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How I got here - Irena Stankevica

The creative director and pattern cutter on her life at sample-making studio Atelier StudioLab.

What does your diary look like today?

I’m working on a range of patterns for a luxury womenswear brand. Each design has to be carefully constructed and the toile created in order for it to be approved by the brand before creating the final sample.

What meeting are you most looking forward to today?

At Atelier StudioLab, we work as a team, discussing each technical issue in order to produce garment samples to the highest possible standard, so I’m most looking forward to our team meeting. Every morning we have a meeting with our team of seamstresses to discuss each project, and to adjust the techniques of sewing for patterns I’ve created earlier. I’m lucky to be surrounded by extremely talented people who bring years of experience and various skills to the business, which in turn helps us to realise the vision of our customers.

How did you get to where you are today?

I started sewing when I was nine years old. It’s a life’s passion. I went through a rigorous three-year training programme in innovative pattern cutting and garment modelling in Belorussia, which gave me the technical skills to realise couture level designs. Getting that solid foundation was essential, and now with 24 years of experience working on made-to-order womenswear, menswear and kidswear, I haven’t looked back.

What has been your career highlight?

Each new designer and each new challenge provides me with an opportunity to create exceptional garments. I can’t choose one particular event to highlight, as every one of them is special and unique in its own way. I’m living my passion through my work and believe that it is the best way to be.

Who is your mentor?

My mother always used to sew, so I’d say she has been a big influence professionally. I’ve spent all my life watching her realising the most amazing garments for our family and friends. When I was six years old I wanted a red evening dress, but at that time such dresses didn’t exist for little girls. So my mother made it for me from scratch and it made me feel so special and unique. My passion started from that moment.

What’s the best piece of advice she’s given you?

She said to be different and special, never to comply with standards and norms, always try to push boundaries, especially in garment design. We discover something new only if we dare to try.

How do you see your career progressing?

At this stage of my life, Atelier StudioLab is the perfect working environment for me. I have the opportunity to work with large brands and new and innovative designers. In my opinion, it’s important to have this mix of customers. A number of fashion studios choose to ignore new designers, but they bring innovation and infuse my passion.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Believe in yourself and love your work. You need to be passionate about your job in order to be able to sacrifice
a significant amount of your time and energy for it.

  • Salaries for this position range from £35,000 to £40,000 (estimate provided by Henry Fox)


2013 Creative director and innovative pattern cutter, Atelier StudioLab, London
2011 Creative pattern cutter, Izmaylova, London
2007 Innovative pattern cutter, Garmonia studio, Latvia
2003 Head of factory sample making facility, Dinaburgatex, Latvia

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