German label Du Ciel by Maria Sinkovskiy is the independent lingerie and swimwear brand born out of one designer’s desire to nurture intimacy across all dimensions. “Intimacy is very fluid and shape-shifting. It has many faces,” Maria Sinkovskiy wrote to NBGA from where she’s currently based in Düsseldorf, Germany. Sinkovskiy’s creative journey is embellished with surreal and solemn stops and starts. The designer spent two years in Sydney, Australia where she worked as a pole dancer and found herself mesmerized by the world of female bodies of all shapes and sizes, sensuality, rhythm, movements, and emotion. Of course, it was not all glamorous, she asserts: “There is no foundation to fall back on when your bank account balance plummets to close to zero.” Around this time, Maria received a diagnosis that was literally life-altering—it arrive during the time that she was laying the groundwork for what would come to be Du Ciel. She pressed pause on construction; used this time to rest, heal, deliberate, and imagine.
On Du Ciel’s online storefront, their About page reads: “Closest to the body, it is an inevitable part of daily (un)dressing, bridging the inner and the outer, heaven and earth, ‘you’ and ‘me’,” a benevolent exposé of the label’s driving ethos: a championing for intimacy, sensuality, and care. Intimacy with ourselves, with nature, with our desires. The intimacy felt between our bodies; the intimacy between our bodies and the garments we adorn those bodies with. And for those who feel sexiest in an oversized white tee, Du Ciel is for you, too – who says you can’t excite yourself alone with a well-designed subliminal decoration?
Blending minimalistic palettes with a deep appreciation for the sexual, Du Ciel offers us material entry into a world of subdued and secret splendors – caviar string panties, Trigon sets (bra and panty) of flossy Miyuki Pearl beaded strings crafted to frame your breasts and butt in a dynamic dial-up of the “cut-out” phenomenon. Each piece is handmade (with love) to order – a silent rejection of the fast-pace, overproducing status quo – and are offered in sultry shades like blush pink, film-noir black, milk chocolate, an off-white range of pearl, cream, buttermilk, sand, royal blue. Frills, wool, silk, string: Du Ciel flirts with the line between empath and dominatrix, soft and severe. Coy and covert but entirely unashamed. If you woke up in a heavenly meadow, where soft silk lingerie bloomed in the garden instead of flowers, would it not be the V-Day Petite Nuage Bra that you plucked? We spoke with Du Ciel designer Maria Sinkovskiy about what intimacy means to her, the sickness that offered her rupture/revival, and the joie de vivre of creating Du Ciel.
First things first: origin. Where are you from and how does the atmosphere of your upbringing translate into your work?
I was born and raised in Kasachstan, a small landlocked country bordering Russia, where I was surrounded by rather conservative values. Feminism and sexual self-expression were rather frowned upon culturally and that resistance is what really pushed me to locate and define my own values, to stand in them proudly. Being the rebel of the family, starting my label Du Ciel was definitely the material embodiment of my political stances.
What is your personal definition of intimacy?
Intimacy is very fluid and shape-shifting. It has many faces. I can find it within a mutually enriching and inspiring friendship, a dynamic sexual connection, and within isolated, personal moments of desire or deep, unconditional love. The intimacy I share and experience within my friendships, and within myself, is the strongest flavor of intimacy for me at the moment. I realize that everything I do is 100 % me, whether it’s externalized through Du Ciel, an opinion I share, a discussion I have, or the way I decorate my home. It’s all an extension of the intimate and vulnerable aspects of my being. This deep relationship with myself has come through learning to honor my likes, my passions, and through allowing myself to create – a long, yet most rewarding journey to board.
You spoke previously about discovering that you had Stage IV cancer one year into the creation of the Du Ciel brand, and how that put your design dreams on pause. What do you feel now when you think back on that time? How did it alter your mindset, your objectives?
