Get to Know: Katya Katya
To wear a Katya Katya dress is to experience fashion magic. Sure, you could toss around adjectives like “romantic” and “feminine” to describe the gowns crafted by London-based, Latvian-born Katya Shehurina. But you have to touch one, run the French and Italian lace and taffeta between your fingertips, trace the handcrafted Swarovski crystals that adorn her gowns and twirl around in the mirror in one to truly understand the enchantment behind a Katya piece. Just ask the countless brides who have turned to Katya to create the dress of their dreams (many of whom you can see on her Instagram feed). Or the celebrities who, out of thousands of designers that they have access to, choose a Katya gown to grace the red carpet. Special doesn’t even begin to describe a Katya Katya.
It shouldn’t be a surprise then to learn that the brand started out as a friendship and blossomed into a business. “I met [Katya Katya co-founder] Marina [Kvasova] in school in Latvia and we became friends instantly,” says Katya. Their passion was to create something truly beautiful that reflected on them as individuals. While Katya takes care of the design and creative side, Marina looks after the business side. “Marina is part of my family, she is my soulmate. We are always there for each other and I couldn’t have imagined doing what I do without her.”
But even before they launched the brand in 2007, Katya got the design itch early and, as a child, began designing pieces for her dolls. “I was only 4 when I started making clothes. At that time, I didn’t know how to sew so I just cut holes as armholes in a piece of fabric for my dolls. I wrapped this around the dolls and tied it with a belt!” says Katya. Considering she cites her mom as her biggest inspiration, it’s no wonder she got started so young. “I’ve always looked up to my mom and she gave me the most support as a daughter and as a designer.” After graduating from the prestigious ESMOD with a focus on couture, Katya got her start creating enchanting gowns with French designer Nicolas Fafiotte and bridal designer David Purves.
Despite the romance embedded in each gown, you won’t hear Pachelbel’s Canon blaring from the speakers of her studio. “Most of the time I prefer working in quiet but the other day I listened to Leonard Cohen, Queen and Lost Highway by David Bowie,” says Katya. “I love soundtracks as well, for example one of my favourites is the soundtrack from the movie Only Lovers Left Alive.” And the designer admits her workspace is what she calls an organized mess. “There’s a system in my chaos and I know exactly where everything is,” says Katya. “Sometimes suddenly I have this very strong need to re-arrange and organise everything. I think it happens when I need to organise my thoughts.”
For her Spring/Summer 2019 collection, her mood board was covered with pictures from her vacation to Tuscany last summer. “The collection is called ‘Back to Tuscany’ as the designs amplify the romanticism of Italy. I imagined the collection set against the elegant, earthy landscape of the Tuscan hills, creating a charming backdrop for the romantic aesthetic of the brand, which allows the pastel shades and petal-like shapes in the gowns to really shine.”
Finding inspiration in her surroundings is natural for Katya who often turns to the scenery of her native Latvia. “Latvia is a country with stunning and unique nature. It’s a diverse landscape - we have wide sand beaches along the coast of the Baltic sea, large pine forests, lakes and fields,” says Katya. “My hometown is Riga, the capital of Latvia, which is all built in the Art Nouveau style called Jugend. I think it influences me a lot in my style and aesthetic as I see beauty in all ranges every day!”
In the eleven years since Katya Katya launched, the brand has earned accolades and grown at a dizzying pace but for Katya, the proudest moments of her career were seeing singers Nelly Furtado and Mel C (Sporty Spice), two of her idols from her youth, wearing her dresses to perform on stage. But her dream is to see Kate Moss or Iris Apfel wearing her creations. “I love their special and unique styles and it would be a huge compliment for me to see them in my gowns.”
Making dreams come true is something Katya strives for. “I would love to have a superpower to heal people or to be able to help them make their dream come true. Or at least to make them see something beautiful and help them be able to dream!” says Katya. “This what I try to do every day with my designs.”