What do Solange, Rihanna and Barbara Palvin all have in common? They’ve all been dressed in Paolina Russo’s designs. Like many others, the Canadian-born, London-based fashion designer started off by thinking she would be a fine artist. Painting, drawing, sculpture... Fashion design just wasn’t part of the creative scope in her hometown of Markham, a suburban area near Toronto. It wasn’t until she arrived in London for a Foundation course at the prestigious Central Saint Martins that she realised “there was such a broader idea of what creativity could be and how you could create work.” The artistic flair is still very much present in her own work, its crafty approach bringing in an outsider’s perspective to the industry.
Paolina’s technicolour fantasy is an eclectic one. Couture-like shapes that take you all the way back to Dior’s New Look and vintage Balenciaga, handmade into a crochet of old trainers, upcycled knits and graphic prints. She’s currently 23 and doing a Masters in Fashion Design at CSM, with her graduate collection from her BA flying off the shelves at Selfridges. During last season’s Paris Fashion Week, Paolina presented a special collaborative collection with sportswear giant Adidas, reimagining their classic trainers through her own lens.
There are a lot of different things happening in Paolina’s world, but that doesn’t mean she’s blindsided by the success. “I feel like fashion is losing the energy it used to have because people didn’t care so much about making money before,” she reflects on the present, before turning to the future. “I would really love to see this world where it’s a much healthier approach to our practise – like giving yourself time to breathe and enjoy the work, instead of having to be rushed.”