Anzor Kankulov, Editor-in-Chief Port magazine, curator at HSE Art and Design school 2018-03-26
Russian Fashion Root Is Between Art and the Market

Being Editor-in-Chief of ‘Port’ (a Russian fashion magazine) for three years I started tutoring at the HSE for fashion courses in 2014. I started giving lectures at the Russian University as it is interesting to work on projects that are ambitious and have interesting goals. In the magazine ‘Port’, the subject of which I have a firm grasp is fashion. That’s why, when I received a proposal to be engaged in fashion, I accepted it. To be honest, I’m not a lecturer. However, the process of creating and developing projects is just what I enjoy and want to do.

There are loads of people who wish to be involved in fashion. At the university, we’d like to create a place where we could teach them the basics of the fashion industry: what it consists of and how it really works. How was fashion taught in the Soviet system of instruction? Everything was tied to the theory. They told about great historical designers, but this is not enough while working in a fashion agency or setting up one’s own collection. If we want to make fashion in Russia work and reach a high level, it is necessary to show young designers how to realize their ideas.

Even though the university is positioned as one of the best economics universities and became well-known in the financial sphere, it now has the resources and opportunities to be a pioneer in new fields as well. Design is a practical field. In any case, a project approach to design education is needed.

Students should be aware of their future profession. What do studies at Design School look like? Instead of having a professor come to the auditorium, give a lecture, and dictate notes to students, the Design School teaches each student by giving her own project. My task is to direct students- in other words, I am a curator. We also use the European approach, which emphasizes practice and giving students a ‘cultural background’, which will allow them to apply their knowledge to practice.

Students must have skill in project thinking. One part is theoretical- History of Art, the other is project work. We understand that it is impossible to learn by studying examples because examples are the result of someone’s hard work. To create something of one’s own, it is essential to use basic principles. At the Design School all the lecturers working with students are involved with the fashion industry. The curators have their own fashion line. This gives students an opportunity to learn from those who live in this sphere.

It is believed that educational system in arts is better in the UK. Great Britain is where contemporary art was born. What did contemporary art grow out of? It grew out of constructivism. In Great Britain there are independent and famous schools of art and nobody argues about their significance and status. The matter is in another aspect.  When a university entrant chooses a place for further studies, he chooses not only a university, but also an environment. It is indubitably true that if one wishes to write British prose, one should go to Great Britain. But is that really feasible? People often study abroad when they do not see another choice. We want to give the other choice. Russian universities turn out to be unique in some way because we teach students a definite amount of theory and how to make their ideas come true.

I believe that the most important part of design is tradition. Art is unique because it embodies historical and cultural peculiarities, which may be inaccessible to artists from other countries. To my mind, the path to success goes through absorbing the uniqueness of your own country and cultivating its traditions. Directors become great in their own country, because they are likely to feel things that foreigners might not understand. On the other hand, it is also possible that internalization impoverishes art, because uniqueness disappears. 

For many people podium fashion is weird. From my perspective, fashion is between art and the market. High profile fashion proposes ideas for realization. Art and design constantly search for an ideal shape of things. I think that what you see at the podium is a reflection of extravagance rather than a reflection of the search and exchange of thoughts. Fashion offers a chance for self-expression; for choosing an image that reflects your inner world.

Fashion has a tendency: female wear male suits and male put on scarves and accessorize. Fashion reflects movements in social culture. Contemporary art represents what happens in the social sphere. In the 20th century, the fight for equality could have been the dominant current. Women had been adopting a masculine style for a long time, since the 30’s, when reconsideration of women’s roles begun. Today, another question arises:  if women can wear male costumes and society accepts it, why can’t men assume a female image? We do not consider sexual minorities. Marlene Dietrich wore male costumes. Why can’t a man try to change a social stereotype and adopt a traditionally feminine image? In social life, deletion of hierarchical structures, gender roles and fashion reflect this tendency.

Fashion journalism is different from real- life journalism? It often appears that fashion journalism sells art, which makes invisible the fact that it is done by people who are in love with their work. It is just like sport: if you don’t like it, you don’t take it up. It is impossible to reach good results if your soul isn’t in it. That is why fashion journalism has its own atmosphere. You do not only orient yourself to this world, but you live in it. Today’s fashion has become more industrial than it was 20 years ago. This also sets duties on fashion industry. The market starts to dictate what to write. This puts the fashion industry at the edge between art and skill. A fashion journalist should possess a set of knowledge but he must understand what is going on at present. This understanding can be gained from experience. Nowadays, fashion industry is not in the best situation, owing to the invasion of blogs and online-newspapers. However, big famous magazines remain true representatives of fashion and reflect both experience and knowledge. 

It is truly an art to be in trend and to maintain classic approaches. This is what makes collaboration with designers in the university environment priceless.  

ph: S. Shkoldina