Ekaterina Kukhareva seems to have a bit of a preoccupation with royalty. Whether Egypt’s Cleopatra or the Tsarinas of Moscow’s ancient Kremlin, queens and their wardrobes are a constant source of inspiration to the Ukrainian-born knitwear designer who has made London her home.
In her current sumptuous AW11 collection, the heritage of the Tsarinas is particularly evident. Drawing on her Ukrainian and Russian roots has always been something of a signature of Ekaterina’s luxurious knitwear. But in her current collection, the inspirations of Red Square, St Basils and the Kremlin are pushed much further as she draws on everything from luxuriously covered bibles and ancient icons enshrined beneath incense-filled golden domes to conjure up a heady mix of ancient textile patterns and very modern forms to conjure up a latter-day tsarina with all of the seductive power of Marlene Dietrich’s scarlet empress.
Ekaterina Kukhareva graduated from London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins specialising in textiles and knitwear and her current collection shows why this was a very smart choice. She pulls out all the stops, using every technique from chunky macramé to elegant lace, all built on a base of jacquard knits that give both structure to the garments and create a sense of the luxurious textiles of the tsarina’s wardrobe. But, even though the patterned knits are entirely in keeping with the luxurious design culture of Russia’s ancient noble houses, Ekaterina Kukhareva makes clothes for contemporary women and so she also uses techniques such as creating knitted fabrics from a mix of Italian viscose, wool yarn and lurex to bring a glamourous sheen to her slinky cocktails dresses as well as imbuing them with the practical benefit of retaining their figure-hugging slinkiness throughout the evening, an advantage not traditionally associated with knitwear.
Drawing on a palette fit for the imperial court of yore – red, rose pink, chocolate brown, black, silver and gold- and combined with other fabrics that denote a similarly regal air, such as fur trimming, the AW11 collection reinvents traditional forms for a contemporary woman’s wardrobe. The slinky cocktail dresses and dramatic evening gowns are resplendent with jacquard complexity that hark back to the glamour of the imperial court, but their styling is very much something to guarantee the contemporary consumer a dramatic entry to a soiree or important event. For the more adventurous woman, there are even looks that turn the decorative traditions of the ancient court into stunning showpieces using oversized macramé to dramatic effect. And, for women who are less inclined towards skirts, there are a number of stunning looks built around slinky knitted leggings that draw on the military styles of the Russian court. Conjuring up images of powerful hussars resplendent in dramatic uniforms, here the traditional cabling, epaulettes and decorations of military uniforms provide sources of inspiration for decorative elements to leggings and slinky tops.
As the nights draw in and the temperatures begin to drop Ekaterina Kukhareva’s current collection assures women that the best thing they could do is slip into something a lot less frumpy, break out the vodka and party like the revolution never happened.