Fall into the fantastical fairytale land of artist and supermodel – Sasha Pivovarova in conversation with Megan Slack for Magazine
Sasha Pivovarova is the woman who has broken the record as the longest appearing model for Prada, graced countless covers of international Vogue, and is one of top 30 models of the decade.
Yes-Sasha Pivovarova has dominated the fashion industry in every way possible, ever since she first captivated Miuccia Prada in 2005. However, this Russian supermodel is also an artist, who is drawing from her globally enriched experiences to make her mark in the art world.
In the wake of her recent signing with Runway Gallery, Magazine escaped to the fairytale land of Sasha Pivovarova, where we discussed everything from childhood trips to the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, to her admiration for Pushkin’s Swan-Princess.
“My sketchbook was always my sanctuary which allowed me to get out of reality and sink into the wonderful world of my imagination” began Sasha, as she recalled her relationship with art while growing up in Moscow. As a child, Sasha learnt how to express herself through a range of diverse creative mediums, from a simple mark on a piece of paper or in the sand, to the walls of the State capital.
“A piece of paper and a pencil was the highest form of freedom for me”
“I could do anything with it. I always liked to work with anything that leaves a mark, and in the absence of the materials, I would draw in the sand with a stick as long as I could express my feelings. I always carried a sketchbook and a pencil box everywhere I went, just in case I got bored. It was a very special time when I realised the joy of creating.
I spent a lot of time in the museums and sketched from the sculptures of old masterworks. I had many books about art in my library. I could look for hours at the masterpieces, and I loved to play with art materials, discovering colours and drawing throughout all of my childhood. In my school years, I experimented with big scale works on the walls of Moscow. This love of creating and the need to express myself grew up with me”.
Among the museums mentioned, the artist recalled a visit to the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, where, at the age of five, she first saw the piece which has impacted her the most.
“I remember being five-years-old, mesmerised by The Dance by Matisse. The scale, the vivid colours, and the dynamic simplicity of it was overwhelming”.
Beyond the murals of Moscow and the opulence of Saint Petersburg’s museums, Sasha Pivovarova also draws from Russian Literature, which influences a theme that is central to her work: Fairytales.
Among the fans of Pivovarova’s fantastical doodles was none other than the late Karl Lagerfeld, who commissioned Sasha to create fairytale-inspired illustrations for his Métiers d’Art collection show, held in a theatre in her hometown in 2009. Two years later, the artist saw her fairytale illustrations printed on a range of lingerie and sleepwear sets for Gap, which made her fantasy world accessible to an admiring global audience.
“The fairytale world has no boundaries. Anything is possible; anything goes” shared Sasha when asked why she often draws from fairytales in her art.
“I can place a figure who is lost in an enchanted garden or in a city, containing details of the different places which I like, such as the Manhattan skyline, a Russian village, or among Roman columns. I can even place a wild animal in the interior”.
While Sasha’s admiration for fairytales is evident throughout much of her work, the artist similarly spoke of a love for Russian literature and cultural theory, which she reads in her spare time. “The 19th-century Russian Literature which I like the most is extremely patriarchal, with most female characters having very tragic life”, began Pivovarova when asked to choose a literary character in which she would most like to become. “There is really no character that I would desire to be, aside from a fairytale character like Pushkin’s Swan-Princess, for her ability to make magic and create wonderful things out of nothing”.
Alongside the Swan-Princess, Sasha drew attention to her favourite folk fairytale Snowmaiden, admiring how it is “very beautiful and poetic”.
One can only ever dream of Pivovarova’s prestige across the fashion and art industries, which the artist and supermodel combines so effortlessly.
“Art and fashion coexist in harmony in my life”.
“My art is the reflection of my life”, stated Sasha in her discussion of how her experiences have shaped her artwork. “I take a lot of inspiration from my feelings and emotions, and from the people I meet and the places I visit. I am also inspired by the beautiful fabric I wear to walk on the catwalk, and by nature. I process it all and let it out on paper or canvas. It is very important to express myself through some kind of media. When I model, I express myself, and when I paint, I express myself. It’s all connected in my life”.
It was at New York Fashion Week in 2018 that Sasha was given the opportunity to combine her two talents for Dior, when the label’s artistic director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, invited Pivovarova to appear as both a model and an artist in a unique advertising campaign. “It was an amazing experience to be in the shoot for the Dior advertising campaign, and finally do what I love to do the most (painting) on camera” began Sasha. “My favourite memory was when Dior asked me to do for the launch of the ads, where I exhibited 40 pieces of art and sculptures and painted a large mural covering all of the room, including the floor”.
Most recently, amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sasha was, once again, given a chance to showcase her position as an artist at the height of the fashion world, when she was approached by Vogue Russia to paint her self portrait, which appeared on the cover of the June 2020 issue. But how did it feel for the artist to see her painting, rather than her photograph on the cover of Vogue?
“I have had many covers over the years, and I felt very proud to break new ground in fashion”.
“I was the first model to ever paint herself for the cover of Vogue. I also had so much fun making the editorial, where I had to draw myself, wearing my favourite dresses in surreal settings”.
After spending her artistic career drawing from her experiences in fashion, it is unsurprising that Sasha Pivovarova chose Runway Gallery to represent her artwork here in the UK. While the artist lives with her husband, photographer Igor Vishnyakov, and her two daughters in New York City, she is no stranger to London Fashion Week, and the city’s art scene. “I always admired Alexander McQueen and was devastated by his death” revealed Sasha, on the British designer, for whom she collaborated alongside in his S/S 10 Plato’s Atlantis collection.
Between the madness of her packed schedules in the capital, Sasha finds her calm in London’s art museums, as she shared: “I usually stay in South Kensington, and I love to take a walk in Hyde Park, visit the V&A museum, and grab a bite in a museum cafe” shared Pivovarova, as she shared an insight into how she spends her free time in the west London.
With the launch of her partnership at Runway Gallery, there is a hope that Sasha’s love for the British fashion and art scenes will only increase; however, the metropolis’ of Paris and Tokyo stand out to this global citizen as the most influential when it comes to her wardrobe.
“I think Paris and Tokyo are the most fashionable cities. I took a lot of styling inspiration from my trips to Japan”.
“I also love the Louvre Museum, and I think my pieces will look awesome in the Palace” continued Sasha, on the walls of the Parisian museum in which she would most like to see her work framed. Here at Runway Gallery, however, we are hopeful that after a few months, there will be a new city on Sasha Pivovarova’s most fashionable list…
By Megan Slack– Contributing Editor at Magazine by Runway Gallery.