Dmitriy Pirozhnikov is a 27-year-old Moscow-based artist. Originally a photographer, Dima (Dmitriy) today also paints abstract paintings and creates prints on organic shirts. Talking to him was a genuine pleasure, and I am incredibly excited to be able to share his story in full with you from his photography career to painter, and now creator of the first #Mygoshirt collection “To be, not to look”.
At first, I found out about you as a photographer. Tell me about this part of your life, please.
I started taking pictures in 2006-2007. It took me quite a while to realize that I wanted to be a photographer.
Did you get into fashion photography right away?
No, not at all. When I started out, there was no concept of fashion photography in Russia. It was all glamour. So, I made portraits; I took pictures of my friends and relatives. After some time people started reaching out to me, so I was able to photograph new faces. My attitude towards fashion was quite negative then. I did not like, what I saw in Russian magazines. Fashion photography seemed very empty to me. Later I changed my mind and started working with modelling agencies. That is how I got into fashion world. Then I became more mature, and I realized that I had to earn money, so I started working on commercial projects: photo shoots for magazines and advertisement. As a result, photography became my full-time job, and then it was not only passion anymore. In 2012, I decided to have a break and to stop working as a photographer on a daily basis.
What happened next?
I still did some projects in order to have an income, but I worked much less. That is when painting came into my life. In 2013, I took pictures of a Moscow-based poet Ira Astahova and we talked a lot. After a couple of days, she called me and said that we had to meet. She came to see me with a huge bag, in which I found a couple of canvases, oil paints and brushes – everything necessary to start painting. She said that if I wanted to find a new way to express creativity, painting could be a great option.
What was your reaction?
I was very surprised! Actually, I studied to become an illustrator-animator, but could not draw or paint at all. I began painting intuitively and without really thinking about what I was doing. For a year and a half, I dedicated a lot of my time to exploring and reading more about existing techniques. Then an art-gallery suggested me to work with them. We did two exhibitions in Saint Petersburg.
How did they go?
I have no idea. I was not there.
I do not want to take painting too seriously. For me it is an extra activity, which I enjoy. I am happy that there are people who want to buy my paintings, but this is neither my reason to paint, nor it is my goal. Attending my own exhibition does not seem to be an exciting thing to do.
How did the transition from painting to creating prints happen?
While painting, a lot of my clothes got stained with paint, and I actually liked it afterwards. I started thinking about doing this on purpose. Not long after that, I received a white shirt from a friend as a present on New Year`s Eve and a set of textile paint. I must tell you that this shirt is still untouched. I have some big plans for it. Approximately, in the same time, I accidentally watched a video online with Indian men making handmade prints. I found that interesting. I spent some time looking for special wooden stamps to make the same thing. Then, I realized I did not want to use existing prints, and I wanted to make my own stamps and my own prints. So, I spent more time finding out about different kinds of carving, talking to people who had experience in working with wood. Then I bought some wooden pieces and instruments to start carving.
What was your first stamp design?
A childish theme: cars, traffic lights etc. I made a shirt for my friend and posted it online. A couple of days later Olya Glagoleva, a designer I collaborate with now, sent me a message saying that she loved an idea of such a shirt, and that she would like to make a collection with me. To say that I was surprised will be a very strong understatement!
You agreed and started working on this new project. How did it go?
Back then, Olya was still studying at St. Martin`s, so she lived in London, and I was in Moscow. We talked via Skype and analyzed, what we could do and how. I remember questioning myself and my ability to take part in such a project. There is a great difference between creating one shirt and producing a proper collection. I did not have such an experience. In the end, I decided to give it a chance and just go for it.
How are responsibilities divided among the two of you?
Olya`s part of the work consists of the actual design of the shirts: their cut and fit, fabrics and garment accessories. I take care of the prints and ornaments.
And how was the actual creative process organized?
I created various models and layouts, which I later sent to Olya, and we discussed them together. In the end, we agreed on five different prints. Olya found fabrics and delivered them to Moscow, so I was able to produce the first shirts. The name of our collection was “To be, not to look”. While creating the prints, I was inspired by numerous illustrators, especially by a Brooklyn-based artist named Danielle Kroll.
What about the practical side of the project?
Our initial idea was to create something experimental and have a look at the results and the reaction of people around us. We did not have a business-plan or a concrete idea of what we would do next. When I finished, we were both satisfied with the results. Then we shot a look book and made a special video for our presentation. I must say that everything happened very naturally – and still does. People keep contacting us, because they want to work with us. Basically, we produced a product, and let out shirts live their own lives, and then we simply watched.
Why did you not shoot the look book yourself?
I have a different position in this project now. When I am working with the shirts, I am not a photographer. Moreover, I have created these shirts, so I know them from every angle, and I wanted someone new to see them from another side, to see them as clothing pieces, not going deeper, as I would do myself. Obviously, we were very careful with our choice and the photographer, whom we trusted, was Zhenya Kruglov.
At the same time, you have been posting quite a lot online.
Yes, I was documenting the whole process of creation. From the very beginning, I took pictures of the prints, fabrics and then shirts, and posted them on Instagram to make people ready that something new was coming, and that I was not only a photographer anymore.
Tell me about the feedback you received!
People quickly became interested in the project. They started reaching out to us, asking questions. We gave a couple of interviews even before the presentation of the collection.
Tell me about the presentation!
It took place at the INDEXflat showroom. Anka Tsishvilli, founder of INDEXflat, is our representative now, and she brought our shirts to Paris during fashion week. Also, we were represented by Fashion bubble club during Milan fashion week. The presentation itself went very well. We had a lot of guests: journalists, editors, street style photographers, including foreign press. A week afterwards a British magazine made a publication about it, as well as a number of Russian resources.
Where can people buy #Mygoshirt?
We are in the process of negotiating with various buyers. For now, they are available at INDEXflat. Obviously, it is not easy in the times of crisis, especially as our product is quite expensive due to using only organic fabrics, and the fact that everything is handmade. I spend up to 10 hours working on the prints for every single shirt. Soon our shirts will also be available at Le Grand Bazarr. At the moment, we are making the shirts ready. Moreover, there will be something new, but I cannot say more than that now.
Do you find time for photography these days?
Yes, I have been working on some photography projects in the last couple of months.
What are your plans for the future?
It is hard to say. I do not have anything certain in mind. I have never imagined anything even close to my collaboration with Olya, so I have no idea what will come next. We are definitely discussing a new collection together. I find it incredibly interesting, when you open new sides of yourself. I do find it important not to focus on one thing only. You should never stop and keep on searching for new interests, new abilities. It is necessary to let yourself open up and discover unknown parts of you. I have always been interested in clothes. I enjoy touching fabrics and textures, looking at them and learning about them. I suppose, I will go on exploring this field.
If someone suggested you a mass-market collaboration with your prints, but automated production and, as a result, lower prices, would you agree?
I am very open to new projects. I have already thought about something like this, as I have heard from many people from the fashion world that our ideas and principles are great, but, unfortunately, most clients do not care. They simply see a shirt and consider, whether they like it or not. Very few of them care about the whole process of its creation and our values as designers. I do not see myself as a designer, though. I am more of a decorator.
Follow Dmitriy Pirozhnikov’s work here.