Elada Nagornaya about beauty, Russian tradition, inspiration and fashion phenomenon LADA & LIZA

A well-known businesswoman from Nizhny Novgorod, Elada Nagornaya, shared the details of one of the most iconic projects in the fashion world – the Russian fashion studio LADA & LIZA. The unique atelier offers women all over the world handbags, jewelry and accessories made “with soul and in accordance with Russian traditions,” the official website says.

The main and unique feature of LADA & LIZA brand products is following the traditions of the Khokhloma painting (Khokhlomskaya rospis) – a unique artistic movement that originated in the XVII  century in the Nizhny Novgorod province. Thanks to the skillful use of style canons in a modern way, LADA & LIZA products are very popular among women who want to emphasize the diversity of their tastes through unique designer accessories.

Elada Nagornaya, founder of the Lada & Lisa Fashion House


— Hello, Elada. Thank you for taking the time to talk. Your idea is to preserve and popularize an important element of Russian culture that is over 300 years old. Does this find support among people? Do they agree with you on the importance of preserving traditions, especially during the time of globalization and unification of not only the lifestyle but also the concept of beauty?

— Of course, I am pleased to share with people what is important to me. And it’s great that it attracts such interest. Khokhloma is one of the elements of the cultural code of our country, it is recognized all over the world. At the current time, as you have noticed, the stereotypes of life and worldview, the culture of “what to wear and how to equip your home” are changing. At this time, I would like people to remember how it all began and honor the tradition. Khokhloma for Russia is something that should be saved. Times are difficult, and the format in which Khokhloma developed earlier requires renovation. For 300 years, kitchenware has been the main focus. But now we want to give it new life in the form of new directions: designer handbags and jewelry.

— Where did you learn this? How did you find the desire to create accessories in the traditional Russian style?

— I started my career in the fashion world, working with a truly iconic representative of Russian and European fashion, honored art worker, and fashion designer Valentin Yudashkin. When the opportunity arose to show my knowledge and experience in a personal business, I had the idea to create a new direction of Khokhloma art, saving the tradition with a long history and bringing it into the modern fashion world.

When I told Valentin about this idea, he replied that it is difficult to develop in the fashion segment now: the market is full of new designers, new opportunities, and trends. But the uniqueness of traditional craft is worth preserving. Valentin had an idea to move towards interior decoration and kitchen utensils (dishes, tablecloths). But, in my heart, there was a desire to create beautiful things for women. As a woman, I love these beautiful things, and by that time I had a daughter and had a desire to create a product that would be inherited. Hence the slogan: “the continuity of generations”.

Both Khokhloma and the ability to wood-draw in this style were passed between the painters from generation to generation. I put into this project such an understanding as to the inheritance of Russian traditions. So the idea to create accessories was born. There were many directions, but we decided not just to use drawings on clothes, but to keep the craft. It is unique in that it is written on wood, there is a patented technology that belongs to Khokhloma. The wooden form goes through several stages of processing, as a result of which it becomes gilded, and then the artist paints. I wanted to keep the craft authentic. The wood, the artist’s hands, the drawing – this carries energy. 

— The symbiosis is very interesting. I mean, tradition is intertwined with modern forms of feminine style through certain accessories.

— Yes, every woman is individual and unique, and I wanted every woman to have a unique accessory that is drawn in a single copy. Because it is like a painting, by the hands of an artist, and an artist cannot exactly repeat a painting, this is not a template. It seems to me that a woman can choose a handbag that is as close as possible to her inner world, her sense of life. Owning it, she always knows that she is unique, and can inherit the same accessory to her children. These handbags, like art, do not lose their value but are passed on from generation to generation.

Polina Dibrova, “Mrs. Russia”, the official ambassador of LADA & LIZA


— Who are LADA & LIZA products for? Tell us how you see your audience who appreciates and understands the idea of accessories. How do they become ambassadors of the brand forever?

— Polina Dibrova is the official ambassador of our brand. Why exactly Polina? Because she is the personification of femininity, a mother (she has three children), a wife, and at the same time she is a beauty who has the title “Mrs. Russia”. I think this is very close to our ideology. If we talk about women who become our customers … these are women for whom beauty is one of the components of the soul in the big sense. Beauty in the understanding of love for the family, for the homeland, for the traditions of the country, its culture, art, painting. These are women who are filled with many components of the soul.

— Are there celebrities and famous personalities among your customers?

Yes, celebrities really love our stuff. Nadezhda Babkina is very supportive of us. We do a lot of interesting things for her and for the Song Theater. Valeria, Arina Sharapova, Irina Viner, Nelly Kobzon, Inna Mikhailova, Svetlana Astakhova – they like our accessories. And also sportswoman Safina Dinara, actresses Irina Pudova, Evelina Blendes, Yulia Menshova, TV presenter Ekaterina Odintsova, and Italian princess of Russian origin Natalia Strozzi.

People who want to be unique, these women are happy to purchase our accessories. Such things are even more popular abroad, when Russian women come with these accessories, everyone pays attention to these handbags. They won’t see it anywhere else.

— This is a bright element of the cultural code, right? Strong identifier of ethnicity. You noted that each piece is handcrafted like art. Can you share the details of the creation? Probably, a lot of people have been working on this for more than one week.

