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Growing up in Moscow, Vika Gazinskaya had little to no exposure to fashion. “There were no glossy magazines, no TV programs, nothing,” she said. So when Mattel opened its Russian business in the early Nineties, Gazinskaya unleashed her creativity onto a Barbie doll. “My mother couldn’t afford to buy clothes for it, so I used every single piece of fabric I could find in my house,” the designer recalled.

This story first appeared in the March 26, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

After taking private sketching lessons, she enrolled at the University of Moscow, which she quit when she won the Russian Silhouette young designer competition. The prize was a one-year internship at L’Officiel Russia. “I didn’t know anything about fashion, designers, photographers before starting there. It was my real school,” said Gazinskaya.

After that she worked as a freelance stylist for MTV, where she met Californian artist Bart Dorsa, who financed her first shows in Moscow. Shortly after, her business partner left and Gazinskaya’s friends helped her set up her own studio. The turning point was in 2009, when she started attending London and Paris fashion weeks wearing some eye-catching designs. She became a favorite of streetstyle photographers, while retailers took an interest in her brand.

In September 2011, Gazinskaya’s namesake collection made its debut at Paris Fashion Week. “I design for powerful and feminine women who know what they want and who aim to stand out from the crowd,” she said. Produced in Moscow using luxury fabrics, the clothes reflect the designer’s couturelike approach with a strong emphasis on volumes and custom-made prints.

Retailers include Colette in Paris and Fivestory in New York, as well as Net-a-porter, Moda Operandi and Shopbop. With Stella McCartney as her role model — Gazinskaya is also a vegetarian and doesn’t use leather or fur — she hopes to expand into a comprehensive brand with accessories and other product categories.