhaps what she means is that her clothes, whilst inspired by magical tales and photographed in otherworldly scenarios, are actually wholly wearable (often with drawstring-enabled free-sizing) and priced reasonably – the most expensive piece is about £300 with the transformative base tulle dresses coming in at an affordable £80.
When Paramonova said she doesn’t cater to IT girls, you could also read between the lines about her take on the state of Russian fashion. As gleaned from my recent snapshot of Moscow’s fashion scene, many labels seem to rely on IT girl hype (and Moscow has plenty of them) and a local celebrity scene to flourish and be picked up by stockists. You could say that about designers the world over but in Moscow, somehow this seems more exacerbated. Paramonova prefers to communicate her vision through Instagram to garner customers all over the world. The first time I wrote about LES’, she was just selling a few pieces through email orders. Now she has a fully functioning web store, selling her latest collaboration with the illustrator Hsiao Ron Cheng and also her ‘Base’ collection of soft tulle dresses and printed bodies and leggings. USA, Ukraine and of course her native Russia are her biggest customer bases at the moment.
Paramonova’s operation scale is small but efficient. She works from both a tiny showroom at the back of a social hub called the Scandinavia Club and also from her factory just outside of Moscow. All of her clothes are made in Russia – something she is adamant about, despite the fact that reliable factories and manufacturers are hard to come by. Her husband works with her to sort out the logistics of the web store and shipping packages internationally and Paramonova ensures that every package is sprinkled with glitter and stars so that the receiver gets a sparkly surprise when it arrives. Despite doing most of her business through the internet, these personal touches are still inherently important to Paramonova.
All LES’ packages are sprinkled with fairy dust…
Whilst poking around Paramonova’s studio, it’s apparently clear what her inspirations are – the wonder of nature, flora, fauna, animals and the surreal ways they can be incorporated and hybridised with one another. This is evident in the examples of sketches she showed me that have recently been published as part of a book that showcases Russian designers and their sketch process. Whether it’s freehand quickfire sketches or more carefully drawn out illustrations, Paramonova centres her figures around the girl or creature wearing the clothes and their faces. It’s the spirit of the girl that matters, which is why Paramonova has found fans all over the world. She doesn’t need people to touch or see her clothes in person to get what LES’ is all about. They can see it in the vision of her lookbooks, her photoshoots and her Instagram.
Away from the mystical Russia in Paramonova’s head, I’ve quite literally bought my LES’ garments back down to earth. Thankfully, even my crappy back lawn can be somewhat elevated by LES’ matching retro floral printed leggings and body with her core tulle dress worn over it.
N15’s shoddy grass is certainly a far cry from a pink forest on the outskirts of Moscow, where Paramonova shot these beautiful images, with ongoing collaborator photographer Alina Valitova. It’s an orgy for all Manic Pixie Dream Girls out there with the composition of cloud-like smoke, silver foiling and a perfect white pony to boot. But the MPDG acronym is in no way a slight on what Paramonova does. With little resources, in a tricky environment for young designers and, in a relatively short space of time Paramonova has built up a functioning realm of a business that works for her without impressive stockists or starry IT girl champions. And it’s a magical realm. One where you’d hope that Paramonova can flourish for the foreseeable future.