It was a chapter within my life that forever changed the trajectory of my being. It made me more rational and resistant in some ways, while allowing me to grow more empathetic and sensitive in others. From the time I first was given the news about my diagnosis, I understood that the possibility of me surviving was rather high, comparably – as long as I didn’t catch an infection or anything. This understanding allowed me to feel grateful to go through the pain that comes with the chemotherapy. I knew that not everyone was so lucky or privileged enough to experience it on their way back into vitality. Du Ciel has become the outlet and source of my joie de vivre, something I can put my heart into, watch it grow and thrive like a baby.
How would your past self feel if she could see you where you are now?
My past self would be surprised by how much I can change merely through utilizing my creative agency and gathering a community around my vision. She would be surprised by how much power I hold within my creativity and how many people are out there that want to jump onboard and take part in the journey that I’m leading with trust and strong values. I would tell my past self to hold on tight – it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Pole dancing – let’s talk about it. Is this practice what brought your attention toward the realm of intimates, undergarments, and the link they have with dancing? Or did a preexisting love for these things urge you towards pole dancing? What came first for you?
My approaches to pole dancing seem quite calculated. I was completely broke in Sydney, a city with high living standards and costs. As a first-generation migrant, there is no foundation to fall back into if your bank balance plummets to close to zero. It turned out to be a great social experiment where I was able to observe myself, the others, and how we interacted with each other. After escaping a messy relationship, I dove headfirst into this new alien world where I fell in love with my movements and the flow of my body, while also observing the sensation of being a seductive object of desire that it brought out from within me.
Was that sensuality, and the act of embodying desire, new to you at that time?
I got to know true desire in the relationship with my first love being 21 at that time. It felt like a tunnel, where my sensuality developed and accelerated. But it has for sure been completely new to me to display it in a less intimate, enclosed space, but break onto the stage of a club.
Do you think it’s important for one to be connected to their sexual center, or “sacral chakra” energy, so to speak?
Yes, we must also acknowledge that sensuality is a floating state that comes and goes. One could assume, I am channeling such energy all day every day, but sometimes there are days and weeks where it seems not to find itself in my body.
What are the personal values or beliefs that you hold that shape the way you approach designing lingerie?
Through my process of creating my designs, I nurture a sense of intimacy with the wearer. Every stitch is filled with love and excitement. I believe in the power of tenderness and that capturing it in everyday objects is pure magic. This is why I dedicate so much of my time and attention into selecting the most refined, natural materials – silk and wool, for example – to work with. I have to keep sustainability and fairness towards the planet and my team as a priority, otherwise it’s not me.
Tell us about the biggest life lesson you have ever learned.
There is one constant virtue that I always try to live by. It is that life will happen when you stop forcing it. Live by what you actually enjoy. Be kind, yet selective about who is allowed close to you. Do more of what you love, and indulge in things, activities, and people that offer you a sense of purpose. You will be gifted in turn with such peaceful, focused energy. This energy will help you face the inevitable hardships and conflicts with a powerful sense of ease.
I think that is really wise. I think “power” and “ease” also fit, ambiance-wise, as descriptors of your work. Your pieces are elegant, refined, and structural but also dramatic and flirty (ruffles! Silk! Barely-there!). What is it you want people to feel when they are wearing Du Ciel?
I want people to feel desired. I want them to witness the anticipation and the admiration of the vis-à-vis, to enjoy their bodies, to feel powerful and sensual.
Speaking of power – what is your personal superpower?
My body and my mind are capable of outworldly achievements when they are in tune with one another. We are all holding so much potential, and so much positive, creative, and transformational energy within us. I discovered my personal superpower when I was fighting Stage Four cancer. It was a battle that I didn’t ask for but one that I had to stick around and fight. And conquer. The same body that fought that battle also gave me the idea for Du Ciel.
What’s next for Maria Sinkovskiy?
My wish is to explore apparel design and experiment more with noble metals. I want to broaden the horizons of Du Ciel as a lingerie brand and collaborate with other passionate talents by combining our creative visions. I want to continue to surround myself with inspiring individuals. I want to continue catching special moments and expressing myself on my creative playground that is Du Ciel.