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Even though it seems like an emerging fashion brand, Nashe (which means ‘ours’ in Russian) is more like a thesis, an art project. Olya Chelyapova and Timur Katkov, its founders, investigate issues of gender, sexual identity, memory, and freedom of expression through their clothes, for which they expect to fins a defined audience as well as retail places to sell them.
Who are Olya and Timur? How did you two meet?
Olya and Timur are two young people who want to speak and tell stories hoping that people will want to be involved with them. We studied together at the same university in the south of Russia and then accidentally were in the same university in Moscow too. All circumstances never allowed us to separate from each other, so eventually we took it to our advantage.
How did you decide to start your label? What is the story behind Nashe?
It's funny, but all the student projects we did were very similar – not the same, each had its own subtext, thoughts, and handwriting. But it wasn’t difficult to give it out for the overall development. So after one project, we seriously discussed about trying to work on a common label. It’s interesting that we told ourselves not to be personally attached or related to what we do, but we’ve ended up understanding that we can’t do otherwise and making it the opposite way we firstly thought. Now, the principle of our work is our personal history and the one of the people around us.

How would you describe the brand/target audience?
It’s hard to say. This is our speculation, but what we do is a symbiosis between brand art and research, not just fashion. That’s why we think our audience is formed of people who know how to hear and understand inherent meanings, who want to be involved with thoughts and stories through clothes.
Why is the topic of internal and external dissonance so important to you?
We speak a lot to each other, and we’ve come to understand in the process of these conversations that we’re not honest with others or even with ourselves. And after disassembling the topic, we understood that almost everybody does it. It’s very different when you get to know someone, and when you really know him/her. We are affected by society in all aspects, and it seems to us that we should turn to ourselves, to our roots, to our personal issues.
For that reason, we dismantled a few pressuring themes in the collection, investigating our memories as children and analyzing the connection between how did we grow up and who have we become. There are some details on the clothes that are very naïve, and others that are more sexual (or even better, sensual).
Who would you most like to see endorse your brand?
We really want to work with directors, artists and musicians whose aesthetics are similar and related to what we do and that speak about the same topics as we do. Maybe we simply want to experience different kinds of art, to know more about other ways to display personal thoughts. For us it would be important to have a sign that people takes our products as something personal. And, of course, we are looking for a business partner (laughs).

Speaking of a business partner. What are the other struggles a young brand deals with?
It is, of course, difficult. Shops don’t want to work with young brands until they’ve seen some seasons, but we absolutely understand their position. It’s hard to find ways of investment and funds, especially when you’re starting and you don’t have everything clear.
How would you explain the current rise of interest towards Russian designers and Russia in general?
We guess it’s mainly because of the interest in the ‘90s and because some designers are working on the topic, for example, using Cyrillic writing. But in our opinion, it’s too hyped, a trend; it’s different from what in Central Europe and in the United States are used to. It’s good that there’s this interest though because it allows the world to see real, authentic designers who until very recently didn’t have the attention.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of marketing the label as Russian with the current political situation?
Everything is difficult with marketing. You need to find people who clearly understand how to position your brand and communicate it to the right public in a certain way and through precise channels. Politics and sanctions do not matter. If you’re doing the right product for someone who isn’t tied to a country but to people, difficulties will get sorted out anyway.

Do you think your designs have a political viewpoint?
To be honest, yes. We touch very dangerous topics such as family relationships, tolerance, an individual’s place within society, sexual identification, freedom of speech and expression, etc.; we understand all of these are inextricably linked to politics, especially in nowadays Russia. We don’t want to say we’re talking about politics, but we’d like our work to change some people’s minds so we can start talking and discussing seriously the abovementioned themes.
Your brand is connected to youth culture. How would you describe the new generation of Moscow kids?
We are not so closely associated with children and young people, we do not yet understand who exactly is our audience and the youngsters at all. But we can observe that young people are now even more aware than adults, they understand who they are and what they are doing at this moment in their lives. Then, as in adults, there are more established concepts.
We are not close to or associated with children and young people; we don’t understand who exactly our audience yet. But we can observe that young people now are more aware about who they are and what are they doing than adults.
What are your future plans?
We want to lead this project from different planes, not only from fashion, but also from investigation – which can at least answer some of our questions. We want to do a case later including the history of the project, the people involved with it, the collaborations, etc. and reach certain conclusions. This is going to be an art project, a thesis.

David Valinsky

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