Designer Saken Zhaxybayev Previews New Collection in Astana

ASTANA – Designer Saken Zhaxybayev previewed his newest spring/summer cruise collection in Astana on Oct. 11 before its official presentation in Almaty in December. Guests in the capital got to see a departure from the Kazakh designer’s usual style.

“I love to use floral prints, but this time I used only solid colours and some geometric prints. For me, this is new,” the designer said. The collection will also show new work in mixing different fabrics and textures within individual pieces. However, Zhaxybayev isn’t departing completely from his signature aesthetic. “I want to make a collaboration with this collection. … The floral print is very trendy now, so I think I will add some pieces with the floral print (in December),” he said.

Choosing what to leave in or take out is the designer’s biggest creative struggle, he said, and his collections are constantly changing in his head. “It’s very difficult; so many ideas come and you need to choose only powerful, very colourful, very strong things for your collection. … I’m a Gemini, and that’s why it’s very difficult to stop. But if you don’t stop, your collection will be like a solyanka soup, with everything!”

Zhaxybayev, who lives in Montpelier, France, says he’s thrilled with the way fashion in Kazakhstan has come of age. Eight years ago, he said, there were perhaps 10 brands here. “Now, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Dolce and Gabbana, Prada and many famous brands have come to Kazakhstan. And they’re right, because our people love fashion; they look stylish. People are very friendly, their minds are very open.”

He says the country’s cosmopolitan people and high level of development are drawing more luxury brands all the time. “I love how fashion has grown up in Kazakhstan now.”

That being said, he doesn’t think the world will see a major influence from Kazakhstan in the world of fashion any time soon. “So many young and famous designers come from Italy and the U.K. (because of) the history,” he said. And Kazakhstan doesn’t have the centuries of fashion history necessary to become a force on a national level. As for ethnic collections, they’re not this designer’s thing. “Our people in Kazakhstan don’t love ethnic collections. If I wear ethnic style, I look like an actor in the theatre.”

What does inspire him, he said, is everything else. “Everything. I love weather, I love people, I love music, I love old movies.” He reads constantly; his favourite author is Salinger. He’s also inspired by travel. “I live in Montpelier and when I live in Europe, I don’t fly, I always travel by train. I love it because it’s actually travel … when you travel by train or by car, you can see everything, how people live, how people change. For example, from Switzerland to Paris you can see how nature changes, countryside, buildings, food, everything.”

What doesn’t he like? Logos and leopard print. “Especially strange leopard pants,” he said, laughing. “For me, it’s crazy. I think it’s like a Halloween costume.”

But perhaps crazy is what’s next. Fashion is “turning her face toward art,” the designer said. “You know, for example, when I saw the last Commes de Garcons show—it was impossible to wear such dresses in real life. They are art objects, only for the stage.”

Zhaxybayev won’t be following in those footsteps any time soon.

“When I make a collection, I would like a lady, if she wears my skirts and blouses, to be able to use just accessories to change her day dress for evening. She doesn’t have to make big changes to change her outfit for the evening.”

“I want to meet my clothes in the street,” Zhaxybayev said. “That’s why I make very comfortable, very useful clothes. And maybe, when I have a lot of money, I’ll make some art objects.”