What’s old is new again, as the saying goes, and for Canadian-born, London-based designer Paolina Russo, this nostalgic sentiment is the driving force behind her namesake label. Take knitting, for example. It’s a centuries-old craft and a core component of Russo’s collections, but she does it with a twist—and the help of computerized machines. “I’m obsessed with traditional knitting techniques and figuring out how to subvert them and develop something that feels contemporary and a bit futuristic,” says Russo. Her signature trippy illusion knits are nothing less than mesmerizing, each stitch programmed to precision such that even with the aid of automation, the garment still carries the mark of her handiwork.

In fact, each one of the Central Saint Martins grad’s creations is imbued with a personal touch—namely, artifacts from her childhood bedroom in the suburb of Markham, Ont., that are brought to life in her pieces. Behind Russo’s viral corset made of upcycled and deconstructed soccer cleats is inspiration from years of playing youth sports. Her patterns pay homage to the cable-knit sweaters she wore to combat glacial Canadian winters. Her old Beyblades, a must-have toy during the early aughts, were the genesis for statement art-nouveau-style earrings, while her colour palette references the seminal fantasy adventure video game The Legend of Zelda.

In Russo’s world, the beauty of adolescence in all its moods and
forms—uncertainty, boredom, naïveté—is an unlimited well of
creativity. In facing the future by exploring her past, she carves
out a comforting familiarity that suggests that nothing is ever gone forever and sometimes things are closer than you think. “I didn’t necessarily need to go far to discover something new,” she says. “I just went far enough to realize that all of my inspiration comes from home.”

Aidan Zamiri


“It was so great to come home and shoot [my new] collection on the street where I grew up. Even though I’ve gone to London to pursue my career in fashion, all my ideas and what makes my brand unique comes from my upbringing in Canada. It’s important for me to show other people that creative possibilities can come from your front door.”


“I drew a lot as a child, and I used to dress up, watch anime and play video games. I love being able to see something and know where it came from and its history in my life. I didn’t have as much access to anything fashion- or art-related back then, so [in situations like that], you create your own ideas with what you have. Now that I have the skills and the means to do it, I’m able to go back to all of that.”


“What I’m trying to create for myself is a community within the industry. In the past, other designers didn’t speak to each other as much and you kept your ideas really close to your chest. We actually should be helping each other because designers— especially emerging ones—are going through similar things and we can all open doors for one another.”