Défilés on line

Foto flash


Betony Vernon
Serge Joncour
Rachel Laurent
Hikoru Katano
Stephen di Renza

Espace beauté

Shopping à Paris


Dress code

Le Journal



Notre boutique


Irina Volkonskii
Slavic flame

By Denyse Beaulieu / Pictures : Vincent Lappartient

Russian. Redhead – « True angels have orange hair », she once graffitied overnight all over Paris walls. Russian, redhead, over the top, with her Dostoievskian name and her native town of Grozny up flames. “Fire walk with me”, Laura Palmer’s enigmatic message in David Lynch’s movie, could be Irina Volkonskii’s motto. Fire thrown by the Swarovski crystals she sticks on everyday objects transformed into childishly poetic jewels. Though Irina says “I was never a child” – of course, that’s what grown-ups who never stopped being children say. Irina is always telling stories, each one of her pieces is born of a story, she can’t stand not telling the stories, but how could she take aside each one of the buyers at her 300 retail outlets to whisper, in her adorably broken English, the way she chose each piece? “With Irina, you don’t choose”, she once decreed, when she sold her work herself in her Parisian boutique: she used to kick out men who’d come to buy a gift, and bring them back a wrapped, surprise parcel. “I only do pieces to twist men around my finger”, says the heart-breaker, who still keeps the words jotted down by those men to describe the woman they were buying the gift for: “It was so beautiful I fell in love with each one of those men.”

Here’s one story. In 1999, France has just been devastated by a storm. Irina walks through the Luxembourg gardens. She and her friends pick twigs. She paves them with strass and makes brooches of out them. Her first design.

Then there were the crystal-encrusted handcuff bracelets, born of a word-play from the French word for tiny hands, “menotte”, which also means “handcuffs”. And the cellular phone earpieces to wear as earrings, because she once had dinner with a table-full of boors who kept talking on their respective phones. Irina recruits a 60 woman thief team in Paris cloakrooms. They steal the offensive earpieces and take Polaroid pictures of their owners. The result is the “Girls, don’t go out with the telephone operators” collection. When she is asked to rework a Philippe Starck Plexiglass chair, she sticks mirrors on the seat, “For men with shining eyes, to look under girls’ skirts”.

Every design is born of words: multilingual Irina – she evens speaks Esperanto – takes French expressions at face value to turn mundane objects into adornments. She works more like a conceptual artist than like a bauble designer. Or like an enchanting little girl who savours words like coloured candy. Irina Volkonskii keeps on flooding the world with stories born under her fiery mane, like endlessly, extravagantly generous declarations of love.

Denyse Beaulieu