For designer Tatyana Merenyuk of r e d d o l l by tm, the old saying, “necessity breeds creativity,” could be rewritten as, “boredom breeds creativity.” Says the Ukranian-born, American-bred, self-taught sewing whiz of her decision to experiment with fashion, “I was looking for something to do because I was bored.” Five years later, Merenyuk works on her line full-time, creating whimsical party dresses with exquisite details like origami trim and ruffled skirts as well as elegant gowns in luscious fabrics like organza, silk, and chiffon. Daily BR!NK recently caught up with the designer, newly a New York resident, to discuss her career in fashion and her recent appearance at Chicago’s Fashion Week.
How did you get into fashion design?
About five years ago, when I moved to Chicago from Minnesota, I was kind of a lost soul. I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do and I had just graduated with a psychology degree – that doesn’t do anything much! This artist, who is my boyfriend now, had a big industrial sewing machine in his studio. He was like, “Why don’t you try sewing?”
Had you ever sewed before?
No, I knew nothing. I didn’t even know that what I am doing right now would be possible. It’s not in my family, we’re not artists. My mom did sew in the Ukraine, and she did make things for me, but that’s just the way European women were in the 80s. I picked it up, I started with Jo-Ann patterns and random fabrics. It was all a blind experiment. When you want to know something and nobody pushes you to do it, it’s important to need it. That’s how I felt about it; for the first time in my life, I actually wanted to learn something on my own. After that, I got a better sewing machine, a dress form, and took a class in pattern-making. From then on, I just took off, started my own patterns, and got more equipment. Within five years, my work grew exponentially.
How did you transition to having your own line?
I was surrounded by some really good, creative people. A friend of mine was selling jewelry on Etsy, and she was like, “You should just try it. It will push you to get better. Who knows what can happen?” I had never heard of the site, but I just went online and used the resources they have – the online world is amazing. At first I took my own pictures of the mannequin – they were really crappy. Then, I found a photographer that lived two blocks away from me. Things just grew. Just like everything, you have to start somewhere. I’m still a nobody, pretty much. [laughs] But, I feel more confident in my skills, and I’m doing this full-time from New York, which is amazing.
Can you describe your aesthetic?
I love a strong, feminine look that’s a little bit provocative, with my own twist. But it has to be classy and timeless.
Tell us about your recent participation in Chicago Fashion Week.
The first time I went was last year; I was a fresh face of GenArt, when they were still around. This year, Mario Tricocci salon did a model search. Five designers were competing in Millennium Park in Chicago and I was one of them.
How does it feel to see your clothes on the runway?
It’s amazing – I just want more! There’s only so much you can show when it’s not just your fashion show. That said, it’s great to see my clothes on models, for people to see my work, and I love to put on a show. I love to include a crazy piece that will make people be like, “Oh my god!”
Who are your design inspirations?
I love Marchesa. Chanel and Valentino, of course. Karl Lagerfeld – he can’t go wrong. I get inspired by the outfits of historical royalty.
Do you have a favorite piece?
I have a couple of favorite pieces. I like my big gown this season, the Blair dress – it’s a halter with organza and black trim. It took forever to do and turned out really cool looking. Is it wearable? No, but I love it. I love my jackets – they’re more wearable.
Do you have a dream client?
I love seeing New York women wear my designs, it makes me so happy to see my work in real life! Or any women who buy my designs and take the time to invest in something that is unique, hand crafted — designed just for them. I would love to see the actress Marion Cotillard in my designs, I’m a little in love with her!
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
It would be amazing just to have more people know who I am. I’d love some interns. Maybe finding boutiques who would be interested in carrying my line in New York – boutiques known for unique, one-of-a-kind clothing. I’d love help with taking my line to the next level – any kind of connections in the fashion world would be amazing.