By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi & Arwa Lodhi
Knitwear is getting radical: once the realm of proper twin sets and chunky cable knits, Russian born, New York based Ev Bessar is using organic cotton and wool to knit, crochet and felt sweaters, dresses and menswear that wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Mad Max.
Adding to the allure of her brand, Bessar uses leather, in its most eco-friendly form: “The leather I buy and use comes from a store that selects animals who have died of natural death and weren’t killed intentionally for fashion purposes,” she states. Surely not an easy store to find, but one that appeals to Bessar’s big heart.
And speaking of hearts, the designer tirelessly fundraises to help children with congenital heart disease. It’s a cause that became dear to her after her older brother died because there wasn’t enough research done on the problem, or equipment in the hospital to save him. She also contributes to the Save A Child’s Heart charity.
Fashion and fundraising are far from the path the designer originally thought she would take. Born and raised in Russia, Bessar studied linguistics and finance. Always willing to donate time to children’s causes, it was when she planned to open a theatre for orphans, helping them to gain an art education and learn self-expression, that she began to explore the world of costumery.
“I studied at Parsons and started designing back in my home country while I was working at the school theatre and finally I decided to pursue a fashion career in New York, although my background was in finance and linguistics,” she explained.
She seemed to have a talent for theatrical design–her work is dramatic, raw and savage, featuring punkishly deconstructed knits for men and women.
Today, she shows her work at New York Fashion Week, and has been featured in various top fashion publications. But the success of her fashion work has only fuelled her charity work even further: she is now working on building her own Art program for children. “The project started with artist Guo Jian, who has been exiled from China for his participation in 1989 at the Tiananmen Square protest…his work with the kids has been fantastic,” she says with a smile.