Polina Mikhailova is on a mission to spread the message of understanding mental health conditions – through her fashion brand 11:11 L.U.C.K.
Polina Mikhailova is a woman of some considerable determination. The recent launch of her socially-conscious fashion brand 11:11 L.U.C.K. at the JD Malet Galley in Mayfair showed that she is a woman on a mission way beyond simply looking good.
“It’s a new fashion brand but it has a real purpose – to raise awareness about mental health issues, and is founded on principles of love, unity, care and kindness – hence the LUCK in the brand’s name,” she says.
Polina laughs when I remark that that’s quite an ambitious goal. So why does she feel motivated to make a difference?
I had been playing tennis since I was four and played professionally. I was travelling a lot and when I reached the age of 16, I felt that I couldn’t continue. I was just exhausted – it's hard to be a tennis player – and I was anxious about the future. There comes a point when you have to decide whether you play professionally and give your life to it. At that point, we decided as a family it was better to stop. I think I was traumatised – it was complicated. But now I do play for fun – I love to impress people from time to time!
So Polina went on to do her undergrad in finance and worked for the family business. “I didn't like finance but my family wanted me to do it. I was very good girl!” Originally from Moscow, after moving to London she then went to New York to do her Master’s.
“For the first time I was pursuing something I wanted to and when I moved back to London, I started this project, about mental health.
“I think that New York has this energy of freedom, where you can just be yourself. You don't feel judged. I think I let myself out when I came back home to London. I wanted to do something about it. To spread the message of understanding and thought that fashion was the answer. It's a vehicle to show to people vividly how you feel and to show your support.”
“I'm not bipolar but I'm wearing my bipolar t shirt today. It just means that you have empathy with it and want to raise awareness.”
The debut collection ‘Stranger Than Reality’ carries a powerful message related to mental health awareness. Each garment is designed to provoke thought and conversation about mental health, fostering unity among individuals who may feel alone on their mental health journey.
“It's not just fashion, not just a t shirt, it’s much more than that,” says Polina. “I write scripts for movies about the issues – we have five stories for each t shirt to show the story behind each disorder. “This is personal – through my personal journey, my personal struggles. I tried to help myself and with this initiative it's great to help others.”
Polina is mother to two young children (one just six months old) so a settled life in London is important to her:
“What I love about London and I like in the people is the contrasts. You have beautiful historical architecture, and contemporary buildings, you cherish traditions and traditional values but, at the same time you are open minded and international. And I think that makes London so unique and attractive for me.
So how do the striking designs come to fruition? “All the designs come from my head and I work with an emerging artist in Paris. It took us a while to get to where we've got to – it was a real collaboration. And in the future, it's going to be a part of our brand to collaborate with different artists, to whom our brand speaks.
“We want to have other people with different takes on the themes. It's an infinite thing. You can do so much – mental health never ends.”
“We don’t want to exclude people so there'll be another less expensive line. This is just the beginning. We already have had a lot of enquiries about collaborations.
“I have plans to educate people, to explain. Some people don't know about certain disorders and it's good that they know that they can go to our website to check out Instagram and feel they aren’t alone. “That’s why we have partnered with the mental health charity MIND – we'll be donating two per cent of our profits to them. I like what they do – they make mental health to look cool. Not sad. That's my idea as well. We add a lot of humour.
“But the stigma is still there. London is open minded, New York as well. But not all cities are. If you have some sort of mental issue, you are perceived as crazy. And people are afraid of that because we care a lot about what others think. But it's manageable – just like when you have a physical problem – if you have mental issues, you can, and you should ask for help, and your life will be better.
“So there is hope, and 11:11 L.U.C.K. promotes hope. And the idea that you can live a better life, if you first accept it. And when you wear something like this, you show you’re accepting yourself, I have embraced that, and I support those who have. Acceptance is a big step towards healing.”
While the t shirts can be bought through the website, Polina would love to have the brand stocked in retail outlets too. “It’s a great way of amplifying the message and we are a London-based brand and proud of it. The mission comes from London so let’s see where it takes us. I'm dreaming, of course. But not thinking too much. I'm not crushing it!”
“We’re just at the beginning of our journey and it's not the easiest mission. 11:11 L.U.C.K. is not just a fashion brand; it's a movement to create a kinder world by promoting mental health awareness. We believe that by joining us, you become part of a compassionate community dedicated to making a positive impact in the realm of mental health.