The Funk Files – Meet Olga Ochkas


The Funk Files: Embroidery Frontiers

Every year, Hand & Lock organizes a competition for the prestigious Prize for Embroidery to promote the use of hand embroidery and to discover emerging embroidery talent. The 2020 brief, “The Poetics of Colour,” invited entrants to use colour as a fundamental component of the design process, employing inventive embroidery and textures that enhance and enrich or contradict and counter the colour choices.

Today we’ll meet the first-place winner in the Open Fashion Category, Olga Ochkas.

Location: Kyiv, Ukraine
Website: Moral Standards
Instagram: @moralstandards_

Olga Ochkas, fashion designer, Moral Standards
Meet Olga Ochkas

The Competition

Describe your Hand & Lock entry and the inspiration behind it:

I love embroidery, it is my passion and part of my profession. My close friend told me about the Hand & Lock Prize and said I should definitely try. Although from the beginning I was afraid that this Prize is only for people who studied in this field and have several levels of experience, and I will not pass the first round of selection (because I studied Fashion design and didn’t have special education in embroidery). 

After I studied the brief-letter, I decided that I want to show the importance of colour not in material, but in social and philosophical ways. The beauty and importance of colours as parts of our personality. This topic inspired me to develop a few ideas and stories that I would like to translate in embroidery, the story with a spoiled fruit was one of them. The process of decay is so mysterious and full of different colours from the beginning till the end.

"Decay," by Olga Ochkas, first-place winner, Open Fashion category, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery
“Decay,” by Olga Ochkas, first-place winner Open Fashion Category, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery 2020

Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?

For the final round I had to send the dress to London from Ukraine. I was sure that it would not be a problem , so I did not give myself some extra time for an emergency. And when I was ready to send the dress, there was a line of strange coincidences (obstacles) that I was almost one day too late to send the dress to London in time! I thought it was a bad sign.  

"Decay," by Olga Ochkas, first-place winner, Open Fashion category, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery
“Decay,” by Olga Ochkas, first-place winner Open Fashion Category, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery 2020

Past

Tell us about your background and how it led you to where you are.

I am from a small town in the south of Ukraine. In childhood I was very interested in art. When we were kids and traveled with parents, they always took us (me and brother) to museums and galleries, theatres and operas. I think this influences my love of art and fashion. Also we watched with mother all the movies with Audrey Hepburn and I was in love with her style, always wanted to create something like this for myself. After the school graduation I decided to go to the college of Art and theatre skills to study Costume Design. I am thankful to my parents that they supported me with this decision. It was very interesting and I got a lot of knowledge in the history of fashion, hand work, etc. After I studied in Lviv Academy of Art and then did a year of Masters in the Polimoda design school in Florence in Fashion Design. 

Materials and work-in-progress for "Decay," by Olga Ochkas, first-place winner, Open Fashion category, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery
“Decay” materials and work-in-progress, Olga Ochkas
Beaded headpiece, "Decay," by Olga Ochkas, first-place winner, Open Fashion category, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery
“Decay” bead-embroidered headpiece, Olga Ochkas

Present

My job in The Funk Files is to interview “pioneers on the embroidery frontier.” That’s you! What is the embroidery frontier, and what does it mean to be a pioneer here?

Thank you so much for your kind words! I think it means to give new life to the traditional techniques and make people think differently about them. If art has a magical power to attract attention we need to use it to point on important issues of our society.

Beaded sleeve, "Decay," by Olga Ochkas, first-place winner, Open Fashion category, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery
“Decay” bead-embroidered sleeve, Olga Ochkas
Bead-embroidery detail, "Decay," by Olga Ochkas, first-place winner, Open Fashion category, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery
“Decay” detail, Olga Ochkas

Future

What projects are on the horizon for you?

Currently I keep working on my small brand Moral Standards (@moralstandards_). With this project I try to bring the message about problems in the society. The brand is responsible and we use only stock fabrics not to cause the overproduction of materials. I have some ideas for the next project where I will rework the garments and use the embroidery to make it more unique.

Fashion by Moral Standards, Olga Ochkas
Moral Standards dress, by Olga Ochkas
Moral Standards dress, back side, by Olga Ochkas
Moral Standards dress, back side, by Olga Ochkas

Tip

What one piece of advice would you offer someone looking to be an artist?

Don’t be afraid of your dreams! Because if you really want something, there is always a way to reach it. And of course work hard! Because there are so many talented people around. You should always work more than others to become better.

Moral Standards dress by Olga Ochkas
Another exquisite Moral Standards dress by Olga Ochkas

Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be? Psychologist 

Would you rather embroider with cooked spaghetti or a bicycle chain? Bicycle chain 🙂

You’re asked to create a garment for an animal. What is the animal, and what do you create? I think that I would create something for Alpaca! They look so cute! 

Color gurus are naming a new color for you. What is it called, and what does it look like? It will be some new cosmic shade of Violet! It will be named also like some spaceship, HBX-V-00 for example. 

What is one of the best gifts you’ve ever received? The flock from Hand and Lock! It looks amazing!

Moral Standards fashion by Olga Ochkas
Fashion statement by Olga Ochkas, Moral Standards

We’re sending a capsule into space, hoping it might be found by aliens. You’re asked to make something to include in it. What do you make and why? I would put there some Polaroids that show happiness and some capsules with live grass to show the essential things of our planet – love and new life!

A book you’ve enjoyed recently: One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez 

You get to make lunch for a famous person (she/he/zie will love it!). Who is the person, and what are you serving for lunch? I would like to have some Prosecco with Alber Elbaz

Do you listen to anything while you work, or do you prefer silence? I always listen to music! Currently I am more into electronic music. DJs like Peggy Gou, Weval and Yayeji.

You’re creating a garment inspired by a favorite place. What place do you choose, and what is the garment? The place that inspires me the most is Florence! And it would be some super contemporary trench coat. I associate it with Polimoda, the university where I studied in Florence.

Fashion by Moral Standards, Olga Ochkas
Fashion by Olga Ochkas, Moral Standards

Thank you, Olga!

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Music To Stitch To Vol. 1 | a lo-fi playlist #lofi #studymix #craftmusic

Jen Funk Weber

Jen Funk Weber is Queen of Funk & Weber Designs, a cross stitch and counted-thread embroidery designer and teacher dedicated to stitchy explorations and adventures.

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