TALK TO ME: Anastasia Lomonova, part I

Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

Anastasia Lomonova has been called “Montreal’s rising star” seemingly forever. Now, after winning the Toronto Fashion Incubator’s (TFI) New Labels competition (and a $35,000 grant) in April, she’s sprinting toward fashion star status.

After four grueling months under the watchful eye of the Canadian fashion scene’s elite (including the womenswear buyer for Holt Renfrew and the editor-in-chief of ELLE Canada), Lomonova emerged with a collection so brilliantly simple that it won over both the judges and the crowd. From a self-professed “wannabe painter” to one of the most promising talents to come out of Montreal since Denis Gagnon, Lomonova is looking to move into more custom, one-of-a-kind work for Spring 2011. She won’t move to Toronto (or anywhere else for that matter), but we won’t hold it against her.

Tell me about your journey. How did you get into fashion?

“I wanted to be a painter—I had formal training and everything. Somehow, though, I never really felt that I had much to offer to the world with painting. I was looking for a way to express myself in an everyday setting, where my creations would infiltrate day-to-day life. To me, fashion is the ultimate means of self-expression—clothes really tell so much about a person, they can make us feel a different way. That aspect was very attractive to me, so I enrolled in Ryerson’s fashion program. I only lasted two years there before moving to Montreal to intern with designers, and finally start my own line.”

You won the TFI New Labels competition. How did you stay focused through the process and not let the hype of being a finalist get to you?

“I never compete with anyone else—ever. I don’t think that life is really about being better than someone else, but rather being better than yourself, if that makes any sense. I don’t compete with anyone else other than myself and it’s usually a pretty intense battle!”

What were the most challenging parts of the competition?

“I had my spring production and deliveries in full swing, and my fall line, samples, and the TFI collection to complete all in one shot. I work alone so there were many all-nighters pulled this past winter! But the judges really pulled me out of my comfort zone creatively. It wasn’t easy, but I’m a much better designer because of it.”

What have you been up to since your win?

“I’ve been taking it easy. The past year drained me completely. I’m working on my spring line now, and I’m looking to create more one-of-a-kind pieces that will be made to order. I would prefer to focus more on elaborate design and really create a name for myself in that domain rather than with mass-production.”

You’re still based in Montreal. Any plans to head on down to Toronto or New York?

“I love Montreal! I am not leaving, ever! I’ve lived in Toronto and I have been to New York a few times, but as someone who knows this city (meaning Montreal) well, I know that it has the kind of gold that Toronto and New York combined would not be able to offer! I am sure there are many that would disagree with me, but I stand by my words.”

What inspires you?

“People, life and events. I’m not one to do extensive research on any specific trend or time period. I think you can have a creative journey just sitting at your kitchen table with a cup of coffee, a pencil and a pad of paper. Inspiration is a fickle friend—when it’s there, I won’t eat or sleep and just work, work, work. When it’s not, I just wander around purposelessly wondering what to do with myself!”

Who is your favourite person (other than a designer) in the fashion world?

“Anna Wintour. I love how tough and direct she is.”

If you could collaborate with any person (past or present) on any project (fashion-related or otherwise), who would it be and what would you create?

“Absolutely any shoot involving David Lachapelle. If not, I would at least like to meet him—he is amazing!”

If you’re ever in Montreal…

“…ring me up, I’ll show you around.”

Tomorrow: Part II of our conversation with Anastasia Lomonova.

Below, sweet Spring 2010 looks from Anastasia Lomonova.

Anna Wintour, then.

Anna Wintour, now (with Grace Coddington).

Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow, photographed by David LaChapelle.

Read more interviews with fascinating fashion-y personalities in our Talk to Me section!

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