A M'Oment with

Esme Vie

On the debut of her exclusive shirting capsule, Tatiana Hambro meets the Milan-based designer separating herself from the pack with her unfussy approach to femininity.

 

“My clients want something ‘wow!’” says 36-year-old, Russian-born Julia Voitenko, the woman behind Italian luxury label Esme Vie. If the name sounds unfamiliar, that’s because it’s not as readily available as, say, Gucci. (Aside from Moda, Voitenko only sells privately from her atelier in Milan.) But, beyond its wow factor, its rarity is simply one of the many things that set the label apart. At a time when so much has gone street, Voitenko’s creations are defined by their vintage elegance, Italian fabrics and couture details. Though unfailingly feminine, they are equally modern, crafted with the perfect sense of elegant ease—a sense of style Voitenko is drawn to herself.

 

“I love the look of a woman wearing a man’s shirt,” confesses the designer, a sentiment that spawned her latest collection, a 16-piece capsule exclusive to Moda. On her moodboard you’ll find iconic images of the classic button-down, from Peter Lindbergh’s famous supermodel shoot to stills of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But “these are not your average shirt dresses,” she assures. Instead, it’s double-faced duchess satin, vintage rose quartz cufflinks, giant silk flower brooches and luxe stripes (crafted from Italian textured cotton so you can take them with you on your trip to St. Barths) that characterize her silhouettes—which range from a chic tuxedo blouse to a cool pink silk mini dress. If it all sounds worthy of a spot in your closet, you’re right. Read on to find out a little more about why we’ve been early fans.

WHAT DOES “ESME VIE” MEAN?
Esme comes from emerald (my favorite stone); it also means “blessed by God” and “loved” in old French. So I thought it would bring me luck! And vie is French, “la vie,” like life. 

 

TELL US ABOUT THIS NEW CAPSULE
The whole idea stemmed from an image of a woman wearing a man’s shirt in the morning. It’s such a classic, iconic look. I found it very feminine, but powerful at the same time; relaxed yet elegant; fashionable yet timeless. It stands for everything a modern woman is.

 

WHAT WAS YOUR STARTING POINT?
I collected a mood board filled with images of the most famous women wearing a white mens' shirt: Audrey Hepburn, Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss, Kate Winslet…the photographs—all timeless, iconic images—span many different years from the ‘50s to today.

 

WHAT’S YOUR PROCESS?
I design mostly in my head; I don't have much patience with drawing. Everything starts from fabric: I see the fabric and I get inspired.

 

WHAT MAKES YOUR SILHOUETTES DIFFERENT FROM THOSE OF OTHER SHIRT DRESSES?
It takes about 20 hours of work to make only one dress.

“The whole idea stemmed from an image of a woman wearing a man’s shirt in the morning.”

“Each shirt is named after a chic vacation spot that I love.”