Fashion designer Ioulia Svyatogor of Largo poses in one of her designs with two of her cats. She also owns a cat breed business.
LARGO – For Ioulia Svyatogor, dressing up her dolls became the first step toward a passion for imaginative fashion designing.
“I have been designing and creating since I was a little child,” Svyatogor said. “I remember crafting dolls from hay and plants and then hand-sewing dresses for them.”
Svyatogor was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. Her affinity for creativity – now apparent in her evening gowns, masquerade costumes, gothic garb, corsetry and even fetish wear – started with her family. Both of her parents and her grandmother were artistic people, she said.
“I inherited a functional toy sewing machine that my mom used to play with when she was a child and started using it for my fashion projects. Then I learned how to knit and crochet from my grandmother,” she explained. “I was making all sorts of wearable things for myself and my family. Even my macramé skills I applied to fashion, making and wearing dresses out of ropes, especially during my hippie years.”
Svyatogor has lived in Largo for most of the 15 years she’s been in the United States. Yet the fact that she hails from the land of caviar and Catherine the Great is apparent in some of Svyatogor’s designs. Since she studied fashion and design in her native Moscow and graduated from the International Academy of Design and Technology in Tampa, it’s natural that the Old and New Worlds collide in her fashions.
“I like integrating different cultures – for example, Victorian and futuristic cyber, or traditional classic with underground alternative. It makes for a unique and fun mixture,” she said.
Svyatogor’s avant-garde apparel includes everything from spiked corsets to dragon-patterned jackets in her arsenal. Her innovative wearable art has turned heads at shows and exhibitions such as Busch Garden’s House of Vayne Fashion Show, featured in the park’s 2009 Howl-O-Scream event. For a 2011 show Closet Artists: Art to Wear in St. Petersburg, she created several one-of-a-kind pieces including a dress made almost entirely out of red zippers.
As a designer at Designs to Shine, a Pinellas Park-based business which sells distinctive ballroom gowns and dancewear, Svyatogor secured a spot on a team, which created attire for national TV, shows “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance?”
“It is always exciting to see your creations on TV, but I feel the most satisfaction and fulfillment when I see people become instantly inspired and even empowered to dance and perform better while wearing my creations,” she said. “My goal is to create gowns in a way that when you put them on, you can’t help but to want to start dancing and smiling.”
Svyatogor also is quite adept at making leather crafts, elaborate masks, elegant jewelry and stained glass art objects, which are also functional.
“I make fused glass air plant or orchid holders that you hang in the garden, and the stained glass looks so beautiful sparkling in the sun and moonlight,” she said. “It has also proven to be very good for the plants as they have all blossomed ever since I placed them in these glass holders. They provide just the right support, air circulation and moisture access for the plants to feel happy in them. Plus, they look pretty.”
Svyatogor is the owner of the Purring Angels Cattery, a home-based labor of love where she specializes in raising tiny teacup and toy-sized cats. One of the breeds, the lambkin, almost no one else in the country has.
“They are just starting to become known in big part thanks to my cattery,” Svyatogor said.
Animal Planet even filmed part of an episode of “Cats 101” on the Lambkin breed in her home.
“My kitties were the stars in it,” she said with a smile.
The rare breed cats, like her art, are for sale, and Svyatogor has even shipped the kittens to such faraway places as Brazil and South Korea in order to find them good homes. To see them, visit purringangelscattery.com.
Even when she is not busy raising rare kittens, conceptualizing fashions or crafting collectibles, Svyatogor always seems to find herself drawn to the world of art.
“I love visiting galleries, attending art shows and going to costumed and themed events and masquerades,” she said. “Pretty much anything creative is always of interest to me – anything I can learn from, anything that is beautiful, pure, unordinary, meaningful, artistic and inspiring.”