For unusual paths into the world of high-fashion ballroom dance wear, it's going to be hard to beat Irina Birukova's. It's difficult to believe that this stunningly elegant and talented designer (she designs for professionals and amateurs at all levels) started out in life as an aircraft engineer. As an employee of the Central Air Hydrodynamic Institute, a technology research institution about 40 kilometers outside of Moscow, Irina designed high-performance aircraft before realizing that her true designing talent lay in haute couture. Shortening "aircraft" into "craft", she translated the sewing and embroidery skills she learned in school into a finalist's award at the Burda Moden School of Design competition in Moscow.
International moves took her to Seattle, Washington, to the International Academy of Design and Technology (IADT). She discovered that the skills that she had developed in Russia, including designing and crafting exquisitely tailored women's business suits, found her teaching her teachers. The staff was impressed with her skills to the extent that she was offered an instructor's position there, which she declined. She then attended the Istituto Di Moda Burgo, in Milan, Italy, where she honed her already-impressive figure drawing skills and studied fashion design.
At some point in her growth as a fashion designer, a professional dancer who had been impressed with the construction and tailoring of a pants suit that Irina had designed and made for herself, approached her and asked if she did gowns for ballroom dance competitions, and would she consider making gowns for this professional? Irina had been required to take a few waltz lessons in high school (with a partner assigned whom she disliked and soon caused her to quit) and had never seen a ballroom competition, so of course she said yes.
She thought then, and still believes, that designing high-performance aircraft and designing equally high-performance ballgowns are very related fields. "They are both about dynamics - speed and movement. Flying is flying, regardless of whether it's in a plane or in a gown". She says that just as an aircraft has to be designed and crafted "just so" in order to make it most aerodynamically effective, so a ballgown must drape and swirl "just so" to create the most attractive illusion of flight for each particular dancer. Those are the dynamics Irina tries to achieve in each individual design - the drape and flow most flattering and becoming to each dancer, and not just pret-a-porter pieces.
Irina comes by her talent naturally. She says that her great-grandmother, Alexandra Tribunskaya, was a professional fashion designer and was always elegantly dressed in perfectly-tailored gowns.
Irina now lives in Seattle, and is the darling of her adoring, and beautifully adorned, clients.
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