Published on November 25, 2013 | by Matthew Hook0
Masha Reva opens the Odessa FilesUkrainian-born Masha Reva is an MA Womenswear student at Central St Martins, currently taking a year out to work on getting her collections out there and on sale with all kinds of success.
Her latest collection, the Odessa series – in collaboration with the Syndicate of Kiev – focuses on Ukrainians’ fascination with luxury and a uniquely Odessan variety of kitsch.
We got talking to her about adjusting to CSM; her internships with designers Walter Van Beirendonck and Thakoon; Pilates; and the connection between her homeland and her distinctive visual style.
ALN: Your work is heavily influenced by your Ukrainian home, particularly in your new collection with the Syndicate of Kiev, what was it like developing creatively at St Martins, and bringing together your own influences with the contributions of your tutors?
MR: This current project with the syndicate is freelance. But I have to admit that there was still an influence from tutors on developing my interest in the fact that I’m from Ukraine. You can go really deep into the subject when investigating your native culture.
What do you think it is about your work that stands out?
It’s hard to look at it from a side, but at this point I see myself more as a visual artist, I have been always strongly connected to drawing and visual media. Sometimes I even feel that pure drawing is more natural for me. That’s why I’m interested in textile print particularly at the moment. It’s a way of mixing what I draw or collage into my clothes which builds a connection between my work and the viewer.
You first studied In Kiev before deciding on the move to MA womenswear at St Martins, what drove you to choose CSM over other Arts Universities, why not another European school?
When I first time came to London I was 17, it had a huge influence on me as a teenager from the atmosphere in the city back then. I went to the old CSM building in Holborn, and got some booklets about the courses but I couldn’t afford to study there yet. Five years passed, and I won a competition for young designers in Ukraine, the grand prize was a one-week short course at CSM. When I came back I found myself thinking that I’d sell my soul to study at CSM for just a bit longer, so I decided to apply for MA Fashion, and luckily, got a place.
You’ve done a lot of international travel for your MA and for your internships with Thakoon and Walter Van Beirendonck, has it impacted on you creatively?
My stay in Antwerp had a great impact on my personal taste. The way people live in Belgium is completely different from Ukraine. They recycle a lot with thought for the environment, and their bike addiction is so cool! Here in Ukraine a wealthy person would never ride a bike in high heels every day. It’s so much the opposite in Antwerp and I love that.
I believe you also bounce between Ukraine and London regularly, how do you juggle all your work, isn’t it all a bit hectic?
It is like that a bit, but it’s something that I am very used to, traveling from one flat to another since I turned 18. Of course I am looking forward to finally having my own studio. The positive side is that I can feel at home almost everywhere, as long as I have something to work on.
What are your most significant memories of life as a University of the Arts student?
I came to CSM with a very different background to other students, particularly those who had done their BA’s at CSM. It has a very different system of education and approach to creative challenges. I had to develop all my knowledge about university resources, ways of working and communicating ideas from scratch. And as there are no real concessions for newcomers to an MA course I was under double the pressure. The tutors are great and you can always get advice and help, but to take full advantage you have to have a vision, an obsessive idea that can drive you to the top. A great thing about the course are the people, I have never been surrounded by so much talent! They were a pleasure, and so inspiring.
Was it a big move coming to London from Odessa, given your apparent love of new places, was there much acclimatisation?
Not that much really, I used to travel to the UK from time to time. London is my favorite megalopolis, I couldn’t imagine myself living here all the time but I will always come back.
How did UAL impact on your feeling toward the new city?
I spent most of my time in the MA studio last year, and the library is also a great place. I love to stay there and work long hours. I think it would be nice to have yoga or Pilates classes inside the CSM building, our computer-addicted generation needs to be more active and must never forget about a healthy mind in a healthy body.
Do you keep in touch with people you met at UAL, personally or professionally?
At the moment I’m taking a year out to spend more time on launching my business and build relationships with stores, I’m so lucky to have that opportunity. I keep in touch with some of my classmates; Not yet on a professional level but socially, I know they’re all quite busy with the show right now.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received while studying? And what advice would you pass on to students?
As much you are talented, you’ll also feel unconfident. That is so true, especially in those moments when you have to produce something completely new, and you are entering a new environment. But simply taking up the challenge and getting out from your comfort zone can help you step up to the next level.
What is your proudest achievement so far, and are there any exciting projects coming up?
I was simply lucky to get on the MA Womenswear course and meet all the great people, and finding out about so many new things was awesome. I’ve never had such a complex challenge before.