12:00 / 26 Dec 2020 / life / text: Valeriia Raskolnikova
Fashion Magazine Dealer
Sometimes commonness may be a great luxury. After spending a considerable time abroad, the realization hits hard: to purchase beloved fashion publications back home in Ukraine is much more complex than it seemed at first. I am the type of person who spends several hours in a museum and then an equal amount of that time in the museum's bookshop. It is undeniably time-consuming, hard, and costly to get my favorite English written print back home. I wonder why. Is it because of language, or logistics, or maybe interests' dissimilarity? Magazines are cultural storytellers - a golden container of knowledge. Even though digitalization offered an option to skip buying the print, the overload of information frequently feels overwhelming to me. Reading curated printed stories along with witty photography is a form of educational escapism, which is harder to achieve on the web.
"Magazines are cultural storytellers - a golden container of knowledge"
Ukraine is unquestionably progressive. Foreign fashion media regularly mentions the creativity and self-reliance of Ukrainian youth. "Kyiv is the new Berlin," "Ukrainian designers and their unique vision," "The creative generation that thrives despite political turmoils." Making it clear, by foreign fashion media, I do not mean traditional Vogue, Elle, L'Officiel, or Harper's Bazaar. Ukrainian versions of such publications exist in my mother tongue and are well available. The creative young community mentioned above is much more in need of somewhat alternative, provocative, and zeitgeist like Dazed, 032c, System, Purple. One of the people I admire said: "Anyway, who reads Vogue today?". This leads to the point - the wreckage of the Soviet Union's scarcity of foreignness still resides in some banal life aspects. Buying the beforementioned magazines is one of them.
"I traveled to Europe and the US, always bringing a bunch of magazines and books that fascinated me. Buying them in Kyiv was impossible. After some reflections, I decided to bring them to Ukraine myself", - said Natalia from Shipping Kyiv. Shipping Kyiv is a curated fashion magazine web and insta shop that allows Ukrainians to refill creative tanks without traveling abroad with an enormous valise. When I was a child, my most delightful birthday gift was an encyclopedia. Nothing in the world intrigued me as much as flipping through the printed pages of a new book. Shipping Kyiv's Instagram account and 1 Granary in its stocklist produced the equivalent level of childhood intrigue. I could not have resisted the temptation to discuss the scarcity of alternative fashion media in Ukraine with a person behind Shipping Kyiv.
It was 3 PM, precisely the time for our meet-up. Outside it felt like -13. Sitting near the window with a cup of black coffee, I glimpsed a woman's silhouette passing by. Unexplainably, I thought it might be Natalia from Shipping Kyiv. And here she is.
What was your motivation to launch Shipping Kyiv?
Natalia: Oh, it was a coincidence on many levels. My background is in Applied Arts. I usually paint, and art, in general, represents a colossal role in my life. Apart from it, I am in the design scene. Indeed, I was on the lookout to join a project, or finally, develop something of my own. I felt like I wanted to propel my vision and art direction but at the same contribute to the creative community in Kyiv.
I realized that producing a design for the sake of designing may be an effort that quickly evaporates. But the thought of helping artists in Kyiv somehow was not leaving me. "What can I deliver from my side? How can I be valuable to this community for further self-development?" - I was asking myself. You have limitless prospects on the Internet, but unfortunately, not each and every thing is relevant for creatives. The magazine is a curated piece of work with a purposefully selected theme. Thereupon, my contribution grew to supply this knowledge to the ever-growing artistic crowd in Kyiv by creating www.shippingkyiv.com.
Why do you think it is still tough to buy such media in Ukraine?
Natalia: Honestly, I have no idea. Established bookstores should look up to what youth does nowadays. With all the means possible, we try to establish "creative awareness" in Kyiv. The ultimate goal would be that every coffee shop, pop-up clothing store, or even "at the hairdresser" people can have those magazines available. Local creators and connoiseurs should have the same possibility to be informed as a guy who lives in London.
