Masha Mel and Tess Yopp are best friends. Glamorous and cool Russian chicks living in London. They met when both studying at LCF and started creating unique, colourful work that stands out like an acid drop in a bag of wine gums. Tess is a stylist with a penchant for Miu Miu and ponies and Masha is a photographer shooting images on 35mm that look like warped postcards from Soviet Russia. Masha launched online magazine Vrag as a platform to show off her and her friends’ work, and a lot of them happen to be Russian. The work on Vrag offers something fresh in London’s landscape of snapshot fashion photography. It also busts all the old clichés of Russian style (the jewels, the hair, the mail-order bride/ new money look). It’s familiar but there’s definitely a new point of view. Perhaps it’s a Russian thing? P&P asks sent over some questions and got the BFFs to interview each other. CRAZYSEXYCOOL.
Where exactly are we both from?
We are both from Moscow, Russia. We lived there for most of our lives.
Masha, when did you first take a picture?
At the age of twelve my parents gave me an Olympus Miu camera and I started to experiment with it. My sister and I always did little ‘fashion’ photo shoots, stealing clothes from my mom. I also liked to photograph my cat and guinea pig together though I don’t think they enjoyed it so much!
Tess, when did you first think of yourself as a stylist?
I think I thought of myself as a ‘stylist’ (though I didn’t know the real name for it) when at the age of 12 I dressed up other children for plays we used to have in the countryside. I borrowed clothes from all the neighbours and especially grandmothers because they had the best vintage dresses. But actually when I grew up I thought I wanted to be a designer. I started studying in a school of art and design in Moscow where I realised that I hated sewing and all that boring process of developing a piece of clothing. After that I met Masha and she offered to collaborate with her as a stylist. That was the first time I felt like I wanted to continue doing styling.
What was it like growing up in Russia?
We grew up in 1990s in USSR. From our parents’ stories people lined up to buy everything from furniture to sausages. It was a hard time for our country and our parents and it had a cultural impact on us too. In the summer, while our parents were trying to earn money, we all got sent to our houses in the countryside, which are called “dacha”. This was a place where we experienced the real freedom of being young. “So free that I hit my forehead playing on the swings haha” (Masha).
What would we say is typical Russian style?
Most Russian women like colourful scarves, sparkly jewels, tight dresses which outline the figure and real fur. The more the better, like a Christmas tree, to show their status and wealth. In contrast, during winter everyone likes to wear grey and black. We hate this because people mix with the colour of the bare trees and pavements.
Are we inspired by Russian style?
We have Russian souls! Russia and its beautiful locations always inspire us. When we travel there we always look backwards to our childhood and teenage years and come up with really creative projects.
It is a nice change from London.
Looking at our work… how would we describe its style?
We consider our style feminine and colourful. Tess likes to experiment with clothes, colours, and patterns by adding unique details to the looks. Masha tries to depict the beauty and youth of the models with her old Russian camera.
Is it a Russian thing?
It is a mix of the inspirations from current photographers mixed with Russian fairytales and Folklore.
What’s the biggest misconception of Russian girls?
I don’t know, maybe people think we’re rude.
Masha, what is Vrag?
I think ‘Vrag’ sounds short and cool. It is a really powerful and strong word, which underlines Russian people and their characters. I started it because I wanted a chance to edit my own magazine and show lots of the great artists that are out there on the internet. The work on Vrag fits into the categories fashion, art, photography and lifestyle and we have contributors from around the world, often including Russian artists. In addition to the regular Russian contributors, we have had one issue which was dedicated to Russia which showed youth fashion, art, illustration & photographs of different cultures across the country.
What’s the fashion scene like in Russia?
Everyone likes glossy magazines, not many people understand youth culture and creative independent designers even though there is a big influence from the UK on lifestyle, fashion and art.
Why do we think there are so many Russian models!?
We think there are many beautiful Russian women in our country with unique looks! They become supermodels because they have a really powerful spirit and they experienced poverty.
What are our hopes and dreams?
In the future we hope to print our magazine and get signed with good agencies and continue to make beautiful work.