You’ve no doubt noticed a number of artist profiles over the past few months. We continue the ongoing tribute to those keeping alive the great tradition of menswear illustration with this interview with Andrew Mashanov conducted by Ivy Style contributor ZG Burnett.
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IS: Please tell us about yourself, and about your background in illustration.
AM: I was born in 1989 in Moscow. My family was far from any arts as it was even possible; my father was a police officer, and my mother was an English teacher. I made more or less deliberate steps in illustration around 2006-2007, when I was in the beginning of my Advertising course in the State University of Management. And I had absolutely no intention to make any kind of career with illustration, as my main goal was to become an art director in some big agency like BBDO or Leo Burnett. At that time, illustration was a way of passing time during boring lectures. With all respect to our teachers, I found drawing much more interesting than learning how to run away from clouds of radioactive dust. Believe it or not, but we had a semester of a course called “Safety of Production Processes.” However, after first commission, which came quite unexpectedly, I wanted to try it again and again. Mostly driven by the interest of making couple of spare bucks as pocket money. When you’re an eighteen year old guy in a big city, it’s a very good motivation. And after couple of years I found myself having quite stable flow of commissions as an illustrator, and couldn’t find any interest in pursuing other careers or jobs.
IS: Your earlier work is almost Surrealist, how did you transition into illustrating menswear?
AM: As far as I can remember, my works were always focused on characters of some kind. Most of them were people, or at least something very anthropomorphic, which pushed me to draw some sort of clothing on them. So I guess, clothing always was a part of my artwork. Another guess, is that it has a part of a therapy thing. I always draw clothing that I’m interested in personally, or at least clothing that reflects my own aesthetic beliefs. But the first real step into the field of menswear illustration was in 2009, when I made a series of illustrations for infamous (but unfortunately long-gone) Moscow shop Fott. Which was my first menswear-related client. This collaboration happened right after I published a piece I’ve made as an experimental personal work. The next client from this field was Gant. In Russia we have a saying, “Peter the Great has cut a window to Europe,” and this phrase shortly describes the shock and intensity of modernization in eighteenth-century Russia. That collaboration with Gant was my window-cutter to the professional world of menswear illustration. After that commission I felt like this was something I wanted to do, and my humble knowledge about Ivy style was supplemented. More importantly, it was systematized.
IS: Have Ivy or traditional American styles been major influences on your work?
AM: For me, as a person who grew up under heavy influence of British and American culture, but still away from it, the entire vision feels like something solid. Even the most radical examples of style feel like a dot within a coordinate system. Another big point to understand the way I grasp mens style, is my personal axiom is that British style is the one, it is the genuine example. And other countries either try to replicate it, or their style is a unique setting of British style, a mutation if you allow. From this point, I was always very interested and fascinated with all things American, appreciating their value as self-contained phenomenon, and also how it relates to its British analogue. From the other side, it’s very interesting to see how American style influenced Albion. For instance, most of British subcultures of twentieth century can’t be imagined without OCBD; from mods in the sixties, to football fans in the eighties. My initial understanding of traditional American style was heavily mixed with the images of Ivy style, and to be honest, I think they intertwined so tightly together that I’m not sure that there’s a clear border between these two.
IS: When not working on commission, where do you find inspiration?
AM: It usually comes from the garments or outfits I would like to wear myself. It might be something that I’m actually wearing, or want to have, or even as a virtual “try-on.”And of course, there’s a lot of inspiration from traditional sources like movies, music and archives.
IS: Do you have a favorite of your own illustrations?
AM: There were some pieces that I really enjoyed drawing, and was very excited with the fact that I made them. Some of them even had positive feedback from the audience! One of the biggest problems and suddenly, wonders, of any creative pursuits is that you always have doubts. As the time flows, I tend to see more and more flaws in my prior works. It is possible to retain some warm memories, but mostly it’s a short period of selfish delight and continuous aspiration to do better in the future. However, I’d like to mention some of my works that will stay really special for me: a portrait of my wife, another I made for Jeremy Kirkland’s Blamo! podcast, and a commission for Gant Rugger.
IS: What kind of garment or outfit do you most enjoy illustrating?
AM: Brown shoes, suede and flannels. Speaking more widely, I mostly enjoy to draw things that were designed well. In the process of drawing you try understand how this garment is made and how its parts are moving. Timeless items like trench coats or suits are a pure joy to draw!
IS: Who would be your ideal model?
AM: As my son is just 18 months old, I like to imagine how he’d look like in his twenties or thirties. What would be his style? It is so fascinating to watch him grow, even if it’s almost impossible to imagine him growing older, feels like he’d always will be a funny little man. It would extremely interesting to draw a portrait of him in the future whilst he’s a toddler.
IS: Has it been difficult to find inspiration when so many have let their work-from-home wardrobes take over?Actually, no! It feels like the guys I’m following have pretty decent archives of their “before quarantine” outfits. This period coincided with the growth of my interest in Ivy style, so I was spending more time with archival images of Polo ads, or campus kids of the Sixties.
AM: The current situation pushed me to re-think my approach to home wear significantly. If I’m spending most of the time working from home, why should I dress less interestingly than I would for going out? I’m currently renting a desk at local co-working station and finally have a reason to dress up, but considering the fact that there’s absolutely no dress-code requirements , it still feels like a role play for me. You can even sport The Dude’s look from The Big Lebowski there, if desired.
IS: What can we expect to see next on your Instagram page?
AM: There’s a bunch of personal portraits commissioned during lockdown of early 2020 coming up, including a bigger project for an old and respected English brand whose name will have to be kept secret for now. And more of my “illustrated selfies,” where I try on some less standard clothes to explore something new for me. I hope we all can expect more clarity and positive stability in our shared perspective, which will lead us to even more cool content in everyone’s feed.