Meet The Designer Behind The Sarafan: Anya Furman

Meet The Designer Behind The Sarafan: Anya Furman

Meet Anya Furman. She’s the designer and owner of The Sarafan.  The Sarafan is an Italian based full-service fashion design studio.  When we say full-service…we’re not joking. The Sarafan does it all. You name it. They can do it.  The Sarafan partners with brands that seek to outsource in the areas of fashion design, fashion forecasting, apparel production, and so much more. They specialize in mass market, pret-a-porter, and luxury fashion market segments. We were lucky enough to catch up with Anya recently.  She is an amazing personality, an extremely talented designer, and a real inspiration to those who want to pursue an exciting career in fashion. Anya told us about growing up in a fashion household, the hottest trends to look out for, her influences, and the celebrity who’s style she admires the most.

Fashionkrush You come from a family of fashion designers. Your mother was in the design business and your grandmother was a famous couturier in Russia. What was it like growing up around these two talented women?

Anya Furman It was very interesting! In the late 80’s there were few good choices amongst the available apparel in the Ex-Soviet Union. You could find the same colors and same models from Riga to Vladivostok. My grandmother was sewing items for famous women of the country…. from artists to deputies’ wives. As they traveled often around the globe, they acquired and returned with wonderful fabrics, something that I had never seen before…so every visit with them was an exciting time for me.

The Sarafan

FK  Did you always aspire to be a designer? When did you realize that it was something you wanted to pursue?

AF  Actually when I was 4 or 5 years old I already and definitely understood that I wanted to work in this field because I saw all those beautiful fabrics and fashion sketches and I thought it would be such great fun to create something new! Even then I understood that it was a very hard business because creating it was just a little part of the whole challenging process.  Fashion has always been my great passion, but in Odessa (Ukraine), where I was born. there was no place where I could study it.  I had learned a lot watching my grandmother and mom working, but for me it was not enough to become a designer.

FK  If you had not become a fashion designer, what would you have become?

AF  I think it’s the only profession I could do…Actually, when I understood that it was a tough business and  that no one could explain it to me or properly educate me about it in the Ukraine, I decided to study other things. Later I graduated from two universities, one in foreign languages/journalism and the second one in web marketing. While listening to the lectures, in the back of my notebooks, I was designing bags and shoes. It was a really big surprise to later find these notebooks!  I then understood I was doing it absolutely subconsciously whereas most people draw circles or squares while listening!

FK  Did you attend fashion school? Where did you study fashion design?

AF  When I came to Italy I began working in fashion almost immediately, starting with the process of becoming a stylist. But that experience was not enough to work as a designer, so I went to the Burgo Fashion Institute in Milan and attended two courses- fashion design and pattern making. Also I was taking private lessons with one of the teachers from another fashion school while I studied Haute Couture sewing techniques.

FK  You were also the creative director for a well-known Italian brand.  What was that like?

AF  It was very challenging!  Actually I was in fashion design for some years before, working as a fashion designer, but I could never become a Creative Director without a diploma from some fashion institute. So as soon as I finished my studies,  I was immediately invited for internships at both Gucci and Marc Jacobs. At the same time, I got an offer to become the Creative Director of a very important project. It was under a famous Italian fashion group and I immediately agreed. It was very tough. The responsibility was huge but I realized it was a very important experience. Besides the collection development, I was following all the working processes: prototypes, fittings, showroom preparations and so on and in a couple of months I understood it was truly worth it.  I got to know so many people from the fashion world…..more than I could possibly have imagined.

The Sarafan

FK  What motivated you to open your own design studio, The Sarafan? What kind of services does your studio offer?

AF  While working as a buyer I had a lot of requests to create something unique and fresh. Some owners of the shops I worked for had boutiques and wanted to merge famous Italian brands with some unique pieces. I designed so often that, at times, it was impossible to do everything by myself.  So the main motivation for the studio opening was about providing many shops with unique designs and it became the main goal. Over time as my own experience in the segment was growing, I began offering more and more services for the companies I’d been working with.  Presently,  I am providing complete fashion collection development.   I design, choose fabrics, go to the textile exhibitions around the world, follow the production and all the prototypes fittings, style and direct photo shoots, organize sales campaigns and showroom sales. It’s only a small part of the services that we provide at the moment. Actually if someone would have told me 10 years ago that my idea about creating a fashion design studio would become my profession I would have never believed it.)

FK  Is there a story behind the name you chose for your design studio? Is there a special meaning behind it?

AF  Well, SARAFAN is a Russian traditional folk dress, something like a kimono for the Japanese. It was worn  in the 14th century… nearly in all of the country and later used only in provinces or worn for some special occasions.  As I am Russian, originally I worked a lot with Russian boutiques and brands. It was very logical to call a studio in this way…..easy to read and easy to remember.

FK  What influences your collections? How do you stay inspired season after season?

AF  I think it would delude or mislead a lot of people to say that fashion is only a business. A successful designer gets inspired first of all by what the market requests. Under simple collection development, there’s huge preparation… trends and main competition monitoring… future trends foresight and so on.  As I am developing a couple of collections every season, each and every time it’s a real challenge because I need to design different collections for different markets…for a different target age group and find a unique concept. Sometimes I am inspired by a film, or an art piece. At the end of every season I feel very “empty” afterwards as I always give it my best by providing all my new and original ideas. Every season it’s all the same… then I think that maybe  it’s worth taking a one season break, to rest and “recover” my creativity. But as soon as I visit some fabric exhibition or contemporary art museum I find myself inspired by some particular fabric and immediately have fresh concepts for the next 10 collections. So the cycle repeats and I start a new season with a great enthusiasm.

