Two Odessa designers, who coincidentally share the name Alyona, are designing trendy swimwear that is becoming popular in and out of the sea loving city. Even with the same name, and even with their uncannily similar life experiences, they did not know of each other’s existence until they were interviewed for this article. The Odessa Review presented them with the same set of questions and it’s easy to say that sharing similar life experiences doesn’t warrant similar answers.
Looking for a swimsuit brand to highlight in our summer issue, we discovered that two Odessa born designers are surprisingly similar in their life experience and share some traits. They share the same name Alyona, and both got married to men named Daniil. Both had traveled extensively in Asia and gave birth to their sons there (one in Nepal and the other in Bali). After returning home they both started their swimsuits brands without having any prior proper education or much of a background in the fashion design. Though, while they may have had similar life stories, each is spearheading the revolution in Odessa swimsuit design through her own individual style.
Alyona Lebedeva got into fashion by helping Ukrainian designer Masha Bekh with her show five years ago. While living in Bali, Alyona designed her first collection of swimsuits. After seeing it Masha offered her the opportunity to collaborate. The swimsuits themselves have a creative flair to them: little doodles all over one piece, lingerie-like straps above the chest on another. Alyona’s brand Your Side has succeeded not only because of her talent but also through Masha’s professional assistance.
Alyona Alexandrova, on the other hand, learned to knit at the age of seven from her mother and now that skill has finally been transformed into a business – she makes knitted swimwear under the name Holy Beach. Knitted swimwear seems a bit contradictory, but it is actually quite charming and bohemian. For the past three years, Alyona has spent winters in India, Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia so the never-ending summer became the inspiration for such a business.
This is not only a great example of how inspiration comes to people through the simple things in life, such as family, but they are also a great example of distinctive Odessan designers. The two young designers share their experience in this dual interview. Also, it is worth repeating the curious fact neither of them had heard of the other until now.
Your Side (previously MOE), est. 2014
Name: Alyona Lebedeva
Age: Forever young
Number of swimsuits in wardrobe: about 14
Asia revealed to me the understanding that simple happiness is essential. And that there are things you just have to go and do without thinking, forever pretending to be a philosopher.
I chose to make swimsuits because I started doing them for myself first. And I’ve wanted to design clothes for a long time, so this is just the beginning.
I wouldn’t have risked a new business if it wasn’t for my kid. Before my son was born I had many fears on whether people will understand it or not, judge me or not, if anyone needs this at all or not. Having a child put everything in its proper perspective and my fears just disappeared. I understood what is essential and what is not worth the effort. I have a favorite expression, “don’t pee with your pants still on”, it’s simple and expressive. Don’t theorize, just do it.
The hardest thing in building a brand is to get yourself together and begin.
Your Side SS2016 is a collaboration with the Ukrainian brand Bekh for a capsule collection of swimsuits and summer trench coats that we are going to present at the Mercedes-Benz Odessa Fashion Days.
I am deeply inspired by sincerely happy people who accept the oddities of themselves and of other people. Many biographies of great people show how they overcame difficulties and became themselves, such as Mozart, Beethoven, Bosch… Also art, architecture and any and every result of talent and hard work, human kindness and the sea.
I can’t create things if my day starts with a phrase “I can’t create things.”
Being a mom and managing business is something I am doing for the first time in my life. It’s not easier or harder, It’s just the way it is.
My biggest dream for the brand is to set goals and proceed to the end in every single direction. To the very end, not to the middle, we know how that happens.
To pick a perfect swimsuit one needs to know one’s size and after that to go find me. I’ll do the rest.
Holy Beach, est. 2015
Name: Alyona Alexandrova
Number of swimsuits in wardrobe: 18
Asia revealed to me the feeling that everything is possible and the world is a totally friendly environment.
I chose to make swimsuits because I come from Odessa and the sea has always been with me. I’ve always wanted to design clothes and have summer all year round, as we spend our winters in Asia.
I wouldn’t have risked a new business if it wasn’t for how swimsuits resonated with me and the support of my husband and spiritually close friends.
The hardest thing in building a brand is that just like in every art form, one must overcome the fact that people are not ready for it yet.
Holy Beach SS2016 is an experimental collection in which I combined regular forms like triangle tops and classic bottoms with hippy style elements such as mandalas, dreamcatchers, fringe, tassels, and lacing.
I am deeply inspired by natural fractals.
I can’t create things if I don’t feel harmony with the design.
Being a mom makes it easier to manage business because you have to be extremely concentrated and there is no procrastination. At the same time, it’s harder because you don’t always have the time to immerse yourself in the process of creation for long amounts of time.
My biggest dream for the brand is to eventually create collections with items that would surprise and make everyone happy.
To pick a perfect swimsuit one needs to try the swimsuit on and feel what it is like. If it’s nice and pleasant, then take it and swim on!
Yulia Malikova is a writer living in Odessa.