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From Ukraine to Hollywood: Costume Designer Viktoriia Vlasenko

Viktorria Vlasenko
Costume Designer Viktoriia Vlasenko

Now an in-demand global costume designer, Ukraine-born Viktoriia Vlasenko first discovered her love and innate talent for her craft when she was just 8 years old. Vlasenko used her spare time to make party clothes for herself, her mother and her dolls, she even designed to suit her younger brother wore to his graduation.

Keen to continue her love of costume design, Vlasenko completed a Bachelor’s degree in fashion design at the Milan Institute of Design IED (Istituto Europeo di Design) which is among the top 7 universities in the world which specialize in fashion design.

After she graduated from the prestigious university, Vlasenko went full speed ahead and participated in a number of fashion shows and causes. She showed a collection at the Fashion Show 2015 New Talents Vogue Milan for young designers, and even participated in the No War project. The No War project was something very close to her heart, as it allowed her to protest against the war in Ukraine. Her impressive creative contributions to the project were also published in the “No War” book, which sold over 100,000 copies.

Viktoriia Vlasenko is a global sensation, as her work goes a lot further than simply Milan and her home country of Ukraine. Some of her work includes creating costumes for high-profile theatre productions, philharmonic societies, music videos and more. Among her many highlights as a costume designer is creating the breathtaking wardrobe for the cast of the production of “Alice in Wonderland” directed by Dmitriy Obednokov, which was held at the Ukraine Philharmonic with musical support from the chamber choir.

Viktoriia Vlasenko
Actors from “Alice in Wonderland” in costumes designed by Viktoriia Vlasenko

She has dressed stars such as Latin-Grammy-nominated singer and actress Natalia Oreiro for the red carpet, and has designed for SaM (Samvel Arzumanov) and his Freedom International label.

Vlasenko also designed dazzling costumes that singer Olga Pechko, the winner of the All-Ukrainian competition, wore during her performances earlier this year while on tour across Ukraine. Pechko discovered Vlasenko’s unique style after stumbling upon one of the designer’s doll collections, an area of design that she has become increasingly well known for over the years.

“She saw my Forged Iron Dummies collection and envisioned them as garments for her show and then asked me to design her costumes,” recalls Vlasenko.

Viktoriia Vlasenko
Forged Iron Dummy by Viktoriia Vlasenko

In addition to designing countless theatrical productions and costumes for the stars, Vlasenko has been tapped as the costume designer on an impressive list of films including multi-award winning director Catharine Lin’s (“Twenty Years After”) romantic film “Mr. Heart” starring Greyson Todd (“Mind, Body and Bullshit,” “Let Me Go”) and Ivan Sharudo (“The Lincoln”). As every project is unique in itself and requires something completely different to take it the next level, Vlasenko’s creative process understandably varies from project to project.

When it comes to designing costumes for the cast of a film production, like that of the upcoming Ukrainian film “Unworld,” Vlasenko says, “I read the scenario; then I learn the subject of costume and film epoch.. Then I think over the ideas, calculate the production and how much time it will take, then start to draw the design, select fabric and materials. After this – purchase of materials and the costume production itself after agreement of the design with the film director.”

Viktoriia Vlasenko
Costume for “Unworld” designed by Viktoriia Vlasenko

As the costume designer on “Unworld,” an upcoming urban fantasy film directed by Mykhailo Andriiets, Vlasenko created a series of highly-technical costumes. While “Unworld” depicts a war between futuristic robots equipped with powerful digital technology and the mythical monsters of yore, the dystopian film has an underlying message of unity. In the midst of an all out war, the film’s seemingly disadvantaged human characters band together and use the robot’s digital technology in order to bring down the established order.

Bringing to mind images of films like “V for Vendetta” and “Blade Runner,” but placing her own unique spin on things, Vlasenko’s costumes for “Unworld” are incredibly stylized; and they’re a key in transporting the audience into such a far-out world. You can get a sneak peak into Vlasenko’s designs for the film from the clip below.

“Viktoriia created the concept images, designed the costumes, coordinated accessories and worked out the technical elements for the costumes to work for the actors performances, she pretty much did the work of a concept artist, costume designer, technologist, seamstress, and prop master,” says Ukrainian director Mykhailo Andriiets.

“Working with Viktoriia is inspiring… you can not see where the boundaries of her talent and optimism ends. She is a great professional because of her boundless imagination and diligence… She believes in success and does everything possible to achieve it.”

Though Vlasenko has made a strong name for herself in Ukraine, her unique skill as a costume designer has also attracted the attention of filmmakers in the US, such as Avi Agarwal (“Pieces”) who tapped Vlasenko as the costume designer on his 2016 dramatic comedy film “Loose Ends” starring Justine An from the film “A World of Contradictions.” Awarded at the 2016 Hollywood Boulevard film Festival, “Loose Ends”  depicts a young collegiate partier who’s potential futures flash before his eyes during different encounters over the course of the film, with the most rattling outcome being one of total vagrancy.

In stark contrast to her work on “Unworld,” Vlasenko’s task as the costume designer on “Loose Ends” required her to err on the side of minimalism to create a more realistic wardrobe in support of the story.

Vlasenko says, “I watched the vagrants and homeless people around Los Angeles, taking note of how they behaved and what they wore, as well as that of  prisoners. This project was actually very simple for me, but this is exactly what the film director wanted, it was his vision of the project.”

Always working in support of the story– that is the true role of the costume designer, as well as for anyone else working on a film crew, something Vlasenko knows all about. While her wildly outrageous designs for films like “Unworld” reveal her capacity as a creative, her ability to let the story guide the way is tantamount to the success of the films she works on.

“I can work with various materials, which some other costume designers tend to be afraid to work with,” Vlasenko says. “I can invent, implement and realize my designs, using my own hands to bring them life, I can make a more cost-effective costume design budget when I have to.”

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