Few young designers can claim they have been shortlisted for the Emerging Designers category at the WSGN Global Fashion Awards 2012. And only one of them has won the Fashion Forward Award 2010 run by Harper’s Bazaar Ukraine: Masha Reva. In her mid-twenties, Reva is already causing quite a stir in the fashion industry. Currently enrolled at London’s famous Central Saint Martins, her creations are wild and all about stepping it up a notch. While this obviously explains why she decided to intern with the game-changing Walter van Beirendonck in 2011, Masha Reva is more than just an emerging fashion designer. Also experimenting with other genres, she is sure to become a constant figure on the creative horizon. Ukrainian-born Reva, now residing in her hometown of Odessa, managed to make some time to tell us a bit more about herself.
Hi Masha. First off, what was the last thing you felt inspired by?
Hi! Just a week ago I came back from Mode Biennale in Arnhem; that was absolutely amazing. The event was curated by Li Edelkoort, I respect her deeply. That is a must-see on my opinion. At the moment I spend my time in my native city, Odessa, which is situated on the coast of the Black Sea in Ukraine, a truly inspiring place as well, a mix of South temper, sunny weather, kitschy bazaars and lovely charismatic locals.
You graduated from Kiev National University of Technology and Design with an MA in Fashion in 2010. Since migrating to the UK, you’ve also taken two short courses at Central Saint Martins. How do you think the English approach to the fashion industry differ to the Ukrainian one?
At the beginning it seemed like a dream to me. Going to London, studying at CSM and becoming part of the unique energy which you can definitely feel when you are inside that place. My experience on doing my Master’s degree is less romantic than my first impressions, but you know, this is the best place in the world to be if you really have something to say with your work.
To be a student in Ukraine is a completely opposite experience; Ukrainian education system is quite out-of-date, you have to search yourself for all those new techniques, approaches, books, information, etc. I mean usually there is hardly anybody informing you with the latest news, students are often more well-informed than there tutors, (of course there are some exceptions). I was lucky enough to meet incredible people during my studies in Ukraine, some of them were my tutors and we are still friends today. It is always about the energy you are receiving, not so much about where you are.
"Botanical Layers", a collection you recently made with SYNDICATE, comments on the contrast between contemporary life including technology and social networking and a human desire for nature. What fascinates you about this juxtaposition?
I think contemporary people are too much absorbed by virtual reality. It is funny because I am a clear example of how human can be so dependent on social networks. I try to fight with this dependence but as long as it is a part of my professional activity it is almost impossible to become a “normal human” again! But…who is normal today? I think that is also something to ask ourselves. There is definitely a sarcastic approach to this project.
There seems to be a general reference to nature in your patterns which I assume are created digitally. Having combined technology and nature in similar ways, Alexander McQueen once said we should embrace technological progress. Do you share this opinion?
This blending is quite natural for the reality we are living in. I personally feel that in order to reflect what our society is about, we mix incongruous things. I did digital prints on fabric because that was the easiest way to reach the visual impression I wanted, I mixed images from different contexts to build my own.
Some of my favorite pieces from your collections are the shoes. Apart from the obvious process, how is making shoes different to making clothes?
To make shoes you need a specific knowledge, during the production of my final collection I was collaborating with an old-school shoe atelier in Kiev. There are some rules I have learned, but to construct each new model the basic knowledge is not enough. The process is similar in a way: I bring technical sketch, I know all the proportions /materials/finishing I want and then we make a sample model, try it on, make corrections … The most important difference is: once the final pair of shoes is made you cannot change it, you can cut out something but technically it is better to fix all you want on the sample model.
You are mostly focused on womenswear. What are the challenges in menswear for a designer keen on experimenting with cuts and patterns?
Menswear is a whole different world for me. I realized it only when I came to do my Master course in CSM. There have completely different aesthetics and practical values, menswear should be sometimes super functional or timeless or whatever,… it is possible to experiment of course, but the less is more in menswear.
You undertook an internship with Walter van Beirendonck in 2011 and I can identify similarities between his and your work. What did you learn, especially in regards to his avant-garde menswear?
I have seen loads of examples of ways to use print, texture, embroidery, but the most interesting aspect was to see his studio and shop from the inside while it was in its old place. The atmosphere was amazing. Walter was preparing his retrospective at the Mode Museum in Antwerp while I was there and it was really exciting to observe how he was building the story of all the past collections with loads of images covering huge boards all around the studio. I also reorganized his accessories archive, more than 100 boxes with the craziest pieces I have ever seen.
Next to your work in fashion, your website features a variety of drawings. Is there a direct link between your work in different genres or do you consider drawing more of a hobby?
I adore drawing, this is because of my dad; he is an artist and my best friend. To be truthful, I love to sketch far more than to work in fashion, but I had not a clue about how to build a career as an illustrator. I thought that in fashion I could mix whatever visual effects I wanted, and that is how I chose this pathway. Anyway, I still feel that drawing is what I am best at.
Quite a few of your drawings were made using an application on your iPhone. Once again, there is a technological element to your creative work…
Yeah, that was a time when I was having fun sketching on iPhone, because all you need was just an app and your finger, I was absorbed by this idea. But soon after I had made around 50 sketches I got bored, there is nothing better than the feeling of real paper and the line you draw on it.
You have even published a number of photographs on your website and they seem to revolve around an atmosphere, capturing something personal and ephemeral. Is there a level of meaning in the photographic medium which fashion fails to express?
I think fashion complements a photographic atmosphere and vice versa. It is all about context, you can imagine a beautiful fashion photo shoot with its own atmosphere and energy. Fashion can be in any shape, but you need a good sense of taste, whether you make a photo or a dress. It is a never ending process of learning. When I was younger I used to use a film camera, what a pleasure it was to wait for the best moment, the right atmosphere and make a shot! But nowadays it is different; the speed of life is different.
Renaissance artists sought to operate universally without committing themselves to a specific genre. Do you think of yourself as a designer or an artist?
Inside I feel more like an artist. I grew up with my dad who was always talking to me about life in a very philosophical manner; I think my feelings were trained that way. What I think I should do is to make people dream the same way I do, and while it works that would be my task. It is a really interesting process of energy circulation when you are part of creating something new, whether it is art or fashion.
What are your plans for the future, especially in respect to your fashion label?
Hopefully, I want to get my Master degree at Central Saint Martins next year and stay alive after that. Whatever will happen next, I am sure will be great.
Anything you would like to add?