Interview: Kristina Kharlashkina believes fashion will be more personal

PROJECT RUNWAY -- "The Sky Is The Limit" Episode 1913 -- Pictured: Kristina Kharlashkina -- (Photo by: Greg Endries/Bravo)
PROJECT RUNWAY -- "The Sky Is The Limit" Episode 1913 -- Pictured: Kristina Kharlashkina -- (Photo by: Greg Endries/Bravo) /

As one of the four finalists on Project Runway Season 19, Kristina Kharlashkina made some bold choices for her finale collection. While she had made a strong impression with the judges, her overall styling captured many people’s attention. During a recent conversation with Culturess, Kristina revealed that there is an emotional connection to her many looks.

Looking at the finale collections, Kristina’s looks stood out due to her choice to use prints. The bold colors captured everyone’s attention on the runway, When asked, Kristina said, “for me as an artist, using prints to create the atmosphere for the clothes I design takes an emotional toll.”

She continued to explain the design choice, saying, “Prints can certainly describe a mood and make clothing unique and more personalized. That’s where I think fashion as a whole is going, we all want something more special, unique, and personal. A unique print is a bridge from my ideas to a client’s individual needs.”

Looking at this collection, the use of florals was a conscious one. Specifically, the fashion designer said, “Floral prints for me are a natural choice to express this feeling of femininity and sensitivity. Of course, all the prints are unique and created in a futuristic way: this is where we are all moving, and fashion should too.”

While the bold prints made a statement, they did not stand alone. Through Project Runway Season 19, the judges praised Kristina’s styling. In some ways, her ability to style represents more than just putting on clothes.

Kristina said, “In today’s fashion styling is sometimes even more important than the garments themselves. As a designer I create a story; a mood and that mood can change based on the styling. For example, on our frantic days, we should be able to change the mood of our clothes very fast. In 30 minutes to be ready for a transition from work to a cocktail party.”

Creating that mood is more than just putting on a single item. Kristina said, “We can achieve that with different accessories such as shoes, handbags, and makeup. I do think styling is a very important tool to which designers often do not give enough power.”

In some ways, Kristina was a bit of a chameleon with her looks. That ability to morph a mood seemed to be key to her success. She commented, “For me, the fashion of our day gives us more opportunity to mix different styles, play with garments, mix colors and prints; to try and find some new, unexpected solutions. And again, making it more personal and giving a client more options to wear my clothes.”

Building on that idea, Kristina said, “We should not be afraid to take risks, to research, try new things, and challenge ourselves. “Be open-minded.” That’s the motto for the modern-day, and our clothes must answer to our individual needs.”

That idea of being the individual seems to be key for Kristina. While she might have a clear vision, the adaptability of her clothes seems to have great value.

When asked about the multitude of uses for her clothes, Kristina commented, “That was always in my head since I began to design. I always liked to have options. As a designer I have different ideas while creating the clothes: so I thought, why not give these options to my clients?”

Although there is thoughtfulness behind her approach, Kristina believes that the past several years has changed people’s perspectives. She said, “Another reason for this multitude of uses is based on how the pandemic changed our lifestyles. I would say it’s become more normal to have similar outfits for both staying home and going out — perhaps a “casual chic” style.”

Even though Kristina appreciates that people long for “more comfortable, easy-to-wear” options, the ability for those items to cross over multiple occasions is key.

As Kristina shared, “On Project Runway I expressed this idea of “casual chic” during one of the challenges. I designed an ensemble which you can play with the way you want to: silk pants which you can take off, a silk shirt that becomes a dress with only one pull of a ribbon; or the same garment can become a skirt if you remove the sleeves.”

Looking back at her many designs, the key term describing her aesthetic is “optionality.” From the specific fabrics chosen to the inclusivity of design, Kristina carefully considers each element. Without losing the playfulness, there is a sense of freshness to her designs.

For Kristina, she describes her choices as “a natural progression in fashion. Offering a client multiple ways of wearing one design, giving more freedom, but still very comfortable and stylish. This is the dream for clothes in our future.”

Although Project Runway Season 19 has ended, Kristina is proud of all of her looks and believes that “each of them told a different story and has its own uniqueness.” From the casual chic look to the unconventional materials challenge, each one presented a way for her to capture her vision.

But, she would like a second chance on the Real Housewives challenge. Since she wasn’t as familiar with the show, it was harder for her to appreciate the direction needed.

Looking ahead, Kristina said that she is starting a new chapter for herself and her fashion brand. Currently, she is focusing on e-commerce. She believes that she can “express myself, my creativity and show that clothes can be a comfortable, wearable, functional art.”

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Kristina Kharlashkina has a self-named fashion brand and her collections are available online. Season 19 of Project Runway and previous seasons, can be streamed on Peacock.