WE WERE THE LUCKY ONES Interview with Anna Verkholantseva, creative producer about her life and experience in Vogue and Glamour, publications and flowers.
Tell us a bit about your Fashion background.
As long as I can remember, I have always loved fashion and art hence the reason why I attended art school. As a student, I loved to go to museums; I could stare at paintings for hours. Dutch masters were my favorite: still life and flowers. When the first glossy Cosmopolitan magazine came out in Russia, I was overjoyed and read it from cover to cover. I liked the photos and the atmosphere; I was taken by the beautiful life there. I love magazines, always have and consider them my bible. While studying in London, I remember thinking that if I had to choose between buying lunch or spending money on Vogue magazine, I always chose the latter. I read a lot about fashion and culture: Paola Volkova and her lectures on the history of art, works about Russian culture by philosopher Yuri Lotman, Umberto Eco and his history of ugliness and beauty - these are the books that fueled my passion for fashion. I realized that it is through fashion that one is able to really understand the zeitgeist of a particular era.
How did you became a producer for such big titles as Vogue and Glamour?
While still attending university, I was lucky to have an internship with Conde Nast. I was working for Tanya Dolmatovskaya, the producer of the magazine. That’s how I started. First I was an intern, then became an assistant of the producer of Vogue magazine. We did a shoot with singer Sofia Rotaru in Alupka Palace, and actress Irina Skobtseva on the steps of the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. My personal achievements on this shooting in the museum? For the first time in many years, the carpet on the main staircase was removed and I am the one that did it! It’s incredible, what one can do and is allowed to do for a perfect photo. I will also never forget when we did the cover with world-famous actress Renata Litvinova. It was the first time we brought Peter Farago from CAMERA Link agency to Russia. I graduated from the Law School of the Higher School of Economics while shooting the very first cover of Glamor Russia. I was already a producer back then and the fashion director was Masha Fedorova who eventually became the Editor in Chief of Vogue Russia. Everything was new; we all grew professionally together. It was very interesting to learn all the basics: how the Fashion industry works, when do the shows take place, what kind of photo shoot formats exist, how to bring foreign teams of the photographers to Russia.
What are some of the more interesting projects you did while there?
A couple of projects are actually special to me, since a lot of time was spent on them. The first that comes to mind is the shoot we did for the 5th anniversary of Glamor Russia. We actually did 5 different covers to portray that event. It was the first time that Patrick Demarchelier took pictures in Russia. You can imagine that it was necessary to shoot this project on July 3rd and 4th, on Independence day and I personally persuaded him to work those days. The project turned out to be even more stunning as some of the Russian models chosen for this shoot gave Patrick international recognition: Milla Jovovich, Olga Kurylenko, Ksenia Sukhinova, Maryna Linchuk, and the heroine of our first cover for Glamour singer Alsou were all captured by his lens. The circulation was divided into 5 parts and printed with different covers. Already working for Vogue, as a responsible editor, I oversaw the shooting of olympic champion in rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva for the January 2011 cover, and this has been her only cover for fashion magazine so far. I also can't help but remember shooting with Mert & Marcus for the fifteenth anniversary of Vogue Russia: this project was difficult and expensive but it resulted in 7 perfect photos.
Did you work with fashion celebrities?
I was lucky to work with many famous personalities and public figures but the one that impressed me the most was Anna Harvey, fashion editor Vogue UK and Princess Diana's personal stylist. Starting from scratch she headed Conde Nast’s new markets office, which also included our Russian editorial, and therefore her advice influenced me and made it possible for me to grow professionally. I am also proud to have worked with important figures of the fashion industry such as Karina Dobrotvorskaya and Victoria Davydova. Many of the people I have worked with have made excellent careers in many different countries: for example Anya Ziourova. I am thrilled to see Anya's successes and at the same time, honored to be able to participate in her projects. In November 2018 in Los Angeles, we shot the cover for Vogue Poland with actress Joanna Kulig, Oscar nominee 2019 for the film “Cold War”. And how can I forget the stories behind the scenes, like when we shot with Masha Fedorova for Glamor. The idea was to have a fashion shoot in the winter and to feature a train in the background. I chose a train station near the city of Kratovo, close to Moscow, where we had access to an old train. The shooting was in December and we were counting on snow, but the weather was not cooperating: there was no snow. I pulled a team from the film studio and they literally covered everything with snow and frost in an hour. The set was beautiful and Yegor Zaika took great shots.
You became an expert fashion producer, what is your secret to having a successful fashion shoot?
In order to succeed, you need to think of everything in advance and plan: understand the role of each team member and make everyone work comfortably on the site: from the photographer, to the hairdressers and make-up artists and most importantly your models. What really turns out to be the most important thing is to feed everyone on time, taking into account everyone’s dietary needs. This is the secret of a happy team.
Why do you think so many people start their own creative businesses after they work for a fashion magazine? You became a florist. How did that happen?
Working on the set you are more and more immersed in the process of creativity and can no longer stop. While working as an intern at Vogue, I could not stop looking at the flowers that were brought to the legendary editor Aliona Doletskaya. It was then that I began to learn the names of the flowers and admire the beautiful combinations. I noticed that flowers were involved in many shootings as they make the overall picture more harmonious and more stylish. So it is not surprising that in 2014 I began to study floristics and decided to take two courses in America from the famous Sarah Windward @sarahwinward and Madison Hartley @hart_floral. I then started making flowers at the photo shoots and for my friends as well. As time went by, I collected books and researched the archives of the many magazines such as Brides and Vogue. All these things have been an inspiration for me and valuable sources that have shaped my creativity. The combination of production and floristics, for me they go hand in hand and shape my vision.
What was your dream when you started your career? Do you think you have reached it now?
When I started to work, I wanted people to see the result of my work: I wanted them to feel the positive emotions of their soul and strive for refined beauty. Watching their reaction and rejoicing together is what I wanted to achieve. I now have a new stage, as I believe that art has no nationality. I am beyond grateful to be able to take part in international projects and give joy to as many people as possible!