In part 2 of an exclusive 3 part series, we continue our conversation with Russian-born American model, fashion journalist and haute couture collector, Tatiana Sorokko.
Named one of the world's most fashionable women by Harper's Bazaar, learn more about her Life Up Here, from the runway and magazine covers to prominent editorial positions.
MARGE: Can you speak to the pressures that exist – the environment in the modeling world, but also the notable, positive trend as of late, for healthier, curvier models, and the celebration of body image?
TATIANA: During my time in fashion, with the waves of European models, Brazilian models, American models, there was always a trend, always a size. Now, there is no one size. When there are so many anorexic looking models on the runway and there are heavier, full-body models on Sports Illustrated - I guess you could say there are certain things that are more accepted than others. At the end of the day, models who worked back then and models who work now, still have to take care of their bodies one way or another. You can’t be on drugs or do crazy things because it just takes toll on your life.
As with anything, fashion is a reflection of the time we live in. How we perceive ourselves, how we define ourselves. And lately, as you see, people complain that there is so much "trashing". I say it reflects the mood of the country because individuality is becoming scarce and people feel uncomfortable around smart people. That is why we have the Kardashians who are complete idiots but people say they are not because they are making billions, or a fortune.
MARGE: Can you share with us, your opinion on the pace of fashion today? What are your thoughts on fast fashion?
TATIANA: I am personally against cheap fashion. When you buy a t- shirt that is less than what you would pay for a cup of coffee, I think it is immoral. There is big talk of changing the world. If you want to change the world, it’s a personal decision – you should do it yourself. Do small things. Don’t buy cheap clothes that you know you will wear once and then throw away. Fast fashion is often made in sweatshops in the Countries where children probably died producing it. I am to the point where I don’t really shop. If I go once a year, it would be an achievement for me.
For me it’s important to keep a distance from fashion in order to stay true to my style. I might not be the most fashionable person, but I have a defined style. Fashion and style are two different things. Style, you are born with. You either have it or you don’t. People think that through fashion, they can buy style. At the end of the day, it’s not about the amount of money you have to buy “stylish things”. Instead, style is about confidence and a deep understanding of your inner self.
People can spend a fortune thinking they can cover their insecurities, but I always say being secure in one’s self is the best fashion accessory. For me, I know I have a certain style and I am comfortable with it. To be honest, I would rather buy a piece of art or a piece of jewelry - not the “outfit of the moment”. I never buy designers who are trending. I believe that good fashion can sustain time. So, I follow and create relationships with designers who create “instant classics”. Clothing that goes through time. This means that no matter when you wear it, you feel comfortable and you feel stylish.
Today you see all the fashionistas buying “fashion” pieces. I never buy fashion pieces. I never buy the dress that is featured in a magazine a gazillion times. It’s over-exposed. I buy the story behind a piece of clothing because I need to connect with something deeper than what is “of the moment”.
MARGE: Let’s talk about your transition from model to editor and stylist. What was your tipping point? You mentioned your preference to appreciate fashion from a distance. Was writing and editing a reflection of this shift in perspective?
TATIANA: I never wanted to leave the fashion industry just because I stopped modeling. I always felt that the fashion industry was my stage, my acting deal - my drama. I wanted to be part of it, but I wanted to play a different part. I worked for ten years for Russian VOGUE where I was an editor and stylist. Before Twitter or Instagram, I was the first to introduce Russian women to fashion and style that existed outside of Russia.
In fashion journalism today, most people truly do not have access to the industry or designers, but they pretend that they do. Many journalists think that with Instagram and Facebook and social media, they can show a life that does not reflect reality. In my opinion, most of the sites you see on social media are beyond banal. The last thing I want to see is the breakfast you just had or the little puppy you just got. It’s sad, but with social media, that sense of privacy, or soulfulness is going away completely. I remember one of my friends saying, “I want to live a virtual life – my virtual life on Instagram" - and I thought, it’s just make-believe in a picture!
I think sociologically it is quite fascinating, this social media phenomenon. My question however, is what is going to be saved for the future? There is no handwriting anymore - we are not saving e-mails - it’s all in the cloud. I always say, what if it rains? This cloud, whatever this cloud is – is eventually going to disappear and we will completely be without a history of any kind. What do we preserve? Do we preserve technology and servers that hold that information or actual objects?
I still want to touch something, to know that it is real. It is fascinating, because I just spoke to students in Phoenix who are studying fashion but are now studying it virtually. So, when I talked about the differences between wool and silk, they did not know the difference. They had never touched the fabrics. That sense of touch - when you touch somebody, for instance - at that moment, you not only feel that person, but you feel yourself. Without touching someone or something - without the sense of touch, you don’t know who you are, truly.
Having a tactile reality provides a sense of groundness. And fashion, for me, gave me that sense of groundness – one that I could explore on the other side of modeling. So, I collect vintage, I do a lot of lectures on fashion and I am involved with a lot of museums. For me, I do this because I love to discover new things. I am very curious. For instance, with my Balenciaga dress, I researched it – I started studying, finding pictures, finding its history.
For me, vintage is like finding a treasure trove of information. It is so fascinating, almost like a children’s game – a puzzle where you have to put all the pieces together. This sense of discovery I capture in my book, Extending the Runway – Tatiana Sorokko Style.
For me, you see fashion one time on the runway. But you can extend the runway by studying the history and philosophy of fashion with vintage collection. With my vintage collection, I realize I am only a temporary custodian of treasures that will eventually go to museums someday. But, I am glad I have been able to give these pieces a second life - and preserve their history for generations. I am also glad that I get to wear one-of-a-kind because it defines my style in so many ways. This is what extending the runway means to me.