While browsing through the books at a library in her Ukrainian hometown of Donetsk, Anna Gavlirenko, better known as Anna Gav, came across a book that changed her life. It was Coco Chanel’s biography. At the time Anna Gav was 13 years old. Today Gav, 32, is a designer of bead jewellery.

“Chanel is for me a symbol of strong women who are not afraid to change the world,” explains Gav. “I see that strength very much in Finnish women. Here women are independent and courageous enough to challenge established concepts of arts and behaviour. I also consider myself a strong woman and I want to be as open-minded as possible. I want to change the world around me and make it more attractive for women,” she continues.

Immediately after her graduation from the Department of Economics at Donetsk University, Gav secretly flew to Moscow. “My parents, who are both academics and have strong personalities, wanted me to work within my career in economics, so I told them I was going to visit my sister in Moscow. Instead, I opened up my first business, a dressmaking atelier. Very soon I was making and designing clothes for fashion events, singers and theatres. It was a very challenging time.”

Until 24 Jan 2010

Finnish Jewellery 1600-2009 Exhibition

Design Museum, Helsinki

Gav’s road led her to Eastern Finland by marrying a Finn and settling down in Joensuu. After struggling with language, culture and eventually a divorce, Gav opened her showroom in Helsinki Fashion House.

“I was three years old when I started making dresses for my dolls, when I was 12 I was selling my jewellery to friends at school and family. Now my dream is to design good mass- produced quality bead jewellery that is modern in style and easy to wear. And of course I would also like Anna Gav jewellery to be as well known as Chanel!” Gav concludes with a smile.

Carina Chela