Beyonce, Kim Catrell, Whitney Houston, Elizabeth Hurley, Queen Latifah, Joan Rivers, Janet Jackson, even Jack Nicholson to name a few have worn Helen Yarmak jewels and furs.
Helen's secret is going over all boundaries. She mixes modern technologies with traditional ones, creating a brand new perception of materials and their virtue. In 2003, Helen Yarmak became the first Russian Designer to receive the "International Fashion Designer of the Year Award." She has boutiques and showrooms in Moscow, New York, Milan and Zurich. Here is Helen's story:
Evie: How did you get started?
Helen: Well I have a Ph.D., I was a scientist in research working for the then communist Russian government. However, a time came when we lost our jobs, as the government didn't have the budget for many of their scientists. You either became a cleaning lady or a taxi driver after that, and I chose neither. While I was trying to figure out my future, I had to attend a formal event and discovered that I had nothing to wear and did not have the money to buy a new dress. I decided to buy fabric and design and make my own. This was the launch of my fashion career.
Evie: Did you have formal fashion design training?
Helen: I never went to school for any kind of professional fashion training. For years I had dreams about going to school to learn, but I didn't have the money.
Evie: You have a natural talent for design. What was your first collection?
Helen: My first collection was actually underwear and pants for men, as well as ladies bras which sold mainly in Italy.
Evie: How did you use fashion for development ?
Helen: I created jobs, educated factory workers, and helped pay for living costs, as well as used money from profits for certain charitable causes. Many people were applying for work in the factory as people needed jobs.
Evie: You specialize in opulent furs and jewels now, a strong showcase of Russian Glamour. How did you lead into this from men's underwear, pants and ladies bras?
Helen: I have strong roots with jewels; my grandfather was a Russian tsar. The real interest began when I was invited to attend an event by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace, and could not find jewelry that I wanted to wear. It was at that point that I designed my first piece of jewelry, which attracted a great deal of attention from people, therefore I began to take a strong interest in it. During the '80s, it was an extremely rare luxury to have fur in Russia. People only had it through special relationships that they might have had. I went to a place in Uzbekistan, and they were able to make a fur coat range for my collection.
Evie: Is this when you began expanding outside of Russia ?
Helen: Yes, we opened a shop at the Plaza Hotel in New York and my jewelry was shown in Sex and the City, and the Devil Wears Prada.
Evie: How did you get so involved with charity?
Helen: I am grateful for all of my abundance and it is so important to me to give back, and so whenever we open a showroom or move into a community, we find a local organization that we can help, and fund, it is our way of saying thank you.
Evie: Have their been any very personal charities for you, that have moved you''?
Helen: They all move me.
Evie: What is the situation now in Russia in your eyes in terms of female equality and empowerment in the workplace?
Helen: Russia is growing but there is still poverty and inequality against women. The economy is at a birth stage at the moment. Since the revolution, fashion is taking a substantial position in the economy. Russia has huge importance in so many ways in fashion, its very special hats, boots and gloves of Russian flare are quite fashionable and in demand internationally.
Evie: What are your future plans for your collection and company?
Helen: Well now our plan is to open shops in China, Qatar and Singapore and we are looking for local partners .My collection is as you can tell one of a kind.
Evie: Helen, thank you for your time today but most if all, thank you for bringing beauty through your creativity and for your philanthropic efforts that support so many people around the globe.