Designer Marina Bulatkina fell into what can only be called a “fashion fairytale” when 10 years ago she was discovered as a model while assisting a stylist in New York.
Since then, she has not only made a splash in front of the camera as a successful model, but behind the scenes as well as a designer who focuses on creating gorgeous garments for women sizes 6-20.
11 HONORÉ: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN MODELING AND HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
Marina Bulatkina: I was discovered as a model about 10 years ago while I was studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC and working as a part time fashion stylist assistant. The stylist told me that I could make a great model. First I couldn’t believe it, growing up in Russia I’ve never heard of anyone modeling in my size (size 12). I Googled plus models and it was such a great feeling seeing beautiful girls sizes 12,14,16 with gorgeous skin, smiles, and hair. They were proud of being their size and I could totally relate to them. I learned how to pose and walk the runway pretty fast thanks to my 10 years of ballroom dancing.
11H: WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION TO START YOUR OWN LINE?
MB: First, after moving to the USA, I thought that America had everything. After working for so many brands and shopping in regular stores I realized that there was no clothing line created around a typical curvy female body: size 12 and 14, which are actually the most popular sizes in the United States. What I saw in the market was either a straight-sized line that was fitted on a tiny mannequin size 4, then graded up to size 14, or the plus-size lines, which was created on a size 18 mannequin and graded down to size 14. When you just add or subtract a few inches, the proportions end up being all wrong. I personally had a hard time finding any brand with a size 14 would fit me proportionally. I always believed that this gap could be fixed and that it would just take someone with passion and the understanding of typical female body. I made a few of my own clothes and people often asked me where I shopped and received lots of compliments. I was lucky to meet a great patternmaker who shared my vision and together we were able to complete the first collection of size inclusive “perfectly-fitted dresses” by reinventing the patterns for curvy garments.
11H: WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN STARTING THE LINE?
MB: There is so much information and many different opinions surrounding you. Some people suggested to produce everything in China and get a cheap merchandise, for example. I disagree with the idea of lowering the quality of the garment and getting something in large quantities without quality control. By producing in NYC I was able to control the process and make corrections during the production. Every seam, detail, and fuse material was important to me. It did raise the costs of my production, but in the end I got the dresses that I had in my mind and that I can proudly put my name on. Since I was my first time in the production side of fashion, it took me some time to find the right factory and grading company until we found the right team to work with. I wanted to work with people who are open minded, pay attention to detail, and that were ready to create a new fit together, even though none of their existing and previous clients produced garments for this “strange” segment, typical curvy women, sizes 6-20.
11H: DID YOU FEEL LIKE THERE WERE ABUNDANT RESOURCES IN TERMS OF FIT AND SIZING WHEN CREATING YOUR FIRST COLLECTION?
MB: I was trying to find some books and information about the manufacturing and tailoring process for the fit and sizing of curvy bodies before planning my collection; it was almost impossible to find any standardized guidelines for the mass-production of typical european/american curvy body garments. Together with my patternmaker and grading company we had to create our own sizing chart that would work for the US average size market. I have experience as a fit model, so I was familiar with the procedure of building garments. We fitted our samples multiple times on models sizes 6, 8, 14, 18, 20 and were making changes until we found the right balance in fit.
11H: WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT TO FOCUS ON WHEN CREATING LARGER SIZES - BOTH FROM A TECHNICAL AND CREATIVE POINT OF VIEW.
MB: I think the whole package is important. I’m not about fast fashion, it makes me sad when I wash a garment and I can’t wear it a second time because it doesn’t look the same. I want a good quality piece that will stay in my wardrobe for years; a piece that is comfortable to wear, has enough fabric, is made out of high quality fabric and sewed carefully by professionals. For me it was important to start from the classic pieces - you’ll find lots of black dresses in my collection In Love BY MARINA BULATKINA - those are perfect to wear on a date;) We added a few classic colors - a gorgeous coral(looks amazing on everyone), clean white and navy colors. When you have your basics, for me the next step is to create more varieties. For the next collection we’re preparing something special.
11H: WHAT HAS THE FEEDBACK BEEN LIKE FROM YOUR CUSTOMERS?
MB: We already have lots of positive feedback especially from tall girls who always have a hard time finding a dress with the right length. They are super excited that we didn’t “save on fabric” and that we gave them a perfect length, they love the classic silhouettes. Everyone likes to feel comfortable and confident wearing a dress and that is the exact feeling we want to give them. One of the comments was super funny: “Marina, what did you do? The quality of your dress is so good, how am I suppose to shop at Zara now?” :) Our GOOD NIGHT lace dress with a bodysuit is the most popular dress, it looks amazing on every body type, at any size. Our customers are already asking about our next collection because they love the fit so much.
11H: YOU SEEM TO FOCUS QUITE A BIT ON DRESSES, IS THIS FOR ANY PARTICULAR REASON?
MB: I personally feel the best while wearing a dress. It’s feminine, sexy and an easy outfit. You don’t need to spend enormous time to coordinate your outfit, just add your favorite pair of heels.
11H: DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE AND OTHER DESIGNERS YOU LOVE TO WEAR IN ADDITION TO YOUR OWN LINE.
MB: My wardrobe contains multiple pairs of black skinny jeans (a model’s uniform), black sweaters, black and white tops, and high heels. On weekends I love wearing colorful flirty dresses, I do love to dress up for events. I also feel comfortable running in in high heels all day, it makes me feel good and confident. I have been in love with Zac Posen designs for years and it’s such an honor to be featured alongside him and other great designers on 11 Honoré’s website.