N: Hey, Regina! How's life in Paris treating you? For those who don't know you yet, could you give us a quick intro about yourself and share how you got into the fashion scene?
R: Hi! My name is Regina Ntahompagaze. I'm 21 years old, and I'm a stylist and photographer from Moscow.
I have always been obsessed with literature, and after finishing school, I had this plan of studying literature and philosophy.
At the same time, I started being interested in photography, especially experimenting with different VHS cameras. I used to hang out with skater boys a lot, and they always use this type of cameras to record their tricks ahah.
I wanted to do fashion photography, but at that time, I didn't have anyone with a similar vision to collaborate with. So, I just started to style my own shoots. I was posting my works online, and it started getting recognition from big creatives from abroad quite fast. But I always felt like my vision was not very welcomed in my home country.
I have been visiting Paris quite often since I was 9 years old and I have always felt a strong connection with this city. In February last year I decided to drop out of university and start my career in fashion. I have been coming here for years so
I didn't have a plan or anything.. it just felt natural to me.
N: Looking at your styling portfolio, you have definitely nailed down a very recognizable signature style, from the model poses to the photography. It's like clients hire you because they want that special "Regina treatment” to their brand, rather than you having to adapt to their aesthetics, if that makes sense. What draws you to this hyper-feminine style? And what do you think about the current cultural vibes? Lately, it seems like underground fashion is going through a shift from a focus on androgyny and strength to the proliferation of trends like "coquette" fashion that emphasize embracing cuteness and soft aesthetics. What are your thoughts on this interesting shift?
R: Yes, it’s very important for me to have a very recognizable vision. When you work in fashion, where trends change every couple of months, you constantly have to be observant of what is happening around you, and that can lead you to losing your individuality. I believe it’s quite easy to create beautiful things if you have decent taste, but what’s hard is keeping a piece of yourself in every beautiful thing you create.
I'm very happy that people finally started recognizing beauty in softness and not being ashamed to be feminine.
It has always been hard for me to play into the role of the typical 'strong' woman, even though I always felt a need to be independent in the way I express myself. Everything I create has always been about my experience of being a girl or just girlhood in general.
Sometimes I get criticized online for my works being too “violent” or dark. I’ve heard people saying that I romanticize abuse... but I believe that there are no stories that we have to hide.
I want womanhood to be depicted in all its facets, and perhaps for this reason, it can be necessary to incorporate things like blood and violence or huge lace gowns that make it impossible to walk.. because this is part of our experience as women, which cannot be right or wrong. Our strength is not in imitating men and trying to fight patriarchy using its own rules like never showing weakness, putting on pants, and earning all the money in the world. Our strength is in vulnerability and accepting our stories, which will lead us to help each other overcome pain.
N: I noticed on your Instagram that you've included some of your own designs in your styling work. Are you thinking of exploring fashion design more seriously, or is it just a way for you to experiment and evolve creatively?
R: Back in the day I used to create some clothing pieces for my styling projects because I didn't feel like I had people around me that would resonate with my vision. But I don’t think I would ever start a brand. I feel like fashion design is a big responsibility in a way, and I would always be scared that my garments would not be “groundbreaking” enough. I respect people who create clothes so much that I wouldn’t want to make something just for the sake of selling it.
N: What's one thing you absolutely love about the lifestyle of working in the fashion industry, and on the flip side, what's something you find a bit challenging or not-so-fun?
R: I love collaboration, and I hate competition. I hope one day people will overcome their individualistic mindset and realize that we need each other to exist. Beautiful things are usually born from people coming together. Rather than looking to prove that I am "better than" other people, I find it way more fulfilling to show the beauty of other women through my work, or to help my friends make their vision come true.
N: Three years from now, Regina is ____? Fill in the blank for us.
R: Three years from now, Regina is finally satisfied with her career in fashion and enjoying studying literature somewhere in Europe.
All images courtesy of Regina