Marina Toybina: Q & A
In a world of labels and production lines fashion designer and artist Marina Toybina and her handmade, hand plucked designs stand out to say the least. Toybina’s custom designs have been adorned by some of the biggest names in movies and music, including Juliette Lewis, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears, and Adam Lambert. Though this is her first true love, her passion doesn’t stop at fashion design. Her love of movies has driven her produce her own short film and her love of music may drive her to dress some of the most popular musicians of our era but it’s also inspired her to adorn herself in some lyrical ink. As far as Toybina is concerned, the sky is the limit.
Inked: Tell us about your start as a designer – What sparked your interest and desire to make clothes in particular?
Toybina: The spark that started this endless flame, came natural and at a very young age. Born and raised in Moscow, I had the opportunity to attend one of the top art academy’s in the city. I took sewing classes at a fairly young age, theater, dance and art inclined programs were my full time obligations. My grandmother taught me how to crochet and be patient while creating. I always doodled weird designs and characters, attended a lot of theater, traveled to unique places and had a slight obsession with different cultures, art, history, architecture, music, movies, cartoons and people, all before my teens. When my family and I moved to the states, my life became my inspiration, which evidently needed an outlet.
I had my first fashion show right after graduating high-school. I then moved to LA, got my degree in fashion design, started my clothing line at the age of 20 and Ive been “cursed” with my destiny ever since. Designing for me defines my character. I take pride in my work and through my art, I can express emotions, values, morals and my beliefs.
Inked: Who were/are some of your fashion icons? How do you feel about being an inspiration/icon yourself?
Toybina: Fashion icons, where does one begin. Centuries/Decades of human masterpieces. Some of my favorites are, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Twiggy, Grace Jones, The Runaways, David Bowie, James Dean, Jim Morrison, Bjork and the list goes on and on.
I am very flattered but it would take a lifetime and then some to have the privilege to ever call myself an icon. I can only hope that someday my work gets recognized in a fair light and becomes inspirational to others. If there’s anything i could ever ask for, is that my story and journey awakes young designers and artists of all avenues to believe, accomplish and fight for their dreams and values.
Inked: Where do you pull your inspirations from?
Toybina: My personal inspirations are everywhere. Its a feeling, that often can’t be described or analyzed. Every second of my life, every breath i take, everything i touch and see is a memory that creates an artistic vision. Inspiration to me, is an infinite cluster of thoughts and imagination. Once you focus on a certain instinct, you create based on that moment. Then the cycle starts all over again. That’s why artists are innovative creatures, we follow intuition and emotion not opinions.
Inked: In a sentence, describe your style.
Toybina: Jeans, vintage tee and converse by day, a sharp heel and red lip by night.
Inked: Your subjects/models range from Britney Spears to Nicki Minaj to Juliette Lewis. Do they choose the clothes or do the clothes choose them?
Toybina: One of the most beautiful aspects of being a designer is that, you are the creator. My clients are my inspiration. They are my muse, my drive, my experiment. When collaborating with an artist of their caliber, I’m not there to change who they are or replace the old with the new. I’m simply there to offer them my interpretation of their reflection. I do not force designs on my clients, i collaborate with them. They express who they are and what they represent, i then do my homework and design to compliment their image and personal qualities. So in the end, they choose the designer, consciously allowing for the clothing to choose them.
Inked: What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?
Toybina: I’m not too sure. I’m proud and content with all the bad and the good that i have accomplished and learned from. Unfortunately, Michael Jackson is not around for me to truly answer that question.
?Inked: Your dabbling in film. Tell us a little about how you got into that and if we can look for any future projects.?
Toybina: Some of the most moving and visually stimulating art comes from film. Movies like The Crow, The Cell and any period piece, have me inspired and intrigued for life. I always wondered if I would eventually cross over into costume design and film, so I guess, my curiosity took me there organically.
My fashion designs, were never typical or near the norm of the industry standards. I tend to design with an avant-garde edge regardless of what project I’m working on. So it was only in due time that i would find myself slightly steering away from editorial design into the world of performance, world wide tours, TV shows and short films.
Just a few months ago, I filmed my first feature, which is still in production, called the The Whole Banana. Quite an experience that was. One that is viciously keeping me hungry for other film opportunities and designer growth. The sky is my limit on this one and the pursuit of that Oscar win someday, is definitely in the works.
Inked: Your left arm has a phrase tattooed on it. Tell us about that and your other tattoos. Do they relate to your work?
Toybina: Last year, i was going through a very tough period in my life. I was dealing with an unbearably painful break up, after being in a relationship for almost 6 years. Of course, just my luck, creative people happen to be the most sensitive people on this planet, so this was not an easy stage in my career or my personal life.
In the midst of my so called “midlife crisis”, i was hired to be the costume designer for Miley Cyrus’s tour. As a designer, your job is to fully understand and relate to the artist, create accordingly to their vision, their message, their music and their fan base. I listened to Miley’s CD on repeat for days in order to execute this tour to the best of my ability. One day, i was stuck in traffic, imagine that in LA and the CD started skipping and only playing one of her lyrics ” Our lives are our greatest art”. Something resonated with me at that moment and the power of those words struck my emotions. For the first time in months, i felt that I was where i needed to be. That it was solely up to me to create my life the way i wanted to remember it and that’s the real art of it and in it. So, I went and got that lyric tattooed on me right after work at 3 in the morning, along with another tattoo on my right forearm ” Lose Yourself to Find Yourself” surrounded by three crows.
While we were on tour in Chile, i got another tattoo done on my ribcage, this one was for my dad. He’s a major Beatles fanatic and the one thing him and I always say, is “Let it Be”. So a few of us went out and got different parts of the song tattooed spontaneously, “There will be an answer, Let it Be”, was the lyric i got. Appropriate for every part of my life, especially when creating blind. Needless to say, Miley, her words, her tour saved my spirits, and not to mention, I’m honored to have a part of her with me. She’s a beautiful person with a heart of light.
All of my tattoos connect to who I am and what i do. Since my line of work mainly deals with musicians; it would only make sense to have music run through my veins as an extension of me, of them, of us and my creations.
Inked: Do you work with any tattooed models/celebrities and is it their ink that draws you to them?
Toybina: Of course I do. I strongly believe that tattoos or any form of body art have become such an immense part of our culture and freedom of self expression that society can no longer ignore its nature. I’m always fascinated by my clients tattoos. It tells me a story about them, who they are, where they come from, what they believe in, what personal significance they would like share with the world. Its simply beautiful. Although, we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, one can tell a lot about a person based on their tattoos and choice of art work. I find it captivating and actually strangely comfortable when i can see what my clients are all about based on their outer shell.