The Sarafan

FK  Fashion designers always look amazing….each with their own signature look. Can you describe your own personal style?

AF  Well my style depends on my mood first of all.  As I work with colors and prints all the time, at the end I get tired of all this variety and I don’t want to have all this stuff on me!  So 90% of my apparel is black. I adore minimal and light, conceptual style but not something that makes people turn their heads when I pass. Something very comfortable and classy. The other style I adore is PUNK ROCK: broken in jeans full of chains, leather jacket and some strange broken in T shirt merged with expensive accessories. Also, light make-up always make me feel great and relaxed.

FK  In addition to running your own business, you’re also an international fashion correspondent for L’Officiel Ukraine.  Could you tell us what fall fashion trends you think are big this season?

AF  One of the biggest trends this season is TARTAN. It’s comprised of criss-crossed horizontal patterns. The most common hue of the tartan patterning is in red, although many designers have improvised and managed to mix the pattern into other hues as well. Extremely famous designers and fashion houses like Givenchy, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, and Moschino have incorporated the print into their collections as well. I recommend to wear it with some punk or rock accessories while the main look should remain minimal and mono-colored.

thesarafan tartans

FK  What fashion trends do you think will be big in 2014? Any predictions?

AF  One of the main trends is LEATHER. Next season is going to be all about unexpected items made of leather: short skirts, dresses and shirts, dress-shirt or a long classic oversize leather shirt is an absolute must-have.  Another trend is ORGANZA. This transparent fabric we’re used to seeing in evening apparel but next season we will see organza used in a strange way- as a long lining under a short leather skirt….pants and jackets in organza decorated with wool and jacquard patchworks.  The third big trend is all about prints: flowery prints are a must, but flower prints will become more simple and naive: camomile, poppy and field florets.

FK  Is there a celebrity (past or present) whose style you admire? What do you like about this person’s style?

AF   I really adore the style of Victoria Beckham, she is always so elegant and fashionable.  She’s very “balanced” with all of her accessories and make up.  One of the celebrities from the past I admire is Audrey Hepburn. Her apparel today would look just gorgeous and innovative.

FK  Name 3 pieces of clothing every woman should own.

AF  My number one is a little black dress, classic cut up to the knees… this dress is very versatile because you can change up the look of it by just changing the accessories…. it’s suitable in the office, during the daytime, or at a party in the evening.  My number two is a white shirt.  One might think it’s a basic item…yes, it is, but it’s something that you might always use for all occasions….with jeans that look casual… with a suit as a business woman, and with a jacquard skirt when you go out.  My number three is a cashmere coat, it is a real investment but in time you will enjoy the payback. I don’t advise to buy it in black….but in wet ash grey or dark blue. This way you might wear it for all cold seasons from October up to April and always look gorgeous, even with mass market apparel underneath.

FK  Do you ever get to take a break? What do you like to do? Where do you like to go?

AF  You know my work is my biggest hobby and all my hobbies are about fashion anyway, so when I don’t design I relax writing articles or drawing fashion illustrations.  Even on the weekend I am used to working 4-5 hours per day, doing something I don’t have time for during the week, like answering some messages/emails or doing some research. When I decide just to switch off for some days I venture out of Italy for flea markets. My favorite ones are in France: Paris, Antibes and Cannes. It’s possible to buy some vintage bijoux there that is hard to find in any other place.  If I have just a half day free, I prefer to go to some SPA with a couple of friends of mine. It’s the best rest for body and mind.

FK  What is next for you? What else do you want to do? Are you working on any projects you can tell us about?

AF  Now I am at the end of my working season and as I told you before, at this point I feel like I need to take a one season break.  Well…. I have always a lot of projects. I  will probably agree to some interesting offer and go abroad to work exclusively for some fashion group. Or maybe I will open my own luxury brand.  My life attitude is that everything is possible and if you want it- you get it. I have a lot of plans and visions for the future, but it will always be in the fashion field. It’s something that I cannot live without!


Laurie is a fashion writer covering fashion in cyberspace. She writes content regularly for retailers, newspapers and magazines. When she's not writing, she's most likely chasing after her little boy or watching the sunset on the Gulf of Mexico. Stay tuned for her book.


  1. Rick Citta - 12/11/2013 reply

    Wonderful interview, full of insight, depth and such interesting, candid answers to some very good questions. I so enjoyed Anya’s stories and experiences that helped form and provide a foundation for what she has created today….a versatile, full service fashion service that can do it all. So the moral of the story….hard work, determination, talent, ambition and creativity, and a strong belief in what can be is the key to success and satisfaction for one’s life. I learned so much from this interview and enjoyed it greatly.

    • Laurie Ellison - 12/11/2013 reply

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Anya is definitely one to watch! I’m sure we’ll see great things from her in the future. Thanks for reading Fashionkrush!

      • Rick Citta - 12/11/2013 reply

        Laurie, I agree, Anya certainly is one to watch. I will be watching Fashionkrush as well. It will be fun to see what creations and designs come forth from The Sarafan! Nice to read your thoughts also.

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