This is Irina. The beautiful and most talented Belarusian had lived in Gomel, the second-most populous city of Belarus, all her life. As a young student she studied Economics in her hometown although it wasn’t according to her choice, rather it was what her parents wanted her to do. “After my third year of studies, I’d had enough. I packed my bags and moved to Prague.” Following this somewhat-out-of-the-blue move to the Czech Republic, she continued her studies at Intermezzo School of Design however this time majoring in Management. “Studying at Intermezzo was great,” Irina remembers. “They teach you all kind of things, especially how to utilize your contacts and network but also all about textiles and design.” The young expat financed her studies and covered her expenses by decorating events in the Czech capital along with window decoration for design boutiques. She received a further scholarship from her school and went on to stay in the Czech Republic for seven years.
To Berlin she first came for a weekend trip. Her best friend had worked in a travel office in Prague and they traveled to Berlin together. “That weekend I lost my heart to Berlin,” the Belarusian reminisces, “as well as to my husband” she says with a smile. Her husband had studied Pharmaceutics at one of Berlin’s universities and would later move to the small, curiously-named Bavarian town Neukirchen beim Heiligen Blut. There his parents owned an old, traditional-style pharmacy which he would take over. Irina decided to move with him, and shortly after she would go on to start her own brand Maria Concept featuring natural cosmetics and linen accessories, which she sells in her online shop.
“My brand is inspired by the nature of the Bavarian woods as well as the urbanity of Berlin,” Irina explains to me, “with natural resources, tradition and modern design and we aim to work together with designers, artists and photographers from Eastern and Western Europe in order to produce great products.” In her design work she places an emphasis on linen as it’s typical of the Belarusian region she’s from as well as being a natural product that compliments the body and contributes to an overall feeling of wellness.
Even though Irina lives and works in a small Bavarian town, she and her husband still own a small apartment in Moabit where she stays a couple of times a year. “For me, Berlin is like fresh air,” exclaims the woman who lives amongst the woods in Bavaria, “I enjoy the arts and watching people on the U-Bahn. Everything here really inspires me.”