Friday, April 8, 2011

Interview with Dima Shabalin - Stylist, Moscow

During my trip to Moscow, I wanted to do a variety of things, so apart from street style and show reviews, I decided to also do a couple of features on Moscow bloggers. The idea being that Russian blogging community is not well (if at all) represented in the global blogging arena. When we speak of London we think of Facehunter, New York - The Sartorialist, Paris - Garance Dore, but when speak of Moscow… no one really comes to mind. So I decided to use this visit as an opportunity to bring some exposure to Moscow bloggers and the "up-and-comers" of the fashion industry. There are two interviews I did during my time there. The first one you will find below and the second one will follow very shortly. The interviews were done in Russian and I took the liberty to translate and hopefully I did my interviewees justice. 

You may remember this young man, Dima, from my previous post a couple of days ago. Well this time I randomly ran into him whilst scouting for some trendy people in Kamergersky Pereulok which, I was told, is a good destination for street style scouting. We started chatting about fashion, the fashion week and blogging.. and somehow I convinced Dima to do a short interview for me.

There is a line in an old Russian movie which says that Moscow is like a big lottery. Indeed, it seems that the right place, right time and right people combination can make you go a long way. Moscow can be extremely pretentious and bitchy but one thing is true - it is a world of opportunities that is open to young people more than anywhere else. In Moscow people don't care if you do not have experience or you are young - if you prove that you can do it, they will take you seriously.

Dima is only 17 but is already establishing himself as a stylist in his own right. I also can't help but mention how impressed I was by his maturity both generally and in the fashion industry sense. He is currently studying journalism at MGU (Moscow State University) and has assisted and worked with editors at Fashion Collection and L'Officiel (Russian glossies). He has also worked for an online publication Fashion24 and does freelance styling.

State of Sunday (SoS): When did you get interested in Fashion?

Dima Shabalin (Dima): I have always been interested in fashion but I guess the point when I realised I wanted to make it my career was when I saw Lady Gaga wearing those McQueen shoes in her Bad Romance video. They were like nothing I have ever seen and since then I spent a lot of time researching and studying Alexander McQueen's style, vision and aesthetics.

SoS: So after you decided you wanted to work in fashion how did you find your way into the industry? Was it hard to break into?

Dima: I guess I was really lucky. I met a stylist and a Vogue Russia blogger, Vitali Kozak at a party, then shortly after I met one of  the editors at L'Officiel Russia, followed by 
a Russian designer - Gosha Rubchinsky. From thereon it all happened quite quickly and I started assisting at L'Officiel and working as a freelance stylist at a number of other online and published magazines.

SoS: Who are your favourite designers and who inspires you?

Dima: Alexander McQueen is my favourite designer. I also really like Gareth Pugh and Thierry Mugler. Other people who I find really inspirational are Daphne Guinness and the late Isabella Blow. In fact, I am currently working on an editorial piece which is based around Isabella Blow and her style.

SoS: So how you do you feel about Sarah Burton stepping into the role of the leading lady at Alexander McQueen?

Dima: I think Sarah Burton is very bright. She studied and experienced McQueen's style and approach when he was still alive and she knows it well. I think she will be great at keeping the essence of the brand. However, Alexander McQueen was a visionary, he was always ahead of fashion and will be impossible to match. His Plato's Antlantis show was one of the most amazing shows and collections in fashion both today, tomorrow and years to come. Sarah Burton is great at adapting McQueens past ideas and making them relevant whilst keeping the femininity. Unfortunately though I think Sarah Burton is currently moving in a loop rather than moving forward, she is recycling great ideas but is not coming up with anything truly McQueen genius.

SoS: What do you think of other great designers like Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel or Marc Jacobs for LV?

Dima: To be completely honest, sometimes I don't completely understand Karl Lagerfeld's vision. At times, I feel like he's gone completely mad. Some of his designs are great but others look like they would've been relevant about 10 years ago but perhaps not today. Marc Jacobs is extremely talented and is doing great things but at times I find his pret-a-porter designs a bit over-the-top.

SoS: What are you favourite designers to use in editorials?

Dima: Out of foreign designers I like using McQueen, Oscar de la Renta and Valentino. Out of Russian designers my preference would probably be Kirill Gasilin.

SoS: What do you think about the AW2011 trends? A lot of designers showed fur in their collections which is always a bit controversial.

Dima: I think fashion is moving very fast these days and by the time we are in winter 2011, fashionistas will be looking for next big thing. I don't mind fur. Although I quite like the faux fur elements that Vika Gazinskaya used in her AW2011 collection.

SoS: You mentioned Vika Gazinskaya, who is one of the favourites for street style bloggers around the world with her often eccentric outfits at various fashion weeks, she is almost a flag for Russian fashion in the global arena. What do you think of other Russian designers?

Dima: Unfortunately, most Russian designers do not have the "wow" factor. The looks are well put together, the shows are a well-organised but it is not art. A lot of Russian designers copy what was done by European designers, sometimes even going as far as a few seasons back. They are very much about creating something that sells and forget the essence of fashion in the process. You can walk in and buy those things in a store, but there is no excitement. I don't think that this is likely to change any time soon either, definitely not in the next 5 years.

SoS: As a stylist, do you like using Russian designers or do you prefer to stick with European and American ones? 

Dima: Russian designers have the wrong 'format' so stylist prefer to stick with European designers. Also the quality versus price ratio is not great.

SoS: So what needs to change? Or what do you think is missing in the fashion industry in Russia?

Dima: I don't think there are enough fashion savvy people in the Russian fashion industry currently. There are very few critics who know what they are talking about and even they at times get it wrong. Designers are not very smart in their approach to the business of fashion. They need to realise that you are not making a collection so that you can invite your friends to model and then have a party afterwards - a collection is meant to be relevant, sellable and creative. It is all too tribal at the moment and until some smart and impartial people come along, there will be no fashion industry as such in Russia.

SoS: What are you plans for the future?

Dima: My ideal career path would be to become an editor at a magazine but I am also open to exploring new ideas and recently started getting involved in design. A friend of mine is a stylist and she loves interesting and quirky accessories so I made her a crown that she would be able to use in her shoots. She loved it and so I made a few more in different materials - fabric, plastic. We even wore them out to a party and people seemed to love them. I will be using one of my designs in the Isabella Blow editorial in the May issue of Fashion Collection. 

Dima's blog: 
photos courtesy of Dima Shabalin