Outfits of the Mongolian athletes and coaches to participate in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics have become a hot topic among social media, receiving both praises and criticisms. Following is an interview with Ariunaa Suri, the designer of the outfits worn by the Mongolian Olympic team, about her recent participation in the Winter Olympics, her fashion career and ambitions.
-How did you come up with the idea for the general design with hats, gloves and scarves for the outfit of the Mongolian athletes who are to participating in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics?
-The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism phoned me to go to the Olympics Committee to assist with the outfits for the Olympic opening ceremony. I went there despite my workload as it held our nation’s image in hand.
When I went there, I realized that minor changes were needed and changed the hats, gloves and scarves in order to brighten up the whole outfit without changing the basic clothing such as the coats. The coats were impossible to alter. Outfits worn during the opening ceremony and the usual outfits worn on other occasions did not correspond to one another. Olympics outfits look better if they all somehow match. The two dark navy pieces was alright for the parade. However, I was stuck on ideas to match hats and gloves to the other outfits, worn on other occasions. There were many different outfits with a variety of colors but few options and so I chose azure blue.
-Were you short on time?
-I had only three to four days. Many other counties had also chosen azure blue. Nevertheless, Mongolia has many symbolic attachment to the color and nothing could go wrong with the color. In my opinion, the word Mongolia needed to be added to the label, as “Goyo” that was written on the label had nothing connecting the attire to Mongolia. Red matched azure blue. Dark navy also would’ve matched. When colors such as red were added, all the colors became too much. People started to criticize, saying that we might as well add all five colors of the Olympic symbol.
There’s color accord and specific sewing machines needed for it. In Mongolia, we do not have technologies with such capabilities and so we had to tune our current technologies. People need to understand that we do not work in big Italian warehouses. We’re obviously working towards that.
We asked every cashmere factories of Mongolia to find azure blue color since we didn’t have the time to make the color. I would like to express my gratitude to Buyan Cashmere because they gave as much to complete the task by making ten hats and scarves until the evening of Lunar New Year.
-Mongolia became the third most fashionable Olympic team. Did you see it?
-People sent it through facebook and twitter. I received praises and thanks from many people. However, efforts from many people were attributed in this, not just me or my colleagues. There’s graphic designer Ts.Dorj who helped with the design of the national emblem and inscription of logo. Some were thinking that it would have been better if we wore deels. It all depends on where and when you’re wearing it. We should show that we’ve advanced in technologies and are striking higher, through at least the fashion sector. At least show development and upper hand in cashmere.
In my opinion, no matter if it’s a small or big competition, athletes who are becoming the face of Mongolia should meet standards of some level in every aspects whether its clothing or whatever to our participate in competitions. I wish the government would provide more support. Athletes should be determined and given rights a year before 2016 Summer Olympics, meet some requirements and then participate. Or athletes will stand there with whatever outfits they have at the time. Now everyone watches from the internet and we’re living in a harsh world where criticisms are plentiful. We cannot approach the matter half-heartedly, by dismissing the issue and letting athletes sort out their outfits.
-You have also said that there weren’t any standards when making outfits for airline personnel. Generally, Mongolians seem to interpret fashion as just clothing?
-There are two main aspects of living; eating and clothing. Do we want to be recognized as people of a certain nationality? Frankly speaking, are we upholding traditional styles? We must take our nomadic lifestyle to wherever we need to take it. However, how many current Mongolians are there living in a sedentary culture? They’re all trying to modernize and it needs to be thought thoroughly. Same goes for air transportation. I received requests for uniforms and I’m trying to make it into something. There’s still a question mark, I don’t have to make it. The main goal is to make clothes that meet international standards. Designing is not something a spoilt girl does.
-You seem to be very busy and in demand?
-Many proposals do come. Our aim is to concentrate on new designs so we don’t accept all requests. I am delighted to receive their proposals and want to do it. However, I don’t get enough time to create new collections.
-You have stated before that “how much longer are we to talk about national things.” From this huge industry of fashion, how will your designs diverge? In other words, how will the things you learnt from the external world be shown in your designs?
-Mongolian aspects are already in my designs. I don’t need to change that factor but focus on how to introduce it to other people. I like to contemplate on how the people wearing it can be satisfied and confidence. For instance, say there was a man; I would make outfits on the way I want it to look on him. From the outlines and arrangements, you will be naturally able to see that it’s Mongolian.
-To design, how much comes from the aesthetic sense?
-Aesthetic sense is the priority. Whether you excel in sewing or drawing, you cannot set off or design if you don’t have the sense. There are times when you become senseless. My world is surrounded by many people and it should be affected by them. My world needs to modernize and change constantly. If my everyday lifestyle is active, I become tuned to it. For instance, when I stroll through a picturesque view, listen to music or see an exhibition.
-What are you most proud of?
-I have never been self-confident. I’m never content with my work. Actually, I’m waiting for the day I become self-confident; a day when I can finally say that I have done something. My mentor said to me that being discontent with oneself was the key to success. Sometimes, when I look back on the things I have done, I do think that I have done great things. For instance, when I see myself on so many magazines during my years as a student in Germany.
-Sometimes people like to stay alone in silence. Perhaps it may be connected to your profession, but in your view, has your past always been busy?
-There are times when I become still. I used to basically race with time. Nevertheless, I have never procrastinated and tried to manage everything. Frankly, you start managing things as you do them. It’s fun to occasionally waste time with nothing to do on your hands.
-People usually learn by working under pressure from a young age. What is it like for you?
-I used to go to four to five clubs when I was young . They include clubs for swimming, skiing, figure-skating, physics, drawing and dancing. I was busy but good at them. I was a very active child and would usually win in competitions.
-Out of all those clubs and skills, you chose designing. Was this truly your dream?
-My mother tried hard to make me a painter. That must have been a huge stepping-stone for this profession. Big mentors such as llya Repin and Vasily Surikov influenced me and my intuition grew. I also learnt a lot by following my teacher Lhavgasuren. He would often praise the subject of my drawing despite my poor drawing skills. Looking back now, although I was little, I would draw things with big subjects.
-You face many financial difficulties when producing your work. How are you managing it?
-I can’t really decide. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has supported the fashion industry for the first time. They used to support arts and sports more. Truthfully, the industry that will bring financial income back to Mongolia is fashion. It is essential to producers who will balance imports and exports. Fashion designers are always trying to export their goods, so the government chose the right sector to support. For instance, if Mercedes Benz didn’t support me, I wouldn’t have come to the spotlight. Nevertheless, it doesn’t just end with recognition, you need to actively take part in big events regularly. Shows are a way of selling products that take place on stage.
If I receive customers by participating in shows, I will have products produced by domestic factories. Being able to participate in Mercedes Benz is like winning a gold medal in the fashion industry, similar to when our athletes win gold in Olympics. So, I hope they continue supporting the industry.
-What are your future plans for your career?
-My short term plan is to complete my 2014 and 2015 fall designs. As for the long term, I would like my brand to enter the world market, because I’m producing relatively little at the time.
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