Since 2016 JAHNKOY has been an visionary art project, producing several shows that focused on promoting global cultural revival, artisanal craftsmanship, sustainability, racial equality and unity of mankind across the globe. In 2020, it became a fashion statement as the award winning collaboration with athletic giant PUMA was released to global fanfare.
Roughly a year ago, JAHNKOY's founding designer Marusya Vadimovna Kazakova teamed up with African artisan BURKINDY to launch JAHNKOY as a fashion brand that will continue to craft world class collections that view the entire planet as one global spirit village.
For the debut collection with PUMA, JAHNKOY brings its signature aesthetic to streetwear silhouettes, reimagining them with artisanal detailing and vibrant, artistic patterns. Inspired by traditional Russian ornaments and global folk references JAHNKOY's hand made artwork is placed on PUMA’s athluxe materials as a canvas while handing the ornate jewelry and accessory design to BURKINDY.
It’s been a long time coming for Marusya Vadimovna Kazakova. The Siberian (Russia) born multidisciplinary artist and fashion designer, currently based in Brooklyn, has been on a trajectory with intent and purpose for years. The idea behind the brand was to consciously unite sustainable, eco-driven materials with beautiful touches of craft and tradition.
Following her mother’s footsteps in design, she moved to Moscow to study Fashion at the British Higher School of Art and Design, where she received a BFA in Womenswear. Later, she moved to London and finished a Graduate Diploma Course in Menswear from Central Saint Martins. She crossed the pond to Manhattan to receive her MFA in Fashion Design at Parsons New School for Design.
No doubt her global travels, expansive worldview, and core understanding of the narratives of all peoples contributed in immense ways to the final product.
The brand is working towards restoration of artisanal craftsmanship and revival of the global cultural heritage in the contemporary landscape. JAHNKOY’s Studio is based in the Restoration-Art Cultural Center of Bedford-Stuyvesant, NYC. The studio is fully functioning as a creative customization space, presenting apparel, shoes, jewelry, as well as a collection of books, cameras and selected artworks.
I caught up with Marusya in Brooklyn this week to discuss her story, and more importantly, how it’s connected to ours as a people. Nothing lives in a vacuum. Her work is a case study in connectivity & collaboration, and how previously unrelated things to the layman are actually not only absolutely related, but embolden & further the narrative of the other.
AX: Ciao Marusya! always felt the best place to start is where ever my subject feels or can identify was the beginning of their journey. What were your early years like?
MJ: Ciao Joey, I would say the beginning for me was when I have decided to quit the Novosibirsk State University, I was studying economics-cybernetics for 2 years and then in the summer I went to San Francisco for a 3 month Work-and-Travel Program, after I came back it became clear to me that I have to start following my dreams, which at the time was to become a fashion designer. So from that moment the big journey have started, I moved to Moscow to study at British Higher School of Art & Design, BFA Fashion Design, after that to London, Central Saint Martins, Graduate Diploma in Fashion and then to New York, Parsons The New School, MFA Fashion and Society program.
AX: What is Russia fashion scene/community like? And how did that help you sort of craft the story you are so finely weaving with each thread?
To be honest I am not sure what it is like right now, as I have not lived there for 6 years, but at a time when I was there, I was amongst first graduates of Fashion in the sort of modern way, so I was very excited about everything that is going on in the west, following contemporary culture, my love of hiphop, reggae, dancehall, graffiti, skateboards, snowboards - all of that is an influence. Also at that time a lot of mass market stores open, shopping malls and so on. So we felt ourself belonging to this new era really, and how it has really build our culture based on what we saw on TV and in the magazines. We were dressing in flea-markets and seconds hands, and when social media being so new as it just started then, we started selling clothes online and on the street markets.
I also was working a lot in the theatre and as a stylist in a high end mall. All of those experiences really built my own identity so to speak, as well as gave me top tier training of different skills in art, style and design and a broad cultural influence.
AX: So I know from Moscow you went to study in London, really expanding your core education and studying the “rules” of fashion in order to evolve what fashion could mean. What were some of the most important things your travels have taught you?
MJ: The schools of course gave me a very tough and rich training in fashion design as well as the depth of research and the current social and cultural context. I would say that it really has been and continuing to be very transformative and, to be honest, quite a challenging experience.
Travel has allowed me to have a look at my own culture from many different angles, as well as broaden my views on the world. It allowed me to meet people of various nations and cultures and to learn about their history and current realities. All together it has shifted my personal values and cultural identity.
AX: So, honestly, it is quite clear a piece is not just a SKU to you. Each creation tells a story. In that regard, the fabric is really a canvas. What was the story behind the creation of your PUMA collection and Burkindy collaboration?
MJ: Fashion has always been an art form for me, the way to express inner self, as well as reflect on current environmental, social and cultural realities. In that way JAHNKOY were developed as a "craft" art-fashion project, that were unfolding over a period of 4 years via several shows, it has been supported by PUMA and PUMA x JAHNKOY collection has been created in the way reflecting JAHNKOY’s work. The key pillars of JAHNKOY are cultural restoration, revival of craftsmanship, sustainability, diversity, variety of fashion expression and freedom of body adornment. I have created the artistic graphics that adorned the relaxed sport silhouettes.
My artwork and concept was based on the Slavic traditional ornamentation, however the idea behind it is to restore the global desire for traditional adornment in the contemporary context. Many nations around the world have been adorning their clothes with sacred ornaments that have similar roots and today ethnic old world "craft" is disappearing. Sadly, together with it goes the cultural knowledge of our ancestors. Today’s fashion became global, yet it lacks our world’s cultural heritage.
I want to create clothes that would speak to the new generation, yet will be rooted in the beauty and the knowledge of the past. The collection has also been created within Puma sustainability practices, using organic cotton, some recycled materials and the finest of the possible craftsmanship available within factory production.
I am really happy with the results we achieved and love the pieces that came out. For the Jewelry collection with BURKINDY same idea of the ornaments were applied, mixing my artwork with his. BURKINDY is an artist and a jewelry designer originally from Burkina Faso (West Africa), his jewelry is hand crafted in NYC. For the collaboration collection we developed rings, cuff bracelets, necklaces available in brass, silver and gold.
Handmade rings by BURKINDY - furthering the "New Spirit Village" global art aesthetic in silver and gold. Click image to see selected BURKINDY curation.
AX: What does the future look like for your brand and whats the next evolution of the story?
MJ: Recently together with Burkindy we have launched JAHNKOY as a fashion brand, we also opened the JAHNKOY Studio in the Restoration-Art Center, in Brooklyn. Currently it is opened by appointment, visitors can purchase JAHNKOY hand crafted sport collection with our partners at PUMA, BURKINDY jewelry, as well as our random pieces like artwork, history & fashion books and vintage cameras. Right now we are working on Spring-Summer Ready-to-Wear JAHNKOY collection and I am developing my next art project “the Returned”.