“I thought that our work with foreigners would subside, but it only increased. However they are very careful.” Russian designer nominated for ISU awards for American Isabeau Levito’s costume.

Posted on 2023-01-20 • No comments yet


Russian designer Svetlana Kolobova from Axel studio about creating costumes for the American figure skater Isabeau Levito and many other skaters from different countries.

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source: MatchTV dd. 15th January 2023 by Marina Nikolaeva

Kolobova was nominated for the ISU award for best costume alongside Anna Shcherbakova. For more than one season, the Axel Studio has been cooperating with the American figure skater Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion and the silver medalist of the Grand Prix final. Isabeau’s costumes for this season were shortlisted for the ISU-2023 award.

How did it happen that you started working with Isabeau Levito?

Svetlana Kolobova: It was a special story. Natalya Linichuk advised me to Levito’s coach, Yulia Kuznetsova. Why special? When I was a child, my grandmother and I went to watch figure skating at our relatives’, who were among the first to buy a color TV. And believe me, I remember: I went to them, the TV was huge, there were stunning blue-and-white costumes on the screen, and the announcer said: “Natalya Linichuk and Gennady Karponosov.” And I remembered these names, and I’ve seen these costumes since I was ten years old. 

And suddenly, a few years ago, one of the clients came to wish Happy New Year and said, “You know, I didn’t find modern skaters on magnets, so I’ll give you a magnet with Linichuk and Karponosov.” Can you imagine? In these costumes! Three or four days passed, and I got a message (at work) at one or two in the morning: “Svetlana, I was given your contact; I need costumes for my skater. I know that it’s late for you; call back when you are free. Sincerely, Natalia Linichuk.” Of course, as soon as I came home, I immediately called her. She asks, “Why aren’t you sleeping?” I answer, “We work. We have many clients from other continents.” Linichuk says, “It’s very Russian.” And then she advised us to Yulia [Kuznetsova, Levito’s coach]. Yulia said that Tchaikovsky’s “Russian Dance” from “Swan Lake” was needed. I then asked, “Are you not afraid to choreograph Russian Dance in America? Let me do it for you in a “Gzhel” style, but we will stylize it so that it is only a hint and a costume won’t get rejected. But Yulia said that everything was fine.

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What inspires you when creating a costume? Maybe a movie, if the character is taken from there? Or is it better not to?

Svetlana Kolobova: You know, when we first started, I always tried to do things “like someone else,”  and if not, then “like everyone else.” And I knew that it wasn’t it. This is all from the previous century. So it’s sad to remember. Then I thought: “It’s good, I’ll take it from here, maybe from here.” Then I got tired of it and began to do everything as I saw it!

Do those costumes that are copied from the works of Lisa McKinnon belong to this period? You have several photos on social media of very similar dresses.

Svetlana Kolobova: Not really. This is sometimes requested by our clients. They bring something and want a repeat. I really don’t like this; we offer to do something else, but if they really ask and insist, we agree. I asked not to post these photos on social networks, but they said that it turned out beautifully and you needed to show it. But such photos are marked as a dedication to Lisa McKinnon. It’s very embarrassing for me to do this, but if the client asks, then they really want to.

And if they come and ask for a tutu “like Zagitova’s,”  how will you react?

Svetlana Kolobova: We made more than five of them—that’s for sure. Black and white. Not because the costume is brilliant but because of the association with Olympic champion Alina Zagitova. Including Nadia Peskova, daughter of Navka. And now they’ve ordered a tutu again, to the Czech Republic. I offered to do something different, to change something. But they really want one. I’m getting sick of it, frankly, of these tutus. But people want to be like their idols; they are inspired by them. 

Is it good or not?

Svetlana Kolobova: For small children, well, let them repeat. After all, they feel like their idols, especially when they stand on a pedestal. But we refuse to the adults. Why come to the designer’s studio if you want a copy.

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Which of the foreigners, besides Isabeau, orders costumes in your studio?

Svetlana Kolobova: The entire Chinese team, Japanese, Canadians. We also did a costume for Misha Ge (for hi s athletes), and we sew for all European countries, the Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, Australia. On average, we ship two or three costumes a week to the USA.

It’s great that in the current situation there are foreign clients. 

Svetlana Kolobova: Yes. I thought that our work with foreigners would subside, but it only increased. It happens that they ask, how does work go in a new situation? In general, they try not to advertise it.

We made a costume for Brian Orser, or rather, for his figure skater. I asked the athlete’s mother, “Please have Brian’s autograph on the sketch for me.” He said that when all this is over, he will sign and take a picture. They are very careful.


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