Alinka, the name of my brand, is actually my nickname. It’s a fine jewellery collection so I use 18-carat gold and black and white diamonds. It’s been inspired by my Russian heritage. I was born in St Petersburg in Russia and came to Sydney for university 15 years ago.
I love fashion and design. I have been designing jewellery for the past five to seven years, but more one-off pieces for various clients. A couple of years ago I decided I would love to launch my own brand so here we are.
I have got quite distinctive taste and I couldn’t find pieces that would go from morning to night, or pieces that I could layer, or pieces that I could mix. I like elegance with a slight edge to it. I just wanted to design jewellery for the modern girl that can mix and match.
It took me a good six months of designing. My aim is to make very high-quality pieces that can sit alongside well-established premium jewellery brands. That took a bit of time and trial and error. All in all it took 18 months, getting the manufacturing perfect. I wanted to be 100 per cent happy with each and every single piece of jewellery before it could be available for sale.
It is very exciting to see it all finished. I have to pinch myself sometimes. It has been a long-term dream of mine to have my own fine jewellery brand. It’s interesting because I am seeing certain trends among my customers. Someone who is a little bit more conservative in dress style goes for more elegant pieces and someone who is out to push the boundaries will go for the edgier pieces.
The stars [earrings and rings] have been very popular. My stars are inspired by the Kremlin stars in Moscow. My whole collection is inspired by my childhood and growing up in Russia. The sparkle of the diamonds makes me think of the ice on frozen lakes, where it was -20C or -30C in my childhood, or walking in the snow with my mum when I was little. I wanted to bring some elements from my heritage into my collection.
When I was 19 I moved to Australia to study at Sydney University. I wanted to study and get a degree in English. I could speak English but I figured out quite early that unless I lived in an English-speaking country, it wouldn’t be up to standard.
I didn’t really start travelling until my mid to late teens because I grew up in communism. I just thought Australia was very interesting and it sounded a beautiful country and I had not had been here before. I planned to come for three years — I never really had any plans to stick around.
A year and a half after I came to Australia I met my now husband [Sydney FC chairman, property developer and funds manager Scott Barlow] and I stayed. We met randomly, in Establishment. I remember thinking this guy cannot be true, he is such a nice guy. I remember saying to him I don’t really speak much English and he said, that is okay, and we spoke for half a night. He rang me the next day and that was it. I was 21 when we met so we were lucky to be able to grow up together.
I was always a bit of a nerd. I had to study because I couldn’t hold a conversation in English and I was studying at Sydney University. I did accounting and finance majors as part of a commerce degree. I remember my first few days in lectures and thinking what is that guy in shorts [the lecturer] talking about?
I was always motivated and ambitious. I worked in the corporate world [at accounting firm PwC] for a few years before I had my two children and before I pursued my passion, which is Alinka.
My time at PWC gave me a very good base for the business. I can understand the financial statements, numbers do not scare me. I think about all aspects of the business. It has to be great design but it also has to be financially viable.
I would love to see my brand in other parts of the world, in Russia, in Europe, in America. I have a vision one day to walk into department stores and see my jewellery there. I enjoy every step of the way from design to production to receiving new pieces from the factory to putting it in a box and shipping it off to the customer. I am now meeting people who are wearing my jewellery — that is the biggest reward for a designer.