Glass interviews Mariya Dykalo creative director of British luxury brand Aspinal

STORIED heritage brand Aspinal is a quintessentially British company, testament, perhaps, to its ability to embody the UK’s spirit in design. With its origins as a high quality stationery company, luxury handbag and accessories brand Aspinal expanded into creating leather accessories five years after it was founded.

The company is based in the National Park of the West Sussex Downs and all its range are handmade by craftsmen and women with much of their production based in the UK, and if not, in Europe. The line is designed by the company’s Creative Director, Ukrainian-born Mariya Dykalo and are often inspired by the English countryside which surrounds the company headquarters.

Glass sat down with Mariya  to find out more about her impressive journey from beginning as an intern at Aspinal 10 years ago to becoming its creative director.

You started as an intern at Aspinal and now, very impressively, are the creative director there. What would you say is the high point of your career?
Yes, I have been very lucky in my life to do what I studied for nine years and something I am truly passionate about. I am very proud to be the creative director of luxury British brand. It’s a big challenge but also a great opportunity and amazing experience for me. Becoming the creative director has definitely been my career highlight.

Aspinals Box Clutch With PrintAspinals Box Clutch With Print

Could you possibly share with us any challenges you have faced in your career? 
My biggest challenge was when I first moved to England from the Ukraine. Moving away from your family is always going to be difficult, but also having to learn a new language from scratch presented quite a challenge! You have to look at these things as an adventure and that is exactly what I did. Right now my biggest challenge is balancing my busy family life with my two children as well as work.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the design field? Education is key and a necessary starting point. I’ve never stopped learning and I think that is very important to becoming successful. In design you can constantly learn, whether is it new techniques, new opportunities, or broadening your mind to embrace new inspiration.

Aspinals Black and White ToteAspinals Black and White Tote

Do you mentor any people? Were you mentored yourself? If so, what would you say are the benefits of this process?
I am lucky to work with a wonderfully talented design team at Aspinal of London. I spend a lot of time working with them and we have a brilliantly open working relationship. It’s great to see them flourish and anything I can do to help them on their journey I will do. Being able to listen is really important as often a brilliant idea comes out when we are all at our most relaxed.

Working with the team is my favourite part of the job. My personal mentor? I would say my design teacher at Lviv Academy of the Arts in the Ukraine, Taira Ketcheji. Also my best friend, Sergei Savchenko, who is the most incredible artist and creative mind. I love being surrounded by creative people.

Aspinals Lottie Alabaster LizardAspinals Lottie Alabaster Lizard


Now you are Creative Director at Aspinal what advice or insights can you offer someone who aspires to, or is already, running a company?
Surround yourself with people you like and have a strong design team.

Aspinals Manhattan Mini ClutchAspinals Manhattan Mini Clutch

How do you balance motherhood your role at Aspinal?
It’s all down to being very organised and not saying no to help when you’re struggling. I’m lucky to have incredibly supportive parents who have been there in the most difficult times. Also I am very lucky to have a very supportive husband who works very hard to ensure we have balance in our family.

Aspinals Padlock Duffle BagAspinals Padlock Duffle Bag


The UK countryside inspires and informs many of your designs for Aspinal. In what ways does your Ukrainian background inspire you in your professional, as well as your personal, one?
The Ukraine is a very different place to the UK. Of course I will always love it as a country, but life is very tough there. There are beautiful buildings, incredible artists and of course the ballet to be inspired by, but it shaped me personally. Moving from the Ukraine to England made me appreciate what you have, be positive and never give up. One of my mottos is, “Be in love with your life every minute of it.”

Mariya Dykalo Creative Director of AspinalMariya Dykalo Creative Director of Aspinal

Can you share with Glass the direction of Aspinal’s forthcoming collections? Do you continue to expand and review your core collection for SS17?
For this AW16 Aspinal takes a retrospective look at Bygone era of classic vintage styling and true elegance, whilst drawing inspiration from the brand’s artisanal heritage and celebrating that most enduring and ever-alluring object of beauty – the pearl. From the famous  painting Girl with the Pearl Earring through to contemporary fashion, the pearl has long been the symbol of elegant perfection and so for AW16 Aspinal follow this journey through many decades.

For SS17, I can’t give too much away as it’s a surprise! But I promise you that we are going to have the most exciting collection for our customers and maybe a collaboration too! I can’t wait to share it with you during next London Fashion Week in September 2016.

Aspinals Soho PouchAspinals Soho Pouch


Do you have any collaborations lined up such as your recent one with Être Cécile the brand of Yasmin Sewell? How did that go in your opinion?
Designing with Yasmin was great fun! The collaboration with Etre Cecile was very well received by the press and loved by our customers too. It was the bravest collection we had ever done with really cool tartan leathers and bright bold colours.

Aspinals Oversized PouchAspinals Oversized Pouch

What are you most pleased about with Aspinal as a brand and your work there? What areas, if any, do you see as needing development?
When I joined Aspinal 10 years ago, it was a well-known British luxury stationery brand, creating books and accessories in the UK for worldwide museums such as The National Gallery, The British Museum, The Vatican and The Louvre.

After a couple of years in the company, we started to expand into handbags and they were such a success it’s been a huge area of growth every year since. I joined at a very exciting time. Although we have numerous categories for both men and women, we are always looking to expand and have some exciting things coming. In terms of building the brand, our goal is to ensure that Aspinal will be established and recognised as a luxury brand around the world.

Aspinals Trunk BagAspinals Trunk Bag

Which emerging designers do you like (Glass notices that you wear Beautiful Soul)? 
During last London Fashion week we have launched our latest collaboration with WGSN Global Fashion award winner – Emma Shipley.  She has her own textile brand and I just fell in love with her beautiful whimsical drawings. I have to admit that I do love Beautiful Soul dresses. Their prints and style of dresses really suit me, I love the Britishness of the prints and the vintage, timeless shapes.

Beulah London is another brand that I’m currently loving. They make the most elegant dresses for the evening. We worked together last year to create two clutches for charity using their signature Blue Heart print. 25 per cent of the profits from each limited edition Blue Heart Clutch will be donated to the United Nations Blue Heart Campaign.

Aspinals Red ClutchAspinals Red Clutch

Can you sum up the philosophy of Aspinal?
Aspinal has a very distinctive style. The aesthetic is English refined elegance with a cool London twist. Traditional timeless style with innovation. We’re known for beautifully classic designs, high quality and good value.

Aspinal of London is posh and polished with great quality (hand made in England or Europe), reflective of a refined English sensibility, practical and designed and made to be loved for a lifetime.

by Caroline Simpson

Find Aspinal on twitter and instagram


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