“Loved clothes last.” Knit fashion designer Valeriya Olkhova leaves space for “accidents” and tweaks the hand-knitting machine's settings to put it out of its comfort zone to produce one-of-a-kind, raw apparel. Enjoy an exclusive SWARM Mag interview detailing her work, the post-pandemic fashion world or personal philosophies.
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Your knitwear designs are a combination of the wabi-sabi aesthetic and sci-fi elements mixed with hints of utopia. All that together makes your work rich and complex. Is knit-wear a rough business or a tool for expressing personal statements? 

Thank you for the compliment and the grasp of a few core pillars of Vo/ft’s DNA. Knitwear, in its essence, is a continuous story of intertwined roots for me. It is an art form, which fuses a personal expression with business. Vo/ft’s textures are called #emotionaltextiles, #animismhybrids or functional art wear, developed to trigger scenes on multiple layers and levels. Vo/ft’s knit embraces perfect imperfections. Fundamentally constructed as #transformers, interactive, zero waste design. Engineered for engagement and personalisation, via styling, fit and caretaking for the textile.  

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Manually created knit is a very slow procedure, which vessels the energy of the creator during its manifestation process. E.g. the bustiers. Although they are chameleons, the scaling up of the business can be complex, in a way, making them more special for the wearer. The mission with Lycra has been to develop the perfect comfort, which empowers the wearer – the items take on a leading role in their wardrobe. As slow fashion design, they never go out of style and can be built up with layers, season after season. Designed to last, and transcend the hype of seasonal fashion. To be used relentlessly and always with love. Loved clothes last.

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I always thought that knitting is a kind of meditative and rhythmical ritual. Do you find work with hand-operated knitting machines meditative? 

In so many ways, yes! The sound of ‘click click’ is wonderfully comforting.  However, the complexity determines this from time to time. Characteristically, manual knit is a ritual, artisanal craft, which can both be controlled and raw. Planned and accidental. Due to my experimental approach, the process in itself can be demanding and time consuming. I often combine techniques, yarn thickness and needle alignments that do not come natural for the machine. Can’t help myself to investigate possibilities.

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The rhythmic ritual forces you to slow down and focus on the storytelling via patterns within patterns. Everything begins with a tiny thread. So fascinating… Lately, my practice has been in transition, striving to simplify the processes, to give space for a broader spectrum of expression. Deconstructing the approach of working in micro, stripping it down to basics and kickstarting macro direction. Which is much needed to grow in the business aspect. I believe, as a creator, I seek to encapsulate the zeitgeist, simultaneously with the past and future.

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What brought you to knitwear?

During my textile studies at Chelsea University of Arts London, I originally selected a different specialisation. The decision to switch to knit came about very spontaneously. An emotional decision. I fell in love with the infinite texture possibility and intimate, patient processes. They tapped into my romantic, poetic side. A tiniest tweak during development can result in a completely different outcome. Just like in nature. Worlds within worlds. Intertwining roots of craftsmanship stories. This resonates with me. Although the flow took me to fashion, I had originally envisioned creating spaces and interiors, I sense a return to this vision on the horizon. Additionally, I trust in expanding the skills tool box at all times, to achieve a wider palette of expression, so stay tuned for collaborations coming soon, with designer and artist Leon Louis.

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The fashion industry is going through big changes these days because of the pandemic and it is time for a redefinition of the meaning of fashion. What is the main purpose of fashion for you?

I agree, the new world requires new functionality, durability, comfort and ideals, among other adaptations. Fashion for me is both our inner and outer identity. It has a function of a second skin and empowerment. The cocoon we are in now will birth metamorphosis, so the need for fashion will transform. Minimalism in terms of clearance, to regain balance, enjoy basics, map out our new lifestyle and mostly declutter from overconsumption. We will crave colours, warmth, comfort – more than ever. I would imagine, in parallel, the age of amateurs will be born, some radical individualism, surrealism, expression through clothes and our homes will intertwine. Modular approach that is long lasting, that is cherished and repaired. Fashion and design that will be further reflective of our values and lifestyle choices. I believe this will be an essential part of our shopping ‘voting’ system. Long-term gratification.

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What are your designer goals?

Innovation, beauty, durability, quality, growth. I enjoy triggering profound reactions. Aspire to challenge and not be restricted to the accepted norms, to question and blur the society’s constructed boundaries. As a creator, I plan to continuously engage with the beauty of the world, to explore the multidisciplinary fields of skill, expression, knowledge and understanding. I aim to touch the hearts of the engagers. The desire to empower the wearer, whether it is via body positivity, tactility or inspiration.

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At this point in time, I am on the journey with my partner of ‘growing’ a multidisciplinary space under one umbrella. Deconstructing and reconstructing life and work. I’m striving for expansion, with art pieces produced in-house and outsourcing locally. Carefully picking the supply chain and being hands-on with all stages of the process. We must be clever about the resources and their utilization. In the future, I also dream to have a sustainable development lab, which can focus on innovative materials, community, facilitate workshops and continue to make art. Spread good energy.

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BIO / Valeriya Olkhova is a textile and knitwear artist who explores the themes of transformation, metamorphosis, cocooning, hybridism, anatomical structure, webbing, layers. Always approaching the dialect from a duality aspect in these themes; striving to trigger multiple senses. The work lingers between a body, an object, space, function vs abstraction. The DNA is rooted in interactive, conceptual design, which embraces inspiration from nature, wabi-sabi, technology, futurism and utopia. Valeriya focuses on the emotional textile tactility, investigating and discovering materials such as Lycra, wools, silks, recycled leather, raw natural materials, upcycled materials, innovative sustainable materials (e.g apple leather, kombucha), latex, horse hair, and tests their behaviour and expression via material manipulation. The work often explores the inner vs outer identity, private vs social and blurs the boundaries between multiple disciplines.


Fashion Design / Valeriya Olkhova (more at https://www.voft.eu/)

Intrerview / Kateřina Hynková 

Editorial “Robo-Org”

Photography / CHARLOTTE EA @charlotte.ea 

Fashion / @voft_valeriyaolkhova

Model / My Nilsson @mymarienilsson

Makeup / Nat Syrik @natscience


Editorial “Materialism”

published in @less_magazine

Photographer / Jakob Storm @stormcph

Creative Direction / Valeriya Olkhova @voft_valeriyaolkhova, Charlotte Boyte @charlotteboyte

Fashion / Valeriya Olkhova  @voft_valeriyaolkhova

Jewelry / Nina York @ninnayork

Set Design / Charlotte Boyte  @charlotteboyte

Make-up / Nat Syrik @natscience

Models / Michiel Tange van Leeuwen @michieltangevanleeuwen, Jade Shadey D’econzac Mbay @jdeconzac, Nina Rasmussen @justninaninanina

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