Inspirationist exclusive: Interview with fashion designer Irina Dzhus

DZHUS is a conceptual wear brand launched in 2010 by Ukrainian designer Irina Dzhus. Vanguard yet utilitarian, DZHUS’ visual identity derives from innovative structural solutions. The brand’s design concepts are based on interaction and transformation of construction modules, aimed to create new aesthetics of the form – unique and virtually archetypical at the same time, categoric but variable. Reserved colouring and technical textures are characteristic features of DZHUS. Each piece carries a distinctive ideological message. DZHUS’ collections are inspired by things at the edge of perception: from spiritual strongholds to abandoned industrial zones. DZHUS’ customer is a perfectionist who longs for an uncompromisingly complementary form for her own spiritual substance. Neither her age, nor occupation matters, but only her ability to comprehend a piece of clothing intellectually. DZHUS is a vegetarian-friendly brand. All the products are made of violence-free materials.

Find out more about DZHUS and the designer behind it from our Q&A:

What I always wanted to create was a conceptual fashion product worn by intelligent and independent individuals in their everyday life.

INSPIRATIONIST: Where are you from and where do you live now?

Irina Dzhus: I’m currently based in my native city, Kiev.

I: What’s your background? How did you fall in love with fashion and why?

I.D.: In my early years, I was keen on creating different kinds of art, but when I was 5 I clearly realised I wanted to design clothes. My favourite activity was exploring my granny’s vintage magazines and making my own fashion sketches. To improve my skills, I went to a children’s professional art school, where well-known Ukrainian artists became my teachers. Despite coming from a non-artistic family, I was surrounded with that amazing creative atmosphere during my school years and since then, for me there already was no way back to the normal way of living. However, for me fine art still remained just a tool for bringing my fashion concepts to life. It’s hard to recall a particular reason of my passion for design, but I could never imagine my life without it.

I: Where do you spend most of your time, and what does a typical day for you entail?

I.D.: I either work at home (I prefer privacy when working on new designs) or supervise the production at the studio, or take part in some project, as a stylist. I almost never have weekends, but my everyday life is quite diverse and exciting, so I don’t regret having no time for hobbies.

I: What is your favourite part of your job?

I.D.: Most of all, I enjoy seeing my ethereal concepts materialised, after many hours of research, experiments and crafting. Also, watching people wear my pieces brings me an incredible feeling, as this has always been the main purpose of my designs.

I: Can you describe an evolution in your work from when you began until today?

I.D.: In my early collections, I mainly used synthetic materials, as they helped keep the complex, exaggerated shapes I designed and create an edgy, industrial look. My work often got featured on blogs and social media, however, DZHUS had much more admirers than real customers. Moreover, I’ve gained a reputation of a futuristic wearable art designer, which had never been my aim, even despite my collaboration with The Hunger Games and some celebrities. What I always wanted to create was a conceptual fashion product worn by intelligent and independent individuals in their everyday life.

Having realised that I had to move further in my approach to design, I started to develop my technological skills, as well as my aesthetical taste and ethical worldview, and have reconsidered my vision of a modern fashion product. I found it even more exciting to adapt my innovative cut concepts to the ready-to-wear reality, in terms of customers’ comfort and quality requirements. Now I only use natural fabrics, including wool, yet accompany those with my signature industrial-inspired finishes and accessories (I impregnate denim with rubber, bleach linen, pipe my signature exposed seams with elastic etc.), and I see how people’s perception of DZHUS has changed, along with increase of demand.

Issey Miyake, with his pleating revolution, has influenced my work more than any other  designer.

I: If you had to choose one single designer who has provided a source of inspiration for you personally –who would it be and why?
I.D.: Really hard to choose, but, I think, Issey Miyake, with his pleating revolution, has influenced my work more than any other  designer.

I: Which is your favourite piece of clothing?

I.D.: Although it’s not particularly a piece of clothing, I absolutely adore my Shwood sunglasses from the “Stone” collection. I admire the texture of slate they are covered with, and this accessory totally complements my look.

I: Which of your designs is your personal favourite and why?

I.D.: Another hard choice! I’m very critical about my own ideas, which means all of my designs that have been eventually released, really display innovative cut and distinctive aesthetics. However, personally, I especially value the Interflow Shirt from my AW16. Made of authentic workers’ uniform cotton, this piece has a unique construction, with its collar merged with the sleeves, and a special finish: seams are piped with elastic on the right side of the garment, which extends past the edge of the sleeves’ bottom edge, as loops for hands. The shirt is edgy-looking yet totally wearable and embodies DZHUS’ identity quite perfectly.

I: How do you unwind?

I.D.: I have to permanently handle so many aspects of the brand besides design itself, that when I have time to work on some new concepts, without any interaction, this is the best relaxation for me so far. I’d like to say I enjoy walking along an old park or a river, or just staying at home for a whole day to fulfill my cooking fantasies, however, this never happens in reality. Luckily, I regularly travel in business, so I’m trying to get as many impressions as possible en route.

I: What kind of music are you listening to at the moment?

I.D.: Now I’m totally into gypsy music, retro emigrant songs and other examples of authentic marginal lyrics.

I: What is your favourite colour?

I.D.: Both black and grey.

Read also: ‘Totalitarium’ expresses juxtaposition between total unification and strong individuality

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