Words by Jahneen
Born and raised in Russia, with a love for Jah‘s people, Jahnkoy Maria is pushing the boundaries of fashion with her take on urban tribal wear. The NYC-based fashion artist is a true Jane of all trades. You might spot her garments in your favorite line’s New York Fashion Week show, or maybe as a textile exhibit during your next trip to the gallery. Although it may be difficult to decipher a designer’s expression simply through their presentation of garments, Jahnkoy delivers live and direct! Some of her embroidery work was featured in Gypsy Sport‘s NYFW show, giving that ethnic, athletic apparel some roots flavor; she also exhibited her work in her own eye-catching NYFW show in association with the UNITE collective, at the Alt Space in Brooklyn.
Here, she tells us why unity and peace are at the forefront of every garment she creates, and how fashion serves as her canvas to document the times we live in. If you don’t know Jahnkoy Maria, now you know.
LargeUp: When did you decide that you were going to pursue a career in fashion design?
Jahnkoy Maria: I think I always knew. It’s about the moment in life when you actually start to listen to yourself. For me, it was when I came back from San Francisco, I was 19, and was studying economics. I just had to say stop, and start moving towards my dream. It has been an eight-year walk so far.
LU: You studied at The British Higher School of Art and Design, Central Saint Martins, and are currently enrolled in the MFA Fashion and Society program at Parson’s The New School of Design. How does that program differ from your previous studies? Why do you think society is an important factor when studying fashion?
JM: BHSAD taught me the language of fashion, St.Martins helped me find my own voice, and now I am at the final stage where I can really grow and develop this voice into a powerful song that will eventually become a hit. That is where the MFA program is guiding me.
Fashion is inseparable from society, because it is the society who is wearing it. I believe that the clothes we wear are a visual dialogue. It is the message that we are sending to the world, so I have to make sure this message is rightful, uplifting, and educational.
LU: Your UNITE collection has taken its own stance by addressing equality, and taking on a form of tribal wear. What was your inspiration behind this collection?
JM: This was a showcase of my work that I’ve done for the past five years throughout Moscow, London, and NYC. So it wasn’t really a collection, as the projects vary and have different starting points, but they came together in one collection as they are all part of my identity. The event was about showing my vision, where I am coming from, what I believe in, and what I stand for. UNITE was put together with the support and participation of people that I met throughout this year on the streets of New York City, who have become my friends and my family.
Jahnkoy (at left in blue) at her UNITE show in Brooklyn in September.
LU: You recently assisted Gypsy Sport with their runway show for NYFW. How were you able to incorporate your work with their collection?
JM: Gypsy Sport and I, we are following one dream; the dream of freedom, equality, variety, and originality. Even though we have different identities, we can easily relate. So it was a natural process, us working together, and I hope this partnership will continue in years to come.
LU: Many fashion designers are not fashion artists like yourself. You have been able to create a product that is a garment, as well as textile art. What is your secret behind designing garments that also serve as art?
JM: For me, fashion is just a different media of art. Instead of being on the wall, it is on the body. Every project that I make starts with in-depth research. There is always a story to tell, or questions to ask. Textiles are like art canvases for me. It is the possibility to express what I see, to reflect on the world we live in, to send the message. It is a duty of the artist to reflect the times, and there is no better reflection of the society than our clothes. It is our second skin, so we have to be mindful of what we wear, where it is produced and how it is made.
LU: What can we expect from Jahnkoy next?
JM: More fire!