Thursday 14 November 2019

Waking hours with fashion designer... Lya Solis

Lya Solis (33) is a fashion designer. Born in Moscow, she studied fine art and specialised in sculpture there. When she was 20, she moved to Dublin, where she has a boutique in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre and an atelier on Fitzwilliam Street

Fashion designer Lya Solis. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Fashion designer Lya Solis. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Emily Hourican

I usually get up at 6.30am. I make coffee and have breakfast - I eat very healthily, so I'll make eggs, or a protein shake with coconut milk; I try and stay off starchy carbs. Then I try to get to the gym first thing. It doesn't always work out that way, but I usually make it four or five times a week.

I go straight in to work afterwards, to the design studio on Fitzwilliam Street. I've been there for almost four years now, and a year ago I opened my own boutique in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre. Once I'm in work, I reply to emails and do whatever admin is needed. I have two people working in the studio with me, and together we do fittings and design work. The number of fittings will depend on the dress. If it is a simple dress, we do just one fitting, but if it is more complicated - involving a corset, say, or an evening gown - it would be three fittings.

I design four collections a year for the shop; two seasonal collections, a couture collection, and this year, for the first time, I did a capsule bridal collection as well. So it's pretty full on. My inspiration is usually from nature. I love flowers, I love leaves, I love the natural colours that you see in the trees and the sky. I don't use geometrical patterns, I prefer something natural and organic. My favourite colour is black, but I know I need to use other colours as well. This year I have used a soft baby pink - the kind you might see in a sunset - and a soft blue.

Many of my private clients will have been to the shop first and bought something and seen the quality of the clothes; then they contact me and ask for something specific. Or they see a dress they like in the shop, but they want it in a different colour. My clients tend to be professional women over 30, mothers-of-the-bride, and women with red-carpet events or black-tie weddings to go to. They are women who appreciate the hard work and the finish that goes into each design, and the way everything is perfectly fitted. My clothes are not trend-driven; each piece is an investment that can easily be worn in a year or two.

In between the design and fitting work, I will have appointments for more fittings, where clients come into the studio. That happens around lunchtime, and at the end of the day, because many of these women are professionals who work full-time, so often I don't stop for lunch. But if I do, I have friends working in the same area and in the same industry, so some days we meet and go out for lunch. Other days, I will have to leave the studio and go out to the fabric suppliers or the trimmings studio, to source items; or into the boutique.

I'm from Moscow. I studied fine art there and specialised in sculpture. When I moved here, my passion was shoe design, but there were no courses in Ireland to study that - the nearest one is in London - so instead I decided to begin with dress design. I went to the Grafton Academy and did that, then I started my clothing line, and that got so busy that I never got a chance to do shoe design, but I will one day.

I love the creative part of what I do. I especially love working with lace. All the lace I use is hand-made, and working with it is just like drawing.

I usually finish work around 3pm or 4pm, but often I would have to go back for fittings in the evening. When I do get home, I spend time reading fashion magazines or fashion blogs, getting inspiration and ideas from what's happening around the world. If I don't have any appointments in the evening, I might go out and meet friends. I have a lot of friends who are in this industry, who have shops or design studios, or they are photographers, stylists, or musicians.

In this kind of creative job, you can get frustrated or overloaded with work, to the point where you can start to lose your inspiration, and you need to meet people in the same kind of work, to recharge. For that reason, I want to get back into sculpture at some stage, but because I think it helps with creativity, rather than for commercial reasons.

I left Moscow when I was very young, so it's hard to compare, but from what I have seen of Dublin, I think there are so many creative people here. And there is more Government support for the arts here than in Moscow. When you feel that back-up and support, it keeps you going.

I used to go back to Moscow a lot, but now I don't. Since I started this business, I haven't had much time for holidays. But I am going tomorrow, for a week, for the first time in two years. My parents and my sister are in Moscow, and some of my friends are still there, but a lot of them have left and now live abroad.

I think Irish people are very friendly. I have travelled a lot, and I think the Irish stand out. I like the idea that here, you go out and you just have fun. You don't complain about your problems; it's just very light-hearted. In Russia, we don't really do that kind of chat.

In the evenings I go out to eat quite a lot. If I have had a long day, I don't like to finish and then spend two hours in the kitchen, cooking. There are some really nice places just downstairs from the apartment, so my boyfriend, Michael Finlay, and I would go there. He also runs his own business, the Punnet Health Store chain, so he works long hours too. If I do cook, I will cook meat, and a lot of vegetables. I don't cook traditional Russian food. It's really heavy - a lot of potatoes - and now that I am over 30, I have to watch my weight.

I don't take many holidays, and no bank holidays. In the evenings, I respond to emails and take calls, and I often work at weekends. But I try and do something nice on Saturdays because that's the only day I can spend with my boyfriend, as he works Sundays. So we go for a drive somewhere and have lunch. There are so many beautiful places around Dublin.

I fall asleep around 10 o'clock. I used to read books, but in the last while I have been falling asleep after just a few pages.

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