From the ’90s studio of fashion design to today’s fashion center, Atex has had a huge influence on the Armenian fashion industry. Atex became the first fashion education provider in Armenia which gives young models and designers a high quality education and supports them throughout their career to bring their ideas and visions to life.
This time, we had a small talk on Atex’s history, activity and mission with Karina Dnoyan, Director of Atex Fashion Centre, Stylist and Industrial Designer.
Hi Karina, thank you for accepting our interview and sharing your story with us. Could you please tell us a bit about your path to the fashion industry?
Hi, Atex is the first Fashion Centre in Armenia that has been involved with everything related to fashion. I love Armenia very much despite the fact that I’m only half-Armenian. My mother was sent from Belarus to develop the light industry in Armenia. In ‘the 50s at the big Vanadzor factory with 5,000 employees, she was rising it from the barracks.
I managed to work before the collapse of the Union, probably in four enterprises in Armenia. I remember how Armenian-made goods were known not only throughout the Union but also abroad. I personally witnessed how Armenian shoes were bought as Italian.
I graduated from music school, then from art school. I was searching myself in that direction. But of course, staying at the knitwear factory which was headed by my mother probably somehow influenced me, and after school, I went to work at the factory, then after a year of work, I submitted my documents to Moscow Textile Institute.
I’m managing the Fashion center for already 20 years old, although this year marks its 30th anniversary.
How did education become the main mission of Atex?
We emphasized education as a primary direction, because in 1991 when the center was established as an organization, the whole textile industry in Post-Soviet countries began to decline. All enterprises were closed, so we decided to reorient ourselves because there were no professions related to clothing design in Armenia. We had a school first, then a college, then we modified the approach, and now we have the most original training program – these are the modules from which anyone can create a preferable profession in this area.
What is unique about Atex?
By establishing the training courses firstly we wanted to make the profession of a designer more widespread, secondly, more professional, and thirdly, we created the basis for training clothing designers, not simply the technologists or sewers. Not a single educational institution doesn’t prepare industrial designers or designers who are ready to work in production to create mass clothes.
However, there is a big progress, probably for the past ten years there are big names established in Armenia. Unfortunately, very many leave, but even those who stay start to work at a fairly high level. The consumer began to recognise Armenian designers and Armenian fashion in general.
We have always kept up with the times, sometimes even one step ahead. Some of the projects we created 3-4-5 years earlier than the public was ready, for example, we were the first in 2004 to create a store of Armenian designers.
Atex is also the first modeling agency in Armenia. How did it all start?
During the first year we hunted for pretty and tall people on the streets, but then we created a school of models and photo models in 1994. We are still preparing models, and helping other designers to organise their fashion shows, because all the model base, and literally all models in Armenia went through our school.
What is your source of inspiration?
We have very famous students who study in good Fashion Houses. I always give an example of Rima Kazumyan, who’s been the 3rd designer in Armani House. There are a lot of designers in Milan, Paris, the Netherlands, Canada who have their own Houses and all of them are students of Atex. When I give their examples, my students are getting inspired and so do I. There’s no place in Armenia with the same level of education. After 1 year of study, a person can create a full collection on the highest level.
Tell us about Atex community.
In Atex centre we have a community of people dedicated to their work. It’s like a separate state in a state – we are influenced by everything, yet the most important thing is to maintain this human relationship and respect for professionals. For me, it is probably the core principle. In the times when you want to give up, I always think about our future.
What unique projects are you working on?
One of our main projects is doing clothes for inclusive people – for people with no arms, no legs; for whom no one designs clothes. They participate in the development process with their advices and suggestions even in the design ideas.
Greatest lesson you have learned in fashion?
In fashion you have to stay true to yourself to be a very serious professional. It’s a source of self-expression. You’re an artist, and it doesn’t matter if you end up making a T-shirt or an evening dress, it will be yours through the path that you have come to this product.
Images from the personal archive of Karina Dnoyan and Atex Fashion Centre.