Aliona Kononova has been a well cemented part of Los Angeles’ art and fashion scene. Frequently adorning the most avant garde of dressers around the various art openings and social happenings, is there anything more inspiring than to see Valerie Von Sobel in one of Kononova’s confections. When the pandemic hit, Kononova like the rest of the world slowed down. Focusing on fully envisioned one offs, pushing an endearing sense of more architectural engineered garments craft it out of the most rigid fabrics. It is with this strong and dynamic use of craftsmanship which she has applied into the process of her mask making. Having been anointed “Millinery‘s New Star” with the blessing of Stephen Jones, it is no wonder that her expertly crafted masks take on a whole life of their own.

A gorgeous and luxuriant product that transfers wearers to a place which almost makes one forget that it is a product of function, but rather a storied vision of art. In the time of quarantine and isolation the designer has also explored her adopted home of California. Producing shoots which showcase her designs against the alien backdrop of the many coastal towns along 655.8 miles of Cali coastline.

The pacing couldn’t have been better as she also highlighted the little known Russian homestead, Fort Ross. We got to chatting with Kononova about this project which ultimately matches her Californian dream and Slavic roots. she also provided a delectably addictive recipe for Syrniki, a cottage cheese based pancake which is dosed with just the right amount of sugar to be a tea time treat, snack or dessert.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

BJ Panda Bear: Where did you shoot these images they are completely astonishing and alien, you mentioned they were near San Francisco.

Aliona Kononova: The first part was in Sedona and around that area as well as around Vazquez Rocks. Second part was around San Francisco and Fort Ross. It was collaboration between me and my friend Yulia Kirillova who also modeled in the images.

BJPB: Yes and you mentioned there were parts that were Russian, was there a town there? I know Solvang is the one that’s all Danish.

AK: It’s really special so Fort Ross is a former Russian outpost in Sonoma county where 19th century Russians settled on the native Kashia Pomo territory. It’s not big but it’s such a nice place next to the ocean.

BJPB: How did you find out about it, I have hadn’t heard of it being from California.

AK: It was in the books In Russia we have always been curious to go and there was never an occasion. So when everything was locked down I think I saw more things than I saw in the seven years I’ve lived here. We just went to San Francisco then to Yosemite, June lake, and exploring all the things around. 30 hours of driving, but good.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

BJPB: How far was it all from each other?

AK: 2 hours from San Francisco. it was a very cool experience and it was crazy because in San Francisco in the mornings it is really cold and when we went to Fort Ross and it was crazy hot and we were trying to capture the pictures with no harsh sun which was pretty impossible. At some point you hear this church bell and I felt like I was fainting because it was too hot. There was not even one shadow it was all open so there was no shade while you’re shooting for three hours. You really get that heat I was trying to hide in the church but it was closed. We were looking for any shade with the bells it was a surreal experience.

BJPB: With the masks you have recently released they are really gorgeous what was the construction on these?

AK: I wanted something to cover your face but repeating the shape of the face that it would not squeeze your mouth as it is already so uncomfortable to wear these in general. I wanted them to be as comfortable as possible. The lining is so soft and you can adjust the ears. The whole thing can be adjusted to your face, the veil is detachable the little bird is detachable. It has three main inspired creatures: a bird a dragonfly and a butterfly.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

What is the significance of those animals to you and how they relate to the masks?

It all started with the bird, a bird can rise above the clouds and see what is going on in the bigger picture and get over it quicker in that sense. The dragonfly has this unique flight pattern which they adjust in certain situations and that’s kind of what was their inspiration. Of course the butterfly has its metamorphosis, so the idea of the transformation and to take all that moment as a personal growth, to take it towards a positive note I wanted to have these creatures on every mask.

They are so welcome crafted are they both feathers and millinery fabrics?

Depends the bird one is made of feathers, And the dragonfly is made of silk they are like little jewels.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

A little happiness for breakfast to start your day in the right direction, Aliona Kononova’s recipe for Syrniki


1 egg

1 cup of farmers cheese or ricotta

3 tablespoons of sugar

1/4 cup of flour (or almond flower for Keto)

a generous pour of vanilla extract

pinch of salt

coconut oil

1/2 a cup of blueberries (optional)

Your favorite maple syrup (optional)

Combine ingredients and portion into 5 or 6 servings, pan fry with the coconut oil and serve with a drizzle of maple syrup.

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