The Moms

Olya Dzilikhova

Fashion DesignerPhotography by Lauri LevenfeldStory by Lauri Levenfeld

Upon meeting Olya Dzilikhova, I was mesmerized by this petite firecracker and all that swirls around her in life as a mom and designer. The overwhelming care and passion she has for her family, home, career, art, and life is evident in everything she touches and speaks of. As her stories of her childhood unfolded I was enraptured; how her mom inspired her and influenced her love for clothes and construction, how she was destined from age four to be a fashion designer, and most importantly, how she has managed to apply her life philosophies into the philosophies of her brand Mina+Olya. In between shots, we huddled inside Olya’s dream closet. There were so many ooh-and-aahs, not only for the oh-so desired mentionables, but for the loving and talented woman before us.

I am the Creative Director and Co-Founder at Mina&Olya Inc. My business partner, Mina Yazdi, and I started a luxury, sustainable clothing line for women in 2011. Our company mission is to create clothes for women who care about the environment, quality, and want timeless pieces in their closet.

A lot of our inspirations come from our backgrounds, Mina is Persian and I am Russian. We are influenced and inspired by our countries’ artists and historical places. Our last collection Spring 2013 was inspired by both cultures and traditions, a culmination of Iranian musk and Russian fairy tales. We created our own print with an amazing local artist, Yulia Pinkusevich.

My love for fashion goes back to when I was a toddler. I was very chubby and always had the shortest hair (for some reason!), and so, wearing hair accessories was out of question. As a result, I made neckties and brooches my statement pieces. This was at the early age of four (I am laughing).

My love affair with fashion started then and continues to this day. For multiple reasons I did not study fashion or art in school, I majored in finance and economics. But nothing stopped me from following my authentic path. As a 5th grader in Catholic private school in Manhattan, I managed to turn my undesirable uniform into an expression of my tastes. I cut the skirt 1″ above the knee and made it high-waisted, all by hand.

I bought a white Lacoste polo (removed the logo) and showed up the next school day in my renovated uniform, white socks, Doc Martens, and a cardigan. I can proudly say that the following year the school made cotton polos with the school logo as part of the summer uniform.

When I became a designer, I was very unhappy that I lacked the proper education and formal training. However, along the way, I realized that my lack of training provided me with a freedom from rules and the expected and I was able to be more open and unique with my translations.


Kids: Michael-age 7, Alexander-age 4.5

Michael loves Legos the Architectural Edition, he also loves football and anything that has to do with it. His favorite team, the Hawks. Alexander loves arts and crafts and we have the whole collections of Alex’s craft kits. He also loves cooking and watches Helen Cavalo on Disney Jr. every day!

The bedroom and playroom both consist of white birch furniture, a 100% sustainable material made by Oeuf. We have used the same furniture pieces since they were born, only adding additional beds, dressers, and a library. We also have portraits of the kids when they were little, as well as, their artwork displayed on the walls.

I believe that my main goal as a mother is to raise “good people”. I try to teach them honesty, appreciation, and respect. I hope that this strong foundation will help them in life.

My advice as a mom is listen to your kids. Not just listen but also hear them out. Always make time for them and pay attention to discuss anything that they need. If they share with you today and know you are listening, they will share even more when they are older.

In my very first memories, I fell in love with my mother’s closet! Even in the Soviet Union, my mom had the most amazing coats and blouses with super long necks that weirdly gathered and looked insanely flattering! She had to hide many pieces early on from me, as I had no problem reinventing them. I would cut off the longer sleeves on a coat band to make it a vest.

To this day, my mom’s closet is my obsession. My mom taught me how to understand my body, my mood, my age, and my social station. My mom always said that it does not matter how timeless something is, if you don’t take care of your clothes they will quickly lose their appeal.


In creating Mina+Olya we are very adamant about the quality of our fabrics, as well as, the construction of our pieces. We try to carry out our sustainability aspect not only based on where and how the clothes are made but how long they will be in your closet. I have a lot of my mother’s pieces and they are in impeccable condition. I really hope I can maintain her collection, as well as my own, in the same respectful and caring manner.

When I was 12 years old, I saw this unbelievable grey evening dress made from men’s suiting fabric in my mom’s closet. I fell in love with it, as it hugged the body in all the right places. It was feminine and flattering, but also, structured and masculine. A similar feeling to that evoked when seeing images of a woman waking up in a men’s button-down, but with this dress, the body is wrapped and hugged at every curve in true men’s fabric. Wow! I carry this image with me today as I think of what the next level of sexy can be.

Upon seeing this dress, I tried to research as much as I could about the designer Romeo Gigli. My efforts fell flat as it was the days of a not-so-advanced internet. Instead, my mother took me to the store where she shopped. It was the famous Charivari on 72nd and Columbus Avenue. The infamous store carried all the Japanese designers like Miyake, Yamamoto, as well as Gaultier, Callahan, and of course Gigli. That day I met my mom’s personal shopper Marc Jacobs. The store was part of fashion history and I am so thankful that I got to see it. The experience solidified my love for fashion and imprinted my mind as to where I wanted to take it.

Sometimes people tend to forget that once you are a mother you influence your kids by the way you dress. My mom taught me how to do it tastefully.


Here are five quick ways to help improve your style and feel good about yourself.

1. Instead of hiding your imperfections, accentuate your assets. When you try and hide your imperfections, they become obvious. Accentuate your assets, and you will be glowing! This is a key design philosophy for Mina+Olya.

2. Evening gowns are such an investment, if you are buying quality. Instead of buying one piece, look for a two-piece garment. Shop around and find pieces that will last and that you can wear together and as separates. I have this Chanel evening gown that my husband bought me 9 years ago that is actually two pieces. In the summer, I will wear the top half with jeans or the skirt with a white tee. I’m also thinking of taking one of my evening dresses that has a mermaid hem, cutting it around the knees, and installing an invisible zipper so it can go from a full length gown to cocktail dress in one easy zip.


3. Here’s a tip I learned from living in New York and having an on-the-go life: When you are dressing, always try to put yourself together in something that looks as good in flats as it does with heels, that way you can easily go from day-to-night.


4. If you find something you love, buy it in multiples and many colors.


5. Most of my accessories are sentimental, I either made them or they were given to me as gifts. A key rule to wearing accessories in large qualities: If it has sentimental meaning, it was probably given to you by someone who knows your style and knows who you are, therefore it will automatically look good on you and match your style. On that note, you can’t go wrong!


It is no wonder that Olya is inspired by Vogue’s magazine editor and tastemaker Diana Vreeland (the Divine Miss V). Diana was a wow-maker. She thought outside of the box and pushed the threshold on every shoot. Just as Diana was strong, stylish, successful, and loyal to her family, Olya is this and more. It is this fiery, passionate, compassionate, and creative vision that sets both ladies apart and makes them all the more exciting to follow and aspire to. She’s definitely our Divine Miss O.

For Mina+Olya’s holiday love and discount, follow the link below.

 A Day in the life

Task: Mina+Olya Fittings for Fall 2014


Wake up and wake the kids


Dress them for school


Breakfast and make lunches while kids eat


Pack backpacks and make sure homework is in packs


Daddy takes them to school


Jump in the shower


Start answering emails and jump on the phone. We work with many east coast partners, so we are on the phone early.


Meet Mina and we are off to the office: brainstorming, running to the atelier for fittings, and working on many projects together.


We go for lunch just as friends, no business, to enjoy one another’s company. It gets a little overwhelming sometimes, so we try to remind ourselves that we started off as friends.

Mina+Olya model fittings. We do this together. I need to hear what marketing and sales need, what buyers and press are saying, and what is lacking or needs alteration within the collection or item. We look at the cohesion of collection, fit of each product, color ideas, and quality. We listen to our model, what she says, thinks, and feels in each look.


Walk home (I live one block from my studio) and start cooking dinner


Kids arrive home. They help me cook and set the table.


Family dinner and share time










Reply to emails, read and


Off to bed


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