The green wooden stairs echoed a tired, creaky sound under our feet. We were heading straight to her studio. A well-known place for most Armenian artists, situated in the heart of the city, gave away the breeze of alienation and mysticism. As we reached the second floor of the building she led me to her studio with a white wooden door, which barely held on its frame. It is the studio of Ani Chopurian, an Armenian designer who creates stories in the form of clothes. Those stories were hung on hangers near the blue wall in this small yet cozy room. The studio was a pure representation of a systematic chaos filled with the richness of ideas and unfinished, semi-finished or processed projects.
While she lights up the Soviet stove to prepare a cup of coffee, she recalls with nostalgia how it all began, namely, who ignited her passion for fashion in early childhood. It was her grandmother who used to dress her up so that people would notice, look at her, and when she was not in the focus, her grandmother would seriously consider putting more effort for dressing her up. Ani smiles when she recalls those memories. Meanwhile, she rips and throws a stack of used papers from notebooks into the fireplace. But she did not hurry to think seriously about fashion, having studied at the Yerevan State University, then having received an education in Tbilisi, as well as in Milan, she had a lot of opportunities of moving out from Yerevan. However, Ani feels that Armenian market is in need of novelties. If she compares these cities based on the impact they had on her career, she would single out Tbilisi. “If Italians are already surrounded by the beauty they do not have a lot of chances of being wrong in choosing their clothes,” says Ani. “In the case of Tbilisi, Georgians have no inferiority complexes in dressing up the way they want and like.”
Sunbeams cut through the window when Ani continues with the story behind her brand’s, Chopurian, logo. “I love heights. I imagine reaching the top of the mountain and looking down from the peak.” She would call her friends at any time to suggest conquering another mountain; this time it was the Azhdahak. When she along with her friends almost reached the top of the mountain, she slipped on the rocks and rolled down until she hit the stone, which stopped her further fall. Mountains soon became her destiny, she then chose abstract lines depicting mountains to be the image of her brand’s logo.
Fashion is the men, the clothe is the only means of representing oneself.
She elaborates on these words by bringing an example of a situation when an individual is showing up on an event for almost two minutes where the only detail that can leave an imprint on the guests is the clothes one wears. And what is the issue when an individual wears what is in trend? Ani says, “because they don’t know who they are.” According to Chopurian, we create standards within the society to not be different from our friends and relatives.
Our conversation slowly moves to the discussion of the Chopurian piece’s creating process. When you start a project you ask questions. In Ani’s case the questions that play an integral part in forming the skeleton of the collection are:
1st Question: What season am I creating for?
2nd Question: For whom am I designing for?
3rd Question: Why am I making this piece?
And by following the last question she chooses the mood of the collection in relation to colors and materials.
Before creating a collection I analyze what kind of clothe should I create so that a man would look at the woman and be afraid of her?
That is why in one of her collections she introduced huge metals and while trying to preserve the femininity in the looks she sticked to the asymmetric forms, to an image of a more “non-aesthetical woman,” more robust.
Her favorite pieces from her collections include the red leather overalls and the white dress with eyes painted on a white fabric. Ani faced a certain stage in her life when she was afraid of people. She would always think what others would think of her. And while asking herself: “Are people looking with their eyes? Or brains?” She began to be afraid of eyes. The symbolism of this white dress is in depicting an image which wakes negative feelings. And each dress or piece created by Ani always has a story or at least an implicit connotation.
Ani Chopurian’s photograph was included in the Vogue. When being asked about the story of the photograph she laughs because her favorite photo shoot was initially declined by the Vogue. The rule of being chosen by this magazine is as follows: you can send up to two photographs daily and the one that stays on your profile is accepted. So Ani’s whole photo shoot was deleted. One day when Ani decided to take a photo of a girl standing on a chair and then sending it to Vogue, it worked out.
It must have sounded easy to be a designer and create a project out of a single story but the business part of the industry is as important as the creative idea. A strong renown in terms of the networking scales and the fame of the brand’s name influence the success of the production. Moreover, the issue Ani distinguishes in Armenia is that those organizations and brands who have a strong marketing background are more inclined to produce based on the demands so that it will be bought instead of producing pieces that would create these demands. Besides the importance of a strong marketing base, another issue Chopurian has faced while initiating her brand and entering the Armenian fashion market was the lack of professional models. Even though we do have a school for models, Chopurian says we still do not have the certain level of professionalism. And the question is not in the appearance but in the knowledge and base put under the profession. Designers also do not have spaces for showcasing their works or for creating and producing their collections. Ani Chopurian admits buying materials from Georgia because Armenia has a limited supply of materials.
The busiest day of Ani Chopurian’s life
One of the busiest days of Chopurian is a well-scheduled agenda which usually messes up throughout the day. Thanks to Christina, one of the models from the Chopurian’s photo shoots, who is also her muse and a good supporter, Ani manages to get things done faster.
Three words that best describe Chopurian’s style
Wild, Aesthetic, Mature
On Chopurian’s idol
Helen Castillo was the waking sound for me. She was the only one who applied for the Runway Project 12 times and was not accepted. During one of the projects during the show she began crying on the piece she was working on and said: I don’t know what I am doing this for.
Chopurian related herself to Helen’s state and she inspired her to the point where Chopurian would start following her.
Diane von Furstenberg’s “The Woman I Wanted to Be” is an autobiography of Furstenberg describing her childhood when she was forced to be involved in the chaotic lifestyle created by her mother’s fame. It was only once when she along with her mother went to a coffee place. And Diane told her mother that she wants to taste the sweetness she saw near, and her mother turned around and gave her money saying: “Go and by yourself.”
Suggestions for students involved in fashion
- Self-development – always strive for better.
- Never copy others. When you do not have any ideas or places of inspiration do not copy.
- You should not think about what is going to come. Stop overthinking. Be the artist you are and stop thinking about consequences.
- You may work as a seller in the mornings and create collections at nights if you lack financial support because if you truly are an artist you will find ways of creating art.