Inspired by our Russian heritage, Vilshenko designs blend a modern aesthetic with a timeless feminine style. Delicate floral prints, quality fabrics and classic cuts make every item of Vilshenko clothing as unique as the woman wearing them.

Our founder and designer Olga Vilshenko answers some questions about how the brand came to be.

What was the inspiration for the Vilshenko clothing brand?

I grew up in Soviet Russia, where our choice of clothing stores was very limited. My mom would make clothes for friends and family, and my sister and I would help. Over time, by helping her, I learned the skills to create clothing and fell in love with the idea of fashion and clothing design. For my mom, making clothes was both a hobby and a supplement to her wages, but I knew that I wanted to make it my focus in life.

Russian folklore and traditions have always inspired me and I really enjoy taking those stories and elements of history and bringing them to the modern age. Vilshenko clothing always features traditional Russian clothing styles and patterns, such as khokhloma or gzhel, which I think are incredibly beautiful and lend themselves perfectly to modern fashion.

What has the Vilshenko journey been so far?

In my hometown, there is no institute for fashion or clothing design, so originally I trained to be an accountant like my mom. But after graduating, I had an opportunity to study fashion at the Chelyabinsk Humanities Institute. This opened the door for me to follow my dream and, after that course finished, I moved to London to study at the branch of Istituto Marangoni there.

Of course, for fashion, London is a global centre in the industry and one of the most inspiring cities. Marangoni too is based in Shoreditch which is known as a cutting edge area for fashion and culture, which is very inspiring.

Although I was technically proficient, I needed to understand the bigger picture of being a designer, and how to create a collection for each season that would be relevant to the fashion world.

Not long after graduating, I set up my business. This was a very tough time for me, and I think the business side can make it hard to focus on creativity, especially at the beginning.

I believe I was very lucky to have a great term behind me at the start. In fact Sarah Richardson was one of the people who helped steer my designs more towards Russian heritage, which is something I had been unsure about. When we put together a lookbook of designs it showed that this had been the right choice. We were noticed by fashion editors because of our unique style. And this strong early look also helped us to secure an excellent and experienced Managing Director in Fiona Ennis, who has over 25 years experience running fashion brands.

Of course, it hasn't been easy, and there have been many ups and downs and many learning curves. We released a swimwear collection and also had a shopfront in Moscow. But today, we’re keeping our focus on our wholesalers rather than a physical location.

Is there a muse or person you have in mind when designing collections?

It’s hard for me to define an exact muse or person, but strong women are always a big influence on my ideas. In Russia, we have a type of woman, Tsarina, who is like a Queen or strong character who I always refer to for inspiration.

Of course it is very flattering when we see successful women wearing Vilshenko designs, with women such as Florence Welsh, Gwyneth Paltrow, Heidi Klum, Natalia Vodianova and Alexa Chung championing my designs. But for me, it’s about the woman in the street with a unique sense of style. She could be from any cultural background, but she loves traditional feminine motifs and vintage fashion and understands how to wear them.

Vilshenko is about elegance and a delicate style, but with a strong character. Women who wear Vilshenko are, I feel, creative and playful and perhaps have a slight Tomboyish sparkle to them. But they revel in their femininity and want to wear something that is classically stylish without sacrificing their comfort.

How do you work sustainably within the modern clothing industry?

Although the awareness around sustainability in clothing is something that has recently gone mainstream, it’s an ethos I’ve always followed for my own designs. Growing up, my mother would often mend clothing or repurpose other fabrics or offcuts, and I keep the mindset of sustainability in every collection we do.

With Vilshenko all of the fabrics we use are natural and, where possible, organic. We carefully monitor our supply chain to be sure we use only the best fabrics from sustainable sources, and our most recent lines no longer feature real leather or suede. Although we love the aesthetic of fur, we believe it looks better on the animal, so we strive to use only the best quality and most sustainable faux fur in our designs.

We know, also, that the well-being of factory workers and the local economies where our designs are made is just as important as the materials we use. We use factories in India, Nepal and in Europe, and we take steps regularly to ensure that workers are treated well and that factories follow local regulations and labour laws.

What do you see for Vilshenko in the future?

I find it thrilling that the Russian influenced style that we have been one of the main proponents of, in the modern fashion sense, is becoming more popular. As the style of my native culture, I love sharing this with the world and I feel like we’ve only just started on our journey here at Vilshenko.

It’s always fascinated me how the online retail market totally breaks down borders, and of course the website has been a huge part of our success. Our focus is always on providing high quality clothing for discerning women, and building our brand through our network of global wholesalers, and pop-ups here in London, has been crucial to our success. But, I would also love to build on this and see Vilshenko available in our own stores around the world.

We’ve focused mainly on clothing so far, but I’m excited to say that we have plans to bring the Vilshenko style to accessories, which I’m looking forward to experimenting with. As a huge shoe addict, I would love to design footwear for Vilshenko one day. I think the day will come, but we have to focus on doing each step perfectly before starting on a whole new path.

Tsarinas wearing VILSHENKO: