Austin Sherbanenko keeps his studio in Skid Row in downtown LA because “it’s a good hiding spot.” He’s not trying to hide, just escape the white noise so he can hear his own thoughts, so he can filter out the garbage and do what he was born to do – create.
His creative contribution? Odyn Vovk, a brand as dark and mysterious as he is. It’s almost a tangible representation, an extension even, of self. It’s what he wants to see you in.
Since he was a child Austin has been “conscious of design and deconstruction.” Odyn Vovk – a name derived from his Ukranian heritage – evolved in 2007, and hit its stride with his first collection in 2009. Part motorcycle culture, part metal head, part history lesson in the making, his designs are simple, and yet tell a complicated story. He chooses heavy, textured fabrics and hardware - canvas and leather – “because the structures in these mediums are so apparent and challenging at the same time to work with.” But it’s also more than those things. Odyn Vovk is rock and roll before glitter and flashing lights.
Austin talked to Contra about his passion, his inspiration, and the cut-throat industry that almost drove him away.
Did you always know this was what you wanted to do?
I didn’t know what path I was taking, and I didn’t care. I knew what I wanted to create and how I wanted people to look. When I started, I did just that. There was no ‘plan’ or ‘goal’. I just started designing and I was lucky enough to have a strong support system to take Odyn Vovk to the next step.
Why do you design?
I really don’t know. It is just in me, and I go for it. Now that Odyn Vovk is a sufficient business, it’s a machine and the design part of it only happens twice a year! That’s the easy part now!
What’s the story behind the name: Odyn Vovk?
Odyn Vovk translates to “One Wolf” in Ukrainian. It pays homage to my Ukrainian grandfather and his family during the difficult times of Nazi Germany invading the Soviet Union. My grandfather did anything and everything to maintain his existence and did whatever it took to fight for his family, similar to that of a Wolf. The same energy transcended to my father and so on. Although we are not in hard times of 1940, I know I have to survive on my own and make my own way in this life.
What inspires your aesthetic?
Everyday life. The things I surround myself with are always what I am about. The music I listen to inspires me to be motivated to create certain things, and my passion for building motorcycles and being on the open road. I’ve really developed an appreciation for functional garments and I use that when I design.
What kind of man wears Odyn Vovk?
Any man who appreciates the quality of an OV garment. There are 2 types of people in this world, people who stop to smell the roses and those who don’t.
What’s the hardest thing about designing for today’s man?
I couldn’t even tell you what a “todays man” is. The most difficult thing about designing today is demographics. It’s hard to create one piece and expect clients from Japan, Russia and London to all buy it. Everyone buys so differently based on warmth, size and aesthetic. It’s really difficult to please everyone with ONE collection a season. This is where I stick to my own instinct and trust that I know what I am doing. You cannot be insecure in this industry.
How has your style evolved from ’11 to ’12?
I feel like I am really in my groove now. I know what our customer wants and I see what is in demand. Every season we learn something new and try new things.
What are you most proud of?
I’ve never been able to, nor wanted, to pat myself on the back about anything. I know I can always do better.
This industry is so quick and cutthroat. You either make it or you don’t. With that said, I guess I could say that I am proud to have made it this far. So many people want to see you fail, and get such a kick out of it. This industry has made me almost hate what I do, but I remember quickly what I created and what it has provided me with. You have to push out the negative and keep your focus, always re-igniting my original passion.
And you’re branching into women’s, or do they just love your clothes (they are pretty sick)?
I love women’s wear. I always make a couple pieces for the shows, but we’ve never sold the women’s specific pieces for retail. Now that we sell to a few women’s specific stores, like Eva Gentry in Brooklyn NY, they have really been able to show women that they can wear men’s pieces. Odyn Vovk is for anyone, and it doesn’t matter what sex you are. I would like the woman’s collection to come naturally and not done because people want it.
Favorite piece you’ve made and why?
I would have to say the “Signature 13 Loop” denim. I have been making them since the very first season and continue to carry them over. I wear them every single day. I’ve only had 3 pairs, and I wear them until they fall off me. Also, we just recently made some in smaller sizes and look rad on women!
What do you want to be doing in 5 years?
Riding my motorcycle all over Europe and Asia visiting my Odyn Vovk retial stores!