Rustam Iskhakov: ''To be well-dressed doesn’t mean wearing swanky brands''

Kazan designer about fashion, psychology and glutted clothes market

Rustam Iskhakov stopped being only a Kazan designer a long time ago, people wear his clothes in many countries of the world. Very maestro Vyacheslav Zaitsev is obligatorily present in his shows in Moscow. Iskhakov is the only designer in Kazan who stages full-fledged collection shows, and one of them is to take place in the short run. In an interview to Realnoe Vremya, he told how to achieve success in the market of the fashion industry.

''We found a new format for the studio''

Rustam, could you tell our readers how the market of fashionable clothes develops in Kazan, please?

Now it's time for social networks, everyone is able to create an account and use it as advertising space. Kazan has many designers, I don't know many of them personally. But I can say they make their accounts in a very beautiful way. And there is an impression that it isn't just a designer but the owner of the whole fashion empire that probably has been existing for tens of years. I don't know what happens in reality. I'm interested in it myself and I try to follow whom we have, what a direction they work in. The city has boutiques that present off-the-peg products of world brands. Clothes of Russian designers also started to appear. The assortment of the offered clothes is very wide. The competition is quite high, and it is fine, it encourages, you understand you can't relax, you constantly need to be up to date, make new collections, develop.

RUSTAM has been existing in the market for a long time already…

Since 2005, the time has passed fast. RUSTAM has been 12 years old this year. We accept orders, sew collections, participate in exhibitions, events.

Your studio had been in one place for many years, and you suddenly moved. Why?

We rented a room above great restaurant Bachelor's Refuge. It is one of my favourite restaurants. It started to develop, grow, and I'm very glad for them. Our former lessor, the owner of the restaurant, offered to move to his another room. But I found my own option, it was more preferable. We found a room that was bigger than we had. And this new place allowed us to organise a showroom here. Our clients like the new format very much. One can find a thing off the peg and look at fabrics, take measurements and sew new clothes. In other words, it became a full cycle.

Do you rent this new room?

Yes, it is almost 200 square metres here.

And how many employees do you have?

Not many, eight people.

''The assortment of the offered clothes is very wide. The competition is quite high, and it is fine, it encourages, you understand you can't relax, you constantly need to be up to date, make new collections, develop.'' Photo:

''We ''added degrees''

Do people buy clothes off the peg or order?

It depends. It depends on preferences of our clients. Somebody says they never order clothes and buy only ready-made clothes. There are clients who combine the purchase of clothes off the peg and individual orders. There are those who prefer to order clothes made to their own measurements. We have off-the-peg clothes, they're in our showroom. Every client can evaluate our quality and style of work. The range of sizes we make is wide and can reach 3XL.

The range of sizes used to be shorter.

We gradually ''added degrees'' understanding that women are different, we do our best for everybody. We're not afraid of sizes. And even when corpulent women come – with European 48 plus size – we have off-the-peg options that they can try on, and then the client can order clothes easier. Sometimes they immediately find the necessary outfit among the ready-made clothes. But I don't show big sizes in the showroom because they don't look presentable when they are on the hangers. It is a thin aesthetic moment. Even if I show a big size dress to a corpulent woman, she can be afraid, such a dress doesn't look beautiful on the hangers. When such a dress is tried on, it is seen that everything is fine. We need to understand it.

Are your trips to Fashion Weeks in Moscow economically justified?

I started with the Russian Fashion Week (it's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week now) that provides a platform only for demonstration of collections. Then we started to cooperate with Fashion Week in Moscow that takes place in Gostiny Dvor. This fashion week is more attractive for us because apart from staging shows, a designer can rent an exhibition area and present his collection in the showroom for closer examination. RUSTAM brand has been participating in Fashion Weeks since 2004, and we already had our clients and fans in Moscow. The clientele is big, they wait for us to come with a new collection again. The fashion week doesn't take place often, only twice a year. People manage to miss when we're absent and look forward to seeing us again.

''We have off-the-peg clothes, they're in our showroom. Every client can evaluate our quality and style of work. The range of sizes we make is wide and can reach 3XL.'' Photo:

''A show is a celebration''

You're the only designer in Kazan who stages full-fledged shows of your collections by European standards. How difficult is it in terms of economy? Does it bring dividends?

It's difficult to stage, it's expensive. Of course, we look at our financial possibilities and stage shows when we have such possibilities. Personally, when I stage a show, I think about the impact the least. A show is a celebration, it is an image advertising, it is a kind of limit at work, a short-term goal we set and aspire for. There is a desire to show what we can do and create a positive mood for people, present the brand. The show is also important for our employees – the tailors who make clothes. Preparation for a show, first samples – it inspires. People are interested in making this collection.

We recently started to attract partners to shows, for so-called collaboration. There are several companies that are interested in it. For instance, a company that sells glasses, it is important to show them on somebody, companies making jewellery, shows. We create outfits together that we present to the audience later. So it is very beautiful and, on the other hand, mutually beneficial. We agree with partners that we shoot the advertising campaign with their product and demonstrate it in the show. There are partners who would like to demonstrate their culinary skills, they're responsible for catering in the event. Cooperation, communication is very important. It is a way for new ideas and inspiration.

Once you had a desire to sell clothes abroad. Do you have such plans now?

