Workwear: Designer Sonya Dyakova on her everyday "uniform"

Date
23 February 2015
Reading Time
6 minute read

Now London Fashion Week is in full swing, welcome to the second week of our Workwear feature, in which we interview creatives about the clothes they really wear. This time we’ve taken a short trip to Sonya Dyakova’s London studio from which she runs Atelier Dyakova. Sonya is a Russian designer who produces some of the most informed, delicate publication design out there. Most of the books she turns her eye to are artistic publications, which she brings to life with clever typographic systems and cheerful colours that are the toast of the art world – not to mention the fact that she is the art director of Frieze and Frieze Masters magazine. Sonya’s natural ability to work with artistic books stems from her time working closely with Alan Fletcher at Phaidon in 2005 where she was responsible for “commissioning, art directing and designing books on contemporary and fine art, fashion, food, design, architecture, and photography.”

As colourful as her work is, Sonya dresses herself in dark colours that she describes as a “uniform.” Like a few of the creatives we’ve interviewed, Sonya’s view on clothes is that one should be able to work in them. As soon as I sat down to chat with her she said: “I have a very complicated relationship with clothes. I suppose I’m just not really good at it.” Here she is on her own personal style, London’s best boutiques, and being born a tomboy.

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Workwear: Sonya Dyakova photographed by Nina Manandhar

What are you wearing today? Can you tell me about your beautiful boots?

I am so tempted to just tell the truth.. They were on sale a couple of years ago and I thought they were beautiful, but they were just a little bit too big for me, but I had to have them. So I got these really huge insoles put in them and they work really well! I don’t wear them all the time because I am just not good in heels. Today’s occasion deserves it. Basically I like to wear a uniform that I can just hide in and work. Because work is my focus, that’s what I do most of the day.

I really appreciate people who make an effort to really wear something beautiful, but when it comes down to the reality of a working day I just want something that is comfortable – even though “comfortable” is such a horrible word! I like things you can almost hide in, but not in a horrible way. I think that’s the reason why I am ashamed to say I keep coming back to COS. I’ll go to Liberty and then I’ll look at all the beautiful things, and perhaps buy one thing, but then I will eventually end up in COS.

"When I was younger I was really conscious about making myself less boyish, as throughout my childhood I was told I was not very girly. I went through a phase when I first came to London wearing lots of pink and being a “girl,” and now I’ve given that up."

Sonya Dyakova

Why do you think that’s bad?

Because it’s all the same, I’m just buying another navy skirt. It is really, really nice, and the cuts they have are generous and boxy and, I’d like to think “One day I’ll be able to wear something really demure!” and I just never manage to. I think this, the dress I am wearing, is good because for once I am wearing something that is figure-hugging. It’s from ACNE studios.

When you go shopping, not to COS, where do you tend to go?

I’ve gone off going to central London, but I will if I really have to. I really like Start boutique in east London, and there is a place called Diverse in Upper Street. I am trying to stay local I suppose, there are some decent things there. I do love Liberty because it has the feeling of a boutique but is actually quite large. It’s quite hard because you just want everything and it’s so expensive!

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Workwear: Sonya Dyakova photographed by Nina Manandhar

How much has your style changed since you were, say 20?

It hasn’t changed at all. When I was younger I was really conscious about making myself less boyish, as throughout my childhood I was told I was not very girly. So I went through a phase when I first came to London wearing lots of pink and being a “girl” and now I’ve given that up. I think I’ve accepted myself. Who I am. But I think it was very early childhood comments about not being feminine enough.

Why was that? What did you used to wear?

Tracksuit? Just kidding. It’s not about wearing, it was about behaviour. I suppose I’m not a very feminine person, and funnily enough my daughter isn’t either. I just quite liked playing sports, and I’m hard as opposed to all soft and girly. Also there’s just too pleasure and fun to be had in being quite brash sometimes. Sometimes that comes across really well, and sometimes it doesn’t. I think if you ask around, people will say that I am hardcore, and tell it how it is. I just blame it on being Russian, and it’s a Russian thing.

"I don’t really put a lot of emphasis or meaning to someone else’s outfit. I’d rather appreciate what the person does or says rather than what they look like. But when someone does look smart I do notice, and it does make a difference I think."

Sonya Dyakova

Another thing I always keep struggling with is patterns and colours. I find it so much easier to wear solid colour and I always admire women who wear wonderful polka dots and flowery things. When it comes to what other people wear, I don’t really put a lot of emphasis or meaning to someone else’s outfit. I’d rather appreciate what the person does or says rather than what they look like. But when someone does look smart I do notice, and it does make a difference I think.

Do you have any items of clothing that have been handed down to you, or are particularly important?

No, not really. I wonder why. My mother doesn’t really view clothes as something important, she wouldn’t be someone who would hand anything down. In our family it’s more about books and objects – those are the kind of things we would treasure more. Clothes really haven’t played a big part in our family, I think it’s great and I think looking good is fantastic and it definitely changes people’s perception of you, and makes you feel in a certain way. But for me that’s as far as it goes, at the end of the day it’s what you do that makes the biggest difference.

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Workwear: Sonya Dyakova photographed by Nina Manandhar

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Workwear: Sonya Dyakova photographed by Nina Manandhar

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Workwear: Sonya Dyakova photographed by Nina Manandhar

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Workwear: Sonya Dyakova photographed by Nina Manandhar

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Workwear: Sonya Dyakova photographed by Nina Manandhar

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Workwear: Sonya Dyakova photographed by Nina Manandhar

Workwear

In time for London Fashion Week kicking off on the 20 February, we have spent time travelling around London visiting artists and designers who may or may not be too busy to bother with following fashion, to find out what creative people really wear, and why. From dusty boiler suits and pyjamas, to homemade T-shirts and one-of-a-kind jewellery, the stories behind these creatives’ clothes are far more interesting than they are de rigeur. All photographs were taken by the wonderful Nina Manandhar who created the book What We Wore. Enjoy!

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About the Author

Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and worked across online, print and events, and was latterly Features Editor before leaving in May 2015.

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