Commercially, it is not the most profitable business to do, at least today. For instance, I can not entirely rely on Shipping Kyiv to financially support myself. A good deal of people does not consume content in English, which may also be the reason.
Natalia and her magazines' range. Courtesy of Natalia
Your range of magazines seems very curatorial. Do you sell what you like to read yourself? Or do you follow the demand-supply rule?
Natalia: The range of magazines is very personal - it is all the things I enjoy reading myself. I would not suggest something that is not getting me excited in the first place. Experimenting at the beginning, I was not sure if people actually needed my "magazine service." But as it turned out, the demand was tremendous. People asked me to sell some publications I was not even aware of.
Which magazines Kyivers like the most?
Natalia: Hypebeast, I-D, Dazed, Heroine, 032c. Typenotes was popular enough among the design crowd since it has an engaging learning base for graphic design.
Natalia - the creator of Shipping Kyiv. Shipping Kyiv logo
Courtesy of Natalia
Print or digital? What would you choose if presented with only one option?
Natalia: I would go for digital in such circumstances. It is global, budgetary, and democratic. My love for the Internet is avid, and I am grateful it exists. News from London can reach Ukraine in a matter of seconds. I believe that Ukrainians flourished after they got access to it. Well, there was Paris, USA, London, but what we really had back in a decade? My parents told me how they waited half a year to receive cassettes.
Do you believe in print, though? What do you think about the digitalization of fashion media?
Natalia: I genuinely hope that both print and digital will find their rightful place. But I am convinced that print will never die off, as it was speculated in recent years. The human soul needs something tactile like a book. Formerly, reading a local newspaper was the only option to be updated about the current state, but today it is both selfish and foolish to cut the trees just for that. On the other hand, having an "almanac" of the utmost importance insights published twice or once a year is an approvable investment.
"Foreign fashion media regularly mentions the creativity and self-reliance of Ukrainian youth"
Even though you have mentioned that Shipping Kyiv is not your direct income, do you have future aspirations for its growth?
Natalia: In the future, I desire to have more partnerships. Operating a physical store would be difficult now, but togetherness can provide more people with quality print through cafes, clothing shops, social functions, events, etc. My recent partnership was with TSUM (TSUM is Kyiv's high-end historical shopping mall, operating from 1939). Kyiv deserves to have more of those magazines.
Is Kyiv a suitable place for such partnerships within a creative crowd?
Natalia: It definitely is. People are helpful and kind-hearted, always on the move, and rarely reject propositions.
How did you recognize your interest in fashion? How did you start to read such publications?
Natalia: Traveling to Europe and the US made an impact. I adored magazines, books, and zines in the museum's bookshops and often brought heavy suitcases back home, always hungry for knowledge. Pure unexplainable love for it, as well. Fashion is the industry that works with a mysterious allure and is a creator of the fantasy world. For instance, Dior creates not just a dress but a particular persona that wears that dress. If I am in the mood to be that persona, I would dress in Dior. I appreciate the fairy tales and characters created by designers. The field of fashion itself is so broad that I believe everyone can find something intimately meaningful. For me, fashion is art's medium.
Natalia and her art. Visuals provided by Nataliia
What inspires you in personal art and working routine?
Natalia: Inner feelings, past experiences, willingness to understand the world. I wonder a lot about magic, different dimensions, either we exist alone as a civilization, or there is someone out there. Work-wise, logic and problem-solving are leading components; my work does not require much creativity, like my art.
According to Shipping Kyiv's website, culture is accelerating at high speed in Ukraine. In Kyiv it is moving with the speed of light. Periodicals are an inseperable part of it, which form and influence culture itself. I truly agree with those statements. People like Natalia are the catalyst of change and inspire me deeply. Leaving this interview with such a warm feeling of community, I believe in Shipping Kyiv's flourishing and feel both positive and proud about Kyiv's creative future.
(Title picture of the article is the courtesy of Natalia)