— Sure. First, we brainstorm “what we would like to talk about in the next collection”. Next, the artists create drawings. After creating drawings on the chosen topic, the art council selects the best ones. The factory employs about 35 artists, each of them is an Honored painter of Russia.

Some of the best drawings are converted into vectors. This is necessary in order to preserve them and also to use them on fabric. We choose which prints our collection will consist of (usually 5-7 themes). But the drawing, as I said, changes every time, as it is written by hand. They convey the approved patterns, but the artist’s hand modifies the drawing and color scheme.

Elena Galkina, chief painter of the LADA & LIZA fashion house

As for the handbags, a wooden frame is made first. Further, it goes through many stages of processing, the final is to create the effect of “Khokhloma gold”. It all takes about a month, and then the product falls into the hands of the artist, who paints one handbag from two weeks to one month. After that, the product is covered with layers of varnish and dried in the oven. The piece is now ready to be sheathed with silk and velvet from the inside.

— You really adhere to the canons. But at the same time, accessories look great in a modern setting, attracting attention, but not getting out of the big picture. Is this some kind of secret, or is it just that the classics always remain relevant?

— First, the classic always remains classic, I totally agree. Secondly, in Khokhloma, a floral ornament is mainly used. Undoubtedly, the floral ornament is always combined with what surrounds us. If we look at how modern cities are built, we will see how high-tech buildings fit perfectly into the natural landscape filled with greenery, mountains, sea, sand. Therefore, I think that the classic always remains classic, the main thing here is not to overdo it. If you have such a bright accessory, everything else should be monotonous and monochrome. But this is a question for the owners of each handbag: how she sees herself and what she wants to combine such a thing with. That is why I say: every woman will choose something that is close to her in her inner world, in her energy, how she carries herself in this life, and how she wants people to perceive her. Therefore, I agree, the classic always remains classic, it does not become obsolete.

Dinara Safina, a professional tennis player with a “Snegurochka” bag from the LADA & LIZA brand


— Apparently, those things that have been formed and created for hundreds of years are much more viable than modern trends, which no one will remember after several decades. Returning to the audience, how do your customers learn about the brand? Is this an advertisement or recommendations from friends?

— Both, of course. Today we are hard at work in marketing. Our task is to become recognizable not only in Russia but to become famous in the world. To truly develop a brand, we need to be world-famous. We understand that interest in our products may be not only in Europe but also in Asia, so now we are trying to advance in this market. For example, the Japanese also have such a craft as lacquer miniature. For them, what we are doing is quite close in terms of their attitude and traditions. Therefore, I believe that we can find a very large volume of potential customers in the Asian market. 

— Well noted. The Japanese are one of those peoples who have managed to preserve traditions and introduce them into a high-tech environment. A developed country with megalopolises, but at the same time, cultural national traditions and visual elements are traced throughout. 

— So, based on their experience, we want to build our big brand.

— Still, any artwork looks much better in real life. We are talking about art, and the wording “distribution model” would be inappropriate … But still, how much of the sales comes from online, and how much is offline? Where is your main market?

— People pay attention when they take this thing in their hands. I have never seen indifference in people who have met this handbag live. They want to touch it, that in any case, it evokes emotions, people understand that it is very unique, beautiful and sincere – this is always. Another question is that every woman assesses for herself whether or not she can be so bright as to wear this thing. Some are simply not ready for such unique things.

— Elada, what are your plans for the coming year? What do you want to change?

— We are planning to enter new markets, this is the main task – to enter the international market from Russia. As for accessories, now we have a collaboration with the YAROSLAVNA jewelry house, we are planning to collaborate with different fashion houses. Now in the process of implementing a project with an Italian company that sees our accessories as an element of their stuff. It is interesting to work with some serious fashion houses, to draw and do something for them. To popularize our art in the fashion world.

— A question to the person who created and implemented such an idea: culture and creativity are very close to you. What are you inspired by? What helps you find new ideas?

— In general, I am a business person, I have been working all my life and creating new projects. My main direction is development. I love beauty, in a big sense, to share this beauty with others. And I want to bring something of my own into fashion, my own reading, mood, emotions. To convey to people that what we are creating today is not for ourselves, but for future generations. And it is important for future generations to preserve what their predecessors have done.

What am I inspired by? I love going to museums (St. Petersburg Hermitage, London National Gallery), looking at works of art that were created hundreds of years ago. I love looking at the amazing things that inspire me when I am in Petra or Cambodia, looking at what unique cities were created many centuries ago and they remain unique to this day. It is amazing how people at that time were able to create such a work of art-recognized today. Therefore, I would like to leave something for future generations.

The world is in lockdown – it’s not just that. The world and nature tell us: “People, you have forgotten your origins! Don’t turn nature into a tool for enrichment. Remember that it is unique and lives by its own laws. All natural phenomena, they are eternal, they cannot be changed, even with the most modern technologies

— Summarizing, what would you like to say to your audience, current and future customers of the brand?

— With an accessory from LADA & LIZA, you will emphasize your uniqueness and versatility. Honoring traditions is an indicator of an intelligent person. Having picked up a piece of jewelry that will be in harmony with your state of mind and worldview, you will never again agree to say goodbye to it. On the contrary, you will have a desire to create your own family tradition, and along with wise teachings as a mother, convey to your daughters the importance of our unique culture.

Official website LADA&LIZA

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