– Posted by Helen
We recently chatted with Mariya Dykalo, Creative Director of British heritage brand Aspinal of London, a real treat given that Sara & I are both long-time admirers of this beautiful brand! Quintessentially British in both style and substance (like us, much of their production is UK based and if not, in Europe), Aspinal is every bit aspirational. Idylically, the company is based in the National Park of the West Sussex Downs and all its collections are handmade by craftsmen and women. The brand started as creators of high quality stationery, books and accessories for prestigious museums such as The National Gallery, The British Museum, The Vatican and The Louvre. And today, Aspinal has grown into a multi-category brand offering an impressive range of luxury handbags and accessories while maintaining their high standards of British craftsmanship.
Ukranian-born Mariya started at the company 10 years ago as an intern and now heads up its creative direction working with newly appointed Design Director Giles Deacon. Read on to find out more about Mariya's impressive career journey, her inspirations and her style tips - including her favourite Madderson London picks.
What does your job involve, in a nutshell?
I am the Creative Director for British luxury leather goods and accessories brand, Aspinal of London. My job entails leading our Design team, working with recently appointed Design Director, Giles Deacon and creating exciting collections every season.
Aspinal aesthetic is about refined English elegance and modern classics. I love playing with shapes of the bags and textures of leathers and other materials to bring them to life. We produce handbags, silk scarves, small leather goods, travel and stationery accessories, in both our signature colours but also in the seasonal colourways.
My designs are about incorporating elegance and versatility, whilst maintaining practical functions that allow busy working women to go about their day. I carefully consider aesthetics and construction to consider how our customers are going to use the product, whether that be for a social occasion, travel or work.
My job involves travelling a lot too, most recently I have visited Dubai, New York and Tokyo, but London remains my favourite city in the world.
How have you got to where you are today? Has anyone in particular helped you?
I am Ukrainian born and grew up in west of Ukraine in a town called Lviv. My mother greatly influenced my love for fashion from an early age – she was a working mum, but always dressed beautifully and was so well put together, I was always in awe of her.
From my interest in clothes, I then went to my first sewing class when I was 13 years old, and this ignited my passion for creativity with apparel. I then studied design and pattern cutting at college for three years, before I enrolled at Lviv National Academy for Art & Design, in which I gained a Master Degree with focus of working with leather and accessories.
Following my education, I moved to England and studied Foreign Language at Chichester College where I improved my English. In 2006, I accepted a Design internship and began my exciting career with Aspinal of London. Since then, the brand has evolved from its focus on stationery, and creating beautiful leather books for museums, to a much wider collection of seasonal men’s and women’s bags and accessories. I have also collaborated with some wonderfully talented people for capsule collections over the years, such as Michelle Dockery, Emma Shipley, David Gandy and Giles Deacon, which I am incredibly proud of.
What is one of the biggest challenges that you face in your career?
Although I hugely enjoy travelling and experience different places and cultures, my job takes me far and wide which means time away from my two children. Family is the most valuable thing for me and prioritising the time we do all spend together is greatly important. We travel together as a family when we can, but I enjoy nothing more than retreating to our countryside home in the middle of West Sussex.
You recently appointed Giles Deacon as Design Director of Aspinal of London. How do you identify people you would like to work with - what qualities do you look for?
I have been a couture client of Giles’ for the past few years, and one day in his studio, about two years ago, I asked him if he would consider an accessories collaboration with us. He is exceptionally talented, and I was thrilled when he accepted.
His depictions of the Aspinal Girls with the illustrations that formed the print were beautiful, playful and all-encompassing of the many global Aspinal of London female consumers. It was a true pleasure to share the creative process and work so closely with him.
The synergy between myself and Giles was very organic, and he understood the classic yet modernity of the brand, so it became a natural progression to appoint him as Design Director and have him work alongside me. Giles offers his own opinions and ideas on each piece, which are valued greatly, so it’s wonderful to work so collaboratively together and with the rest of our team.
