Katya Akuma (a.k.a Ekaterina Kulikova) is a New York-based Fashion Stylist, Creative Director and Founder of Council for Fashion and Social Change. Katya, a graduate from Parsons, the New School for Design, has more than 12 years of experience working in the fashion industry. She has a desire to create opportunities for design graduates which stemmed from her experience working with Donna Karan and her Urban Zen foundation in Haiti. She believes that fashion companies can be an important player in driving social change in our communities.
She studied her MA in Fashion at Parsons The New School for Design in New York and Paris as well as at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, and has been working as a designer and creative director since 2006. Her client list includes, among others, Louis Vuitton, Donna Karan, Vogue Eyewear, Ford, Nike, Samsung, Prada, Alexander Wang, Marimekko and Swarovski. Her work focuses on natural materials, emerging technologies, material research and creative direction.
She is one of the designers who won Parsons Design Fellowship, that was launched by Parsons The New School for Design and the Urban Zen Foundation and was designing for The Design, Organization, Training Center (D.O.T) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The D.O.T was created by Donna Karan, Urban Zen, Parsons School of Design, and Haitian artisan and businesswoman Paula Coles to help bridge Haiti’s traditional artisan techniques with the modernity and design innovation needed to succeed in today’s global marketplace.
- How would you describe your personal style?
Effortless. Experimental. Evolving. I see my style as an arrangement of elements on a blank canvas: I start with a solid base and an initial idea, then slowly move to drawing and layering the paint until I get to more sophisticated details.
- How did you get your start in styling?
I started out when I moved to New York. It seems like the best decision I’ve ever made. Being raised in Prague, it wasn’t about fashion. The fashion world in NYC is an explosion of creativity, everything is permitted and “dare to dream, experiment and do it” is a mantra here.
While I was studying at Parsons the New School for Design, I had a few classes that were focused on exploring the unexplored, rediscovering the forgotten fashion styles, reinterpreting the past for the present and envisioning the future fashion trends, it was a time of great experimentation using unprecedented pallets of colors, shapes and volumes in styling and fashion designing. At that time, I was very fortunate to be a recipient of the Parsons Design Fellowship and had a chance to work side by side with my early influencer, an extraordinary New York designer, Donna Karan. New York, above all, is a fashion hub; and for me it’s been an incredible place to push myself. It’s such a diverse city that offers inspiration and creative drive in every corner of the street. I’m also very lucky to have an extremely creative and talented family member by my side, it’s my father Artur Koff , who’s a well-known fashion photographer worldwide. Together, we accomplished to work on many projects for inspiring clients such as: Jimmy Choo, Richard Gere, Marjan Pejoski, Petra Nemcova, Salma Hayek, Olivia Palermo, Coco Rocha, Leigh Lezark, Sienna Miller, Karel Gott, Beata Rajska, to name a few.
- What is the most fun and challenging part of being a fashion stylist?The fun part of it is that nowadays there’s a unique freedom of expression which is positive and embraced by every fashion lover. Styling offers me this freedom I hadn’t considered and unlimited ways to develop and discover myself. Styling is fun, but it also requires extensive research, courage and determination to take risks and follow your instinct. It can be very stressful at times.
- What is your current fashion obsession right now?
Leather Bags by Zainab Ashadu. She is a founder and fashion designer of the label named Zashadu. Zashadu is a leading British/Nigerian sustainable luxury brand, that specializes in hand-crafted leather pieces.
- What is your favorite item in your closet?
Currently, high waist black and white pants by Adam Lippes.
- What styling advice would you give to others?
Don’t be afraid with experimenting. We need a world bathed in all colors, shapes and textures, we need to nurture curiosity, passion, dreams and imagination.
Photo credits: Erwin Vekeren