L affaire Magazine interview with milliner and accessory designer Tatiana Ashakova

Could you introduce yourself for our readers? When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career as a headpiece & accessories designer?

My name is Tatiana and I am a milliner and accessory designer. I always had passion for hand made items and was pretty creative as a child, however my creativity was first     discovered in makeup art as a sequence of me finishing art school. In 2009 I came to Scotland to do my Masters Degree in International fashion Marketing and life changed crucially. From quite an established makeup artist in Moscow I went into unknown. I couldn’t start working as a makeup artist in the UK because for a freelancer the start is always slow and in-between I started making headpieces out of the blue. I then got signed with an agency as a makeup artist and hair designer and once was booked to do a shoot with one of the most established bridal wear designers in Scotland - Joyce Young. I couldn’t help to want to hear her feedback about my creations and  I brought a few to show her at a shoot. Joyce seemed to like them and offered me to sell them at her shops - in Glasgow and London. For a not qualified designer that was a great start. Alongside I wanted to use my marketing skills and see if I can establish a brand with all the knowledge I got from the university and I must say it is a very exciting but complex journey. The brand was destined to be a hat and accessory brand because the hat wearing tradition in the UK completely made me fall in love. Eventually I started picking up on work as a bridal stylist in Scotland and it gave an extra push to my brand as I could offer my brides my accessories to accomplish their looks. So my first profession actually laid a good foundation for the success of the second.

What does brand name Beretkah...! stand for?


I really wanted to keep something Russian in the brand so I gave it a name of a “beret”. It is actually a french name and the way we call it in Russian in a cute way sounds BeretKAH… The exclamation mark in the end of its name is some sort of a visualisation of what ladies usually say when they see my designs: “Ah….!”


How would you describe the style of your designs? What would you say are the most standout features?


When I was starting with my brand I used a lot of vintage materials, in fact  most of my designs were vintage inspired and even had some authenticity like feathers, brooch, lace or birdcages. I was outsourcing those components from all over internet and vintage markets like Portabello for example. Gradually for the bridal line I learned how to work with flower making tools and. I like embroidery from school years and incorporated it in a few of my first vintage inspired lines. Because I am self taught I had to come up with my own ideas, I my learn process was watching rare online lessons and from what I could see in works of other fellow milliners and designers. I felt a lack of traditional knowledge and I was keen to take a course in millinery in Glasgow, which was also to be sponsored by the Prince Trust but… when I came to the first class it occurred it was full and I couldn’t be accepted. As a result I decided that it should be my “special feature - a self taught designer”. Maybe that’s why most of my accessories are quite unconventional and I explore different materials and learn new techniques. So far I had worked with traditional millinery supplies, quartz crystals for my crowns collections and recently with plexiglass. At the moment I am investigating some jewellery techniques - basically I never stop learning.


What type of woman did you have in mind when designing the line?


My core customer is a lady who wants something she can’t find in an ordinary shop. My designs are in general pretty unusual which doesn’t make them appealing to a typical bridal or hat stockist. My brides are those who tend to choose less classy but more trendy or vintage, bohemian  styles, they can be pretty alternative and brave. As for those who choose my designs for races or special occasion - these customers appreciate workmanship and will want to amaze the audience with an unusual but still pretty wearable and stylish design.


What's a typical working day for you?


Since this in not my only occupation my daily working routine depends on whatever project I work. As how I mentioned above I still work as a makeup artist and hair designer and I need to switch off from one type of work to another. And that helps a lot to not be bored of trapped in the manufacturing process which sometimes can last days…When the season for hair accessories, hats (I mean races and summer in general) and weddings decreases I also work as a head of marketing and PR department at my event project - one of the biggest and conceptual wedding fayres in Moscow - WFEST. At times it is hard to combine work at all of these projects but I can sincerely say the creative work is my passion.


Which element of your job do you most enjoy?


Creating a new collection is always exciting! I must be sometimes wrong to not think in the financial way and most of the times it is the material that gets me inspired. But to create a coherent collection out of this or that material makes me not sleep at nights!


What are you favorite materials to work with?


From season to season I add new materials but among my favourites are natural quartz crystals - and who would think that there is some much more potential in these pretty predictable naturals spikes. Another material that I still explore is acryl. Last autumn I presented my first collection from this material at Moscow Fashion Week and it was a challenging project. We collaborated with a very talented Russian Designer Svetlana Evstigneeva and as a concept used “Iced flowers”. So my task was to show what the “iced flowers” are. In fact I did trap real flowers between layers of thin plexiglas and it looked exactly how you would see it in the nature: when sudden cold hits and freezes flowers.


How important is color to your design process?


I must say I don’t follow pantone forecasts. As a self taught makeup artist I “feel” the colour and years of working in the fashion industry thought me to predict and adopt colours that are in trend. For example even though purple is now a trending colour - I am not going to make my collection from all purple quartz crystals or my flowers for hats primary in this colour only. I think it limits me as a designer and limits my customers too. In the end of the day the pantone colour forecast is only a selling tool. I don’t appeal to masses with my creation and I would prefer to keep them very unique.


How do you balance between fashion and wedding industries?


I must confess it is hard to balance. Coming from the fashion background in the first place enables me to create fashion edgy pieces, however because headwear is generally not everyone cup of tea (except winter hats which don’t inspire me as a designer at all) - and I am talking here rather about millinery and jewellery for the hair - it is reasonably difficult to generate stable sales in the fashion segment. Therefore bridal designs are rather cash cows whereas my fashion items are “shooting starts” that gets your art noticed.


What inspires you today?


The inspiration comes mainly from a desire to explore new materials and techniques. I seek for new substances and try to intergate them into my design work. For example I launched a line of my feather earrings last year and you’ve got to see the feathers - they are like real flowers and I couldn’t find them any better use than making earrings. My clients love them.


Do you have a most treasured item in your personal jewelry collection?


Jewellery can only be treasure if it has some special meaning. Obviously it is my wedding ring. However as treasure is my wedding headpiece - obviously created by myself. 


What's next? What's your vision for the future of your brand?


I am still at early stages of developing my brand. It doesn’t come easy internationally, especially when you move countries, get kids and constantly reinvest into your business. I would like to see my brand sold exclusively in established boutiques. I believe the value of items like the one I create is appreciated more when they are to find in places like that. A selection of my accessories are now sold in one of the luxurious boutiques in Moscow - Bosco. 

I would also like to expand my team which is although now still small but very very skilful and helpful.


Share with us 3 random facts about you that very few people know!


Our house pets are water frogs (I had them as a girl and now my daughters and I take care of a few), so yes I Iike funny creatures. I would like to have a small pet a chameleon if we are to live in Africa. I wish I had beautiful nails. Working as a designer (hand-on stuff, not sketching) doesn’t let me have beautiful manicure, but for my profession as a makeup artist I would kill for that. I don’t know if it will ever happen to have cool manicure. I can’t make myself to make a kid’s collection of hair accessories. I don’t know why.


Where our readers can find you and keep in touch with you? (Provide your instagram, website, facebook page if any please)







Photographer: Marina Amulina


Style and idea: Anna Baklanova


Make up artist:  Pavel Elfimov


Model: Anastasia


Accessories: Beretkah!


Photo Assistant: Victoria


Перевод с английского и оформление pooohl


Original interview in L'affaire