I am drawn to naturally creative personalities, therefore anyone I can share and bounce ideas around with, I enjoy working with endlessly. It’s a pleasure to see how different perspectives can merge, to develop such strong elements of design.
You have always made pieces that are superior in quality, designed to last. Have you noticed a shift in people’s recognition of the importance of investment dressing in recent years?
Women and men always love to invest in luxury and designer accessories, but British brands are being increasingly recognised and loved around the world.
Aspinal is a young luxury British brand known for its quality, design and great value. We have a unique and competitive positioning for being number one for quality versus price.
In the recent years, I have noticed that women love to experiment more by mixing high end designers with high street brands, as well as investing in up-and-coming designers. Younger generations are increasingly buying into the trends set by social influencers, bloggers and youtubers. Luckily, Aspinal has been embraced by younger audiences and is loved for its modern approach and innovation as a luxury brand.
What is your approach to event dressing, both when you are working and when you are socialising?
I get asked for my advice of how to style things, and I think it is incredibly important to present yourself well in whatever you are doing. My mother always looked beautifully turned out, and this is something I always loved about her.
When working, I like to wear lots of different styles, but my one statement piece will always be a well-fitted jacket. It chic and elegant, yet professional, and makes it easier to play up or down with accessories and make-up, and tailor for the occasion more suitably.
Depending on the event, I will either wear a dress and heels for something more glamourous, or smart trousers and a jacket with sneakers, if more causal. I am loving the sports luxe trend at the moment. Of course, I will always be carrying one of my Aspinal bags!
Dressing up is probably the most enjoyable part of my job and it also helps me to recognise opportunities in our handbag collections. I love attending numerous events and meeting incredible people in the fashion industry. I observe new trends by analysing what everyone is wearing, it has been always my biggest inspiration...
When you're in the spotlight how does your outfit choice help the way you feel when you need to be on your A-game?
As someone who has always loved fashion, and admired fashionable women, I enjoy how confident the right outfit choice can make you feel. Whether it be a well-tailored suit with a chic silhouette, or a bold and bright print, wearing something that makes you feel great can be empowering. Similarly, your accessories can help set any outfit and say a lot about your personality. Choosing the perfect accessory like a handbag, a scarf or some jewellery is very important. I enjoy that Aspinal have versatile straps and style sizes with their handbags, which allow you to be flexible when finishing your look.
One of my favourite pieces is my Giles Deacon jacquard jacket – its long-line at the back, cropped at the front and incredibly flattering with a fun metallic print. I love pairing this with our Mini Hat Box, as this combination makes me feel fabulous!
What are your favourite piece in the Madderson SS19 collection (for work or summer-season events)?
I love Madderson for its feminine and elegant aesthetic, and beautiful British made quality. My favourite two pieces are Bethany top and Ursula skirt. I fall in love with them for it botanical tulip and poppy print. It also very versatile and practical as you can wear them together for more dressed up look or pair them as separates with other pieces from my wardrobe. What a great find as it's such a timeless piece, which I can keep in my wardrobe forever and pass it to my daughter when she grows up.
Can you share one piece of invaluable advice (business or personal) someone once gave you?
Someone once said to me: “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” This is now my daily motto and reminds me to appreciate every day and all that I have. And “Never Give up” also gets me through tough days.
Finally, can you share any exciting hints about what’s to come from Aspinal either in the near or in the not too distant future?
We have just launched our first sunglasses collection, for men and women, which has been really fun to create. Each style has been named after a different Italian port, and there is a real mix of classic and contemporary frame styles and colours. Each pair is equally as glamorous and features our signature shield in the design, as well as some iconic features such as the lions head. Because of this, there is a synergy between the bags and sunglasses, so they pair together really well.
Our AW19 collection is not far from dropping, and this is the first with Giles on board; so I am excited to share some debut styles that we created for London Fashion Week.
We will also be expanding in Asia with stores planned for China in the coming year.
SHOP MARIYA'S LOOK