At some point, Instagram replaced US Weekly as the easiest way to see what celebrities are wearing in real-time. Supermodel vacation pics, airport looks, the red carpet—it’s all just a scroll away, which has become a huge advantage for brands (especially when Insta stars are kind enough to tag them). With just one post, our favorite public figures can give a previously unknown fashion label a chance to make it big. This is exactly what happened with the Ukraine’s hottest young hat designer, Ruslan Baginskiy from a picturesque city called Lviv.
His break came after Bella Hadid asked to keep one of his eponymous baker boy caps following a photoshoot for Elle Russia’s September 2017 issue. Soon after, the model tagged his brand on her social media account and requests from other mega-watt stars like Kourtney Kardashian, Sofia Richie, and Elsa Hosk came rolling in with breakneck speed. They all placed their orders the same way: through Instagram.
“Everything I have, I owe to Instagram,” says Baginskiy from his studio, which has since moved to Ukraine’s capital city Kiev to help maximize access to the country’s native and visiting fashion elite. “Instagram is the most powerful tool in our industry right now. The world is so big, but on Instagram we’re all together. Every job, every order, every connection I’ve made has been through it. Instagram has given me, this unknown person from a super small town, the chance to really do something.”
Baginskiy’s obsession with hats started with a felt fedora. His grandfather wore one while he was growing up and as a child he remembers admiring its elegance and the ease with which it pulled together any outfit. “In Lviv there is a strong tradition with hats,” the designer explains. “Nowhere else in the Ukraine has it, but in my hometown everyone wears hats. Often they are strange and outlandish shapes, but my grandfather always wore a simple, wide-brimmed fedora. It was the first hat in my life and it remains my favorite style to this day.”
But access to fashion doesn’t come easily to someone growing up in a country like Ukraine. In 1991, the former Soviet state gained independence from Russia in a bloody war that still churns on in the country’s eastern border towns to this day. With magazines hard to come by in Lviv, the Internet was Baginskiy’s meal ticket during his teens. “I was obsessed with fashion and would spend hours watching and learning from [the now defunct] style.com,” he recalls. “I was a superfan of Alexander McQueen, Phillip Treacy, and Stephen Jones—their hats were pure fantasy to me.” When some of the designer’s childhood friends became models in the early to mid 2000s, they would bring him back issues of luxury fashion editions from Paris.
It was around this time that Baginskiy started working as a stylist for smalltime Ukrainian photographers and digital magazines. His favorite look in every shoot included a hat which he sourced locally. Learning from an artisan in his hometown, he decided to make himself a fedora and the hat-making bug hit. “Some stylists love jewelry, others love shoes—me, I loved hats with every single outfit,” he laughs. “I started experimenting, and the more hats I made, the more I grew to love the art of millinery.”
His grandmother, noticing her young grandson’s burgeoning passion, encouraged him to take a professional leap. She lent him the equivalent of 0 to make his first official collection. “She said ‘you’re talented, you must do this,’ so I went to buy some special fabric and made my first hats under my name, Ruslan Baginskiy,” he recalls. He had only sold a handful of hats when the request from Elle Russia came in earlier this year. His basic collection includes fedoras, flat top brimmed hats, and Bella’s favorite baker boy cap. Throughout the year, Baginskiy designs capsule collections which he then launches whenever he feels fit. There was a series of straw hats for summer and he recently feted a trendy custom fedora embroidered with the word ‘feminist.’
Growing on his adoring fan-base in Los Angeles, Baginskiy hopes to throw a special event in the United States within the next year. “I have never been to America, but I think maybe I am American inside,” he laughs. A personal goal on his bucket list is to attend Coachella while he’s there. It’s something that he’s watched unfold via Instagram many times and he thinks that his straw hats in particular would look great on its barely-clad attendees. Professionally, he hopes that his famous clients will help keep promoting the lost art of hat wearing. “In the late ‘40s and ‘50s everyone owned a hat and no American would leave the house without one,” he says. His dream is that hats will become as essential as shoes to an outfit. He concedes that it’s a big dream, but if the power of the Internet has taught him anything, it’s to always dream big.END
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createdAt:Thu, 07 Sep 2017 15:27:44 +0000