Maven to Know: Polina Osherov

The co-founder and executive director of PATTERN gives us the details on how she’s organizing sewing efforts to help healthcare workers, her take on Indy’s growing creative community, and the story behind her signature cat ears.
Polina Osherov Maven to Know

Maven to Know: POLINA OSHEROV, CO-Founder and Executive Director of PATTERN

Polina Osherov likes to joke that she’s like the Terminator from the first movie in the futuristic franchise. “It’s down to an arm, a shoulder and a head, but I keep crawling along,” the fortyish entrepreneur and commercial photographer who lives in Carmel with her husband, Ben Glenn, and their two teenage daughters, Natasha and Anastasia, says. True, she’s persistent. And yes, she has some impressive staying power—the PATTERN magazine and fashion collective she founded 10 years ago is still way ahead of the curve. 

But, given her newest endeavor—helping to launch Million Mask Challenge Indy to protect health-care workers in their fight against COVID-19—we here at Indy Maven (where Osherov also serves as our creative director)  like to think of her more like Sarah Conner, a genuine female action hero hellbent on saving humanity. While wearing her signature cat ears, of course.

Tell us about more Million Mask Challenge Indy. We know that it’s being coordinated by Megan Fernandez in partnership with People for Urban Progress, Crimson Tate, and PATTERN. What else is there to know?

It’s incredible how so many businesses, organizations and individuals have stepped up, trying to fill the huge gap between demand and supply. I am just amazed and I suppose feeling a touch vindicated that it seems like the whole country is sewing again. It’s so exciting for this skillset to get visibility and recognition. I wish it didn’t take a pandemic to make that happen, but I guess this is one of the silver linings of an undesirable situation. Since we kicked off Million Mask Challenge Indy, Eskenazi Health has contracted PATTERN, through StitchWorks, to sew 2500 isolation gowns. Experienced stitchers are needed now and can apply for this paid opportunity here

PATTERN is celebrating 10 years. Looking back, what’s something you never could have predicted about the magazine, or Indy’s fashion scene, in 2020?

 I don’t think I could have predicted any of it. We’re about to launch volume 17 and at two issues a year, that’s us going into our ninth year. Given my lack of background in fashion and publishing, as well as the upheavals in the print publishing industry over the last decade, I’m completely amazed to be still doing that. Amazed and grateful.

In your recent WFYI interview, you said you used to photograph weddings, babies, families, etc., and “kind of hated it all.” What is it about fashion photography that keeps you interested? 

I love working with a team of people so that everyone can bring something to the table to make this one, big beautiful thing. That’s what fashion editorials are to me. And of course, having an experienced, and highly photogenic model in front of the lens is the ultimate high. It’s all about collaboration and creating beauty. That never gets old.

Most frustrating or challenging thing about running a small nonprofit in Indy? 

I’m not sure if the challenges are inherent to Indy, or are the common struggles of all nonprofits, but getting people to take your cause seriously when it falls outside of the normal “charitable causes” is damn hard. Indy is a conservative city with a lot of well-meaning, kind, but very careful people who tend to NOT want to be early adopters…of anything really. LOL.

So, being a nonprofit focused on fashion, initially, and now, on the broader creative community, has been daunting at times. It’s taken a long time to get people to understand and embrace the value of what we do, and to trust that when they support us, we are going to use every dollar in a way that’s going to have a lasting impact on this city. I’d be remiss not to give a shout-out to Brian Payne (of CICF), who “got” our vision at least four years before anyone else did. If not for him, I’m not sure PATTERN would be still here.

“I love working with a team of people so that everyone can bring something to the table to make this one, big beautiful thing. That’s what fashion editorials are to me.
You once told Indianapolis Monthly, “For every person who is excited about ‘Made in Indiana,’ 50 end up shopping at their local Target. What’s ironic is that these same people don’t mind driving downtown to drop $100 on dinner.” Why do you think people haven’t embraced the local retail/fashion scene as much as they have the food scene? 

Ah, the million-dollar question! I wish I had a simple diagnosis, but sadly I don’t. The only theory I can put forth is that maybe it’s just the Midwestern mentality. We love our food, our comforts and our sports, but (and this is a generalization of course) we’re less interested in culture and arts, or the sustainability/hand-made movement. And those of us who are into culture and arts and sustainability have moved to cities where that culture prevails. Granted, I do see that changing over time. The millennials and Gen Z (at least the ones I spend time with on a regular basis) are a whole other breed…if only they all had more disposable income! 

This question is in three parts: 1) How did cat ears come to be your signature accessory? 2) How many pairs do you own? 3) Where do you get them

I started wearing the cat ears on a whim when I went to Paris some seven years ago. I thought they were fun, and going to a foreign country, I wasn’t too concerned how I’d be perceived. I had anticipated a few confused looks, but what I got was lots of smiles, and compliments. 

I still wear the ears pretty much every day. I have about 30 pairs and they come from all over—

Etsy, Urban Outfitters, F21, ASOS. Also, people love to gift me ears! A group of us from PATTERN was planning on going to Paris at the end of this month—that trip has obviously been canceled for now—but I was thinking about retiring my ears there by throwing a pair ceremoniously into the Seine. I mean, really, how long can I keep this up??

Finish this sentence: Your fashion photography portfolio will not be complete until you photograph ___________.

 ….a high fashion model (would love to shoot with Grace Hartzel again) wearing incredible couture from Alexander McQueen, surrounded by my favorite team helping make the magic happen in Rome or Paris. 

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you or would be surprised to learn?

I have a bachelor of science in physician assistant studies. Yup. Could have been practicing medicine, but here I am…

Who are a few creatives we should be following in Indy

Oh my! I can’t possibly answer this and not hurt someone’s feelings. It sounds like a cop-out, but truly, this city is filled with dozens of amazing artists, writers, musicians, photographers, designers, illustrators, and I’m fortunate to call many of them my friends. The creative community in Indy is like a speakeasy—you have to figure out where the secret door is and the password, but once you get inside, there’s no going back.

What project are you most excited about?

StitchWorks! It’s a new space with specialized sewing equipment that we’ll be launching in partnership with Indiana Fashion Week at Circle City Industrial Complex. The goal is to teach people how to use industrial sewing machines, how to make their own patterns, and also, to offer production services to designers and brand owners.

Our fashion community has been bemoaning the lack of a cut-and-sew facility for years, so this could be a game changer. I think CCIC could become Indy’s garment district. Our neighbors already include Jerry Lee Atwood and Emily Gartner, and my goal is to lure as many other designers to take up residency at CCIC as I can. Shout out to Larry Jones, and Rachel Ferguson at CCIC for their support!

Back to the fact that you founded PATTERN 10 years ago. What is something you will NOT be doing 10 years from now?  

I feel very fortunate that I enjoy about 95% of everything I do on the daily basis. The other 5% that I’d love to punt to someone else: Grant writing, tracking demographics, writing proposals, and vacuuming. 

Amanda Kingsbury has no idea what she will or won’t be doing in 10 years because she doesn’t even know what month it is right now.

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