Last autumn I met Nastia Rouge, a young fashion designer from the Ukraine. Soon it became clear we’ve had a similar vision and taste for fashion and art. A few weeks ago I photographed her new collection in a former women jail in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The choice for this location was not difficult; her collection is inspired by Russian prisons and tattoos. I asked her all about it.

So tell me, where does your fascination for Russian jails come from?

I was a teen when I watched a documentary about Russian prisons and it gave me a weird feeling of inspiration. I wanted to learn more about it, was looking for every possible thing to find in literature, articles, documentaries, blogs. Last year I’ve got Arkadii Bronnikov’s book “Russian criminal tattoos police files” as a gift and it really helped me in making my collection. His pictures inspired me. He is regarded as Russia’s leading expert on tattoo iconography. Each tattoo has it specific meaning and directly matched the crimes in some way. Tattoos are another category of secret language, understandable only to the initiated. So I used them as prints or hand-embroidered designs on textile.​ I used a lot of very common tattoos for the authorities, but also for example the symbol of homosexuality. In jail gay man are considered as the lowest part of hierarchy and that took my interest.

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If your collection were a sound/color/smell, how would you describe it?

If it were a sound than it’s the sound of post punk music.
If it were a color than it’s the color of shades.
If t were a smell than it’s the smell of the asphalt after rain.

How did you experience the shoot?

When I had a vision of my future lookbook in my mind I could only imagine it in a real jail. I thought it has to be a powerful place with a special vibe and a story. The old prison in Utrecht was the best location I could only imagine. The shooting was organized in a very short term. I had no idea who the model was gonna be, I scouted Keisha two days before the shooting at a party in Amsterdam (thank you Nina Kraviz). Even though these uncertainties you stayed calm and really professional. Watching you work was a big pleasure for me.

What is your background?

I was born and raised in Kiev. After I finished economic school I started to attend academic art classes at the Artist Union of Kiev what’s situated in the area of historic Orthodox Christian monastery. I went to the art school in Kiev for one year when realized I have no future in the Ukrainian art industry. So I decided to move to Poland to study fashion design at the art school in Lodz, an old industrial city close to Warsaw.

How has your background influenced you as a person? And as a designer?

The biggest influences on me as a person and as an artist were my teenage years I spend in Kiev. I used to go to Kiev Pechersk Lavra to draw and during this time I visited a lot of underground parties. Here I met many great people who’re my best friends now. They are also a big part of my inspiration in art. The whole vibe of Kiev rejected on my vision of art and fashion in general.

What inspires you?

Nature, parties, art, my friends and lovers.

How do you see your future?

Blurry.

Are you working on a next collection?

I always keep on creating. I have a concept of it, just have to make it true.

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