Ruslan Khvastov: “I love Odessa, but I understand that we are still in Ukraine…”
Honored, successful and well-known designer and costume designer Ruslan Khvastov told how he perceives criticism, what he thinks about Ukrainian fashion and was not afraid to touch on the impact of politics on art in our country.
1. Ruslan, at the beginning of your journey, you worked as a model for Vyacheslav Zaitsev. When they started doing shows themselves, did they tell the models how best to stand up, where to smile?
Necessarily. I even had my own Ruslan Khvastov Fashion Theatre. I returned from Germany in 1994 and in 1995 I had one of the first modeling agencies in Odessa. Elena Ivanchenko, director of the Art-Podium agency, was one of my students whom I sent on a New Year’s cruise to work. Everyone, of course, wanted to earn money, but I was always happy to take models not only from my agency to the shows.
2. I know that if you do not like something, then you say it directly. And how do you perceive criticism in your address?
I generally take criticism well. But the point is to be constructive. Not just “you’re bad!” But “why are you bad?”. Like any other person, I find excuses for something, but perhaps in this criticism I will hear the truth that I could not see. Criticism is important, but the main thing is that it be constructive, and not just to hurt or offend a person.
3. In 1999 you founded the festival “Seasons”. During this time, the criteria for compliance have probably already been developed, what are they?
The most important thing is that it be really creative and not like anything else. Earnings, of course, are of great importance, since you need to keep models, invite those stars that I want to see, so sometimes I have to use those collections at festivals that, roughly speaking, are passing. But, again, the taste and color – there are no comrades. Someone won’t understand my art fashion or haute couture, won’t see the idea. And, someone will see a dress “a la the 7th km” and say that this is fashion, I will buy this. It should be anything and everything. One day, it suddenly became fashionable to be a designer and everyone rushed into fashion. I do not blame them, maybe they will really reveal their talent. I took these guys to my festival and told them honestly that I don’t like these things and I don’t see fantasy in it, but maybe people will like it. You will also see the collections of other designers and be able to compare. Perhaps, after the show, you would rather want to become a good accountant or change and improve your skills. Some of those whom I saw really grew professionally, began to follow trends, develop. The designer must carry the idea of creativity, the fashion of the future, because what is fashionable today can be bought in any mass market.
4. Can fans of your work look forward to The Four Seasons this spring?
We decided to do it seasonally. We are still negotiating with Paris. It is unlikely that “Christmas Meetings” will be repeated, but we plan to do something new, spring, completely new. Initially, we thought that the festival could be a traveling festival, but now I understand that this will not work out, at least not now. Our city has always been out of politics, but now it happened that it touched us. There are even interested people in our festival who want to see our designers, our event, but, alas, there is politics. I really do not want the same situation with our festival as, for example, with Ani Lorak. Although she is out of politics, she sings about love, peace and friendship.
5. What is your expert assessment of the state of the modern fashion industry?
You know, I watched the latest shows at Fashion Week and it was funny, because if earlier our people were puffing up something, now they seem to have heard me and started playing fashion for real. These crazy shows from Zalevsky, some non-standard things, ideas. Although you understand that many things are not wearable, but this is a show. We have fashion, but there are also several extremes: either we completely go into the national theme, or it’s just a brain explosion and complete madness, or an absolute mass market, which is already in stores. We didn’t have funding, and we don’t. All this takes place at the party level. Neither in Odessa nor in Kyiv, I do not see buyers who would buy collections.
6. Spring has already actively come into its own, how would you advise the fair sex to dress?
I have always been a supporter of not following blindly fashion. If you are small, but you need to buy things that lengthen you, if you are plump, then you need to try to hide it. Many people think that they should be loved for who they are, but this is not true. After all, the same fullness can be presented beautifully, so that it is not a mockery, but pleasing to the eye. Let blondes choose colors for their eyes and hair, brunettes – just the same. You should always try to maximize your strengths and hide your flaws. Fashion can be unpredictable and mocking, so don’t lose your individuality.
7. You recently had a show in China. Heading for Asia?
With pleasure I keep the course where it keeps (smiles). I love Odessa, but I understand that we are still in Ukraine and the situation will not change dramatically in the near future. Trouble yes, price increases yes, political instability yes, but certainty and funding no. I have always said that if they invite polar bears to Iceland, but I know that I am protected, stable, interesting and needed, then I will go to Iceland. And how can you not head for China today, if everything in our country is Chinese, from socks to tiles for houses. The Chinese are great fellows and hard workers, they really love to work and love it. There is a lot to learn from them, I enjoyed talking with them because they are always on the move.
8. When you started working with Kira Muratova, you were still a young and inexperienced costume designer, and now, already being well-known and well-deserved, you are working with a young director Ivan Uryvsky, what is it like?
You know, Uryvsky is a kind of phenomenon. Because for all his youth, inexperience, he always feels that he needs to go here, not there. God directs him. At one time, Kira radically changed my life, my creative views and myself. Looking at the collections that I did before working with her, I understand that it was not me. Theater and cinema are different from each other, so they are slightly different things. I am sure that Uryvsky has a bright future! He just needs support, understanding and, perhaps, criticism, because he perceives it, knows how to hear it.
9. How long does it usually take to create costumes for a performance?
Everything depends on our unity with the director, on the financial possibilities and the complexity of the idea. Now we had 9 months to prepare, but Ivan could not bear the child who was born today for a long time. And it hindered the process of creation. And so, it can be a month, two, it all depends on the complexity.
10. You are successful, famous, well-deserved. What advice would you give to young guys who are just starting their career path?
You need to immediately understand what you want from this life. To say that my mother is a courtyard, and my father is a driver and, therefore, I will be either a janitor or a driver is stupid. You need to go to your dream and clearly understand what you want from this life. If this is creativity, then you need not be like anyone else and have something of your own. These are all common truths, but they are quite correct. Once I could become a lawyer, but now I can’t even imagine myself in this role. Luckily, I just escaped from there.
11. Ruslan Khvastov in ten years, what is he like?
God, I’ll be quite old already (laughs). I don’t think I will change much. The only thing is that I don’t know where I’ll be. I am a motor that never stops, so I try not to enter a state of stagnation. I will not stop and I am very sure that in 10 years everything will change so much for the better that we will be able to meet and talk about everything somewhere in Asia or in old Europe.
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