The world changes, we also change, our values change, a philosophic view of life appears. Today I understand that people, they are the same everywhere. Of course, I can't say that ''no, I don't want to sell abroad and I won't do it''. If it happens so, if it is possible one day, why not? But I won't aspire for it at all costs. I'm cool with both Kazan and Moscow. I'm glad that not only citizens of Kazan but residents of other cities of Russia and foreigners visit our studio. Kazan is a tourist city, people who are interested in fashion and want to buy something from local designers, write the question ''designers in Kazan'' in their gadgets and come to me.

So is the Internet the main means of advertising?

Yes, right. Though word-of-mouth marketing has always existed and exists. So people know the address on the Internet, come, acquaint with our work and buy. Our clothes went to Switzerland, America, Canada, China and many other countries, it's difficult for me to remember everything now.

''Kazan is a tourist city, people who are interested in fashion and want to buy something from local designers, write the question ''designers in Kazan'' in their gadgets and come to me.'' Photo: Roman Khasaev

''I started to create clothes for men''

Rustam, you had been refusing to sew men's clothes for many years. And I suddenly see clothes for men in your collection. Where does such a change come from?

I started as a designer of women's clothes. It was interesting to me at the very beginning and now. From time to time I thought about men, what a product that did not exist I could create. I gradually had a male image of RUSTAM brand, how it should look, what it had inside, how it lived. It became a character of a very active person at the wheel, he travels a lot, he is a smart and creative, a bit Bohemian person. When such a character appeared, I decided I could launch a small collection for men. Time will show because RUSTAM really makes clothes for men. And it needs to be transmitted somehow, so that people will see. There will be men's clothes in the new collection.

How much time does it take to sew a new collection?

Fabrics are selected first, then colours are chosen… Sewing takes about 6 months. It is a term when you work calmly, steadily, without hurry. Probably this term will seem long to somebody. But apart from making a collection, we sew for individual clients. A client's order is the No. 1 priority. We can't say to clients: ''Sorry, we're making a collection now, wait.'' Sometimes we work on a collection faster, for 3-4 months. But 3 months are the shortest term.

Do companies make corporate orders? For instance, kits?

Companies often turn to us. I have to refuse them in many cases because it is a big order, clothes for many people need to be made. Our production format doesn't presuppose such big volumes. I have an acquaintance, she has a factory. I usually send such clients to her. But if we are talking about making 10-15 things, we don't refuse such companies. For instance, we worked with Tatspirtprom in such conditions. We created a corporate style for restaurants – from cooks to waiters. It is an interesting job. It doesn't happen often but it happens.

''Sometimes I work as a psychologist''

How do you think a well-dressed person looks?

I can't evaluate clothes separately from a person. I always consider a totality. I've been invited on TV many times, they wanted to make a programme like Take It Off Immediately!. I always refuse because the same Fashionable Sentence that I watch sometimes is often interesting, and a heroine is famous in the end. And it's seen sometimes that a woman is in shock, she can't accept herself so. This is why we don't have the right to up and cut a person's hair, change its colour, clothes and say: ''You understand nothing, this is what clothes a person should wear!'' I'm against such forced measures. One needs to treat such a person very carefully, we all have a big number of complexes (or experience), we live with it. When a person comes to a designer asks for help, I understand that clothes are not the main thing. Clothes will be a bonus then. The most important thing is to talk to the person and understand him. Psychology needs to be considered in our work. We need to understand how the person lives, let him express his fears and doubts, externalise the person's virtues. When you work so, the person opens and becomes completely different. I'm for it.

''I adore mass market. There is a possibility to mix one thing with another in a great way, I advise everybody to do so.'' Photo:

Does it mean that you have to work with clients as a psychologist?

Yes, it is psychology, first of all. I don't like when I'm asked what's in vogue in this season, what trends, I'm not interested in it at all. Probably I'm cunning in part. But before creating a new collection, I ask myself a question: ''What do I want?'' And I start listening to myself – what colour and length I want, what silhouettes I want to introduce now, what a woman I want to see in the new season. I don't start carrying it inside, images and colours come to me. I don't look anywhere, either to the left or the right. Then it turns out I hit the trend – my colours, my silhouettes are on trend. Sometimes I go ahead of a season. The palette I will show in November can be bravely used in spring.

''I adore the mass market''

Where does Rustam Iskhakov dress?

Rustam Iskhakov dresses himself. Of course, I like to dress in Europe, Milan or Paris. Here I'm at work, when you go somewhere, the mood is different, it inclines to go shopping. I do it with pleasure. I used to work as a buyer, I brought collections from Europe to Kazan. I understand that every boutique in Russia makes its own selection, they don't bring the whole collection. They bring what our clients will seem to like. I have both expensive and mass-market brands. I adore the mass market. There is a possibility to mix one thing with another in a great way, I advise everybody to do so. There are brand dependent people, and there are those who mix expensive brands, mass market and vintage. It happens due to the freedom of thought. To be dressed nice and in style doesn't mean being dressed in brands only.

What pitfalls wait for young designers?

Everybody's fate is different. But there is one recipe for success: ''Love!'' Love what you do because if you think how to make money, everything will fail. You need to love and give first to make money. The money will come then.

By Tatiana Mamaeva