Sasha Kutovoy and Nazar Chernyy. In the words

Interviewed by Anastasiia Danyliuk

We’re excited to introduce an inspiring new series of interviews with our beloved community members. As fashion enthusiasts, we know that photographers, stylists, and makeup artists are undeniably renowned for the results of their work: their masterpieces whose language is visual. Therefore, we’ve decided to take an alternative route to uncover what forms the essence of their artistic prowess  —  by delving into the depths of their words.

Photographer Nazar Chernyy and stylist and now-artist Sasha Kutovoy did not gravitate toward public presence; instead, they spoke about themselves through their shoots. Their interactions on set influenced the formation of their characteristic imagery and approaches. This conversation is an attempt to learn about them from the unique perspective of their personalities and life itself.


To begin with, what inspired the idea of giving interviews in the first place?

SK Communication with people who are close to me always brings me joy.

NC To be honest, it’s hard for me to express my thoughts through words, but I can tell more interesting stories through photography and in colour.


If you look back at the past year, do you have a feeling that this is a kind of new start? How does it feel for you right now?

SK I have had this feeling for almost three and a half years, which has been very eventful. I used to work for large companies, and the last place I worked was the editorial office of Ukrainian Harper’s Bazaar, after which I set out on my own. This transition was a big step for me because I no longer depend on anyone personally. Secondly, I delved into the study of psychology and esoteric practices, which also opened up things for me that I hadn’t seen in myself before. You think about what direction you are moving in and how you live your life. I started meditating, and it pushed me toward a new beginning. The invasion was the most crucial moment; nothing compares to those experiences because they happened to you for the first time, and it stays with you. You need to cope with it and reflect on it. But I have concluded that war can be perceived from different points of view. I am inclined to believe that it teaches us something.

I started painting actively when the Coronavirus pandemic started, and I had a lot of thoughts that I wanted to put on paper. I was mechanically drawn to drawing. I began to realise that it was a kind of therapy because when you sit in a closed space, you need to do something and release this mental pressure. The series of my works is called Minddiary because it’s a diary, notes that you put on paper. These are reflections on your nature and the nature of the people around you. It helps me to cope with emotions (especially other people’s). This has grown into something I do all the time, and I can’t do it without it. I thought that maybe I would stop being a stylist, but I don’t want to limit myself because everything in my work is very much intertwined. I started to integrate drawings and art objects in my shoots, and now they no longer work without each other. 


NC I find joy in the simple things that accompany everyday life: the sun’s rays on my skin, watching dogs play, and meeting people close to me that I haven’t seen for a long time. Speaking of the future, I will only be able to think about it when my friend Pasha (Pasha Matsera, a cameraman and one of the community members) returns from the front. And we will sit together in a cafe and talk about nothing, just like before. Only then will I feel that the future is safe and that I can make plans again.


Let’s move on to the moment you began working together. Do you remember how it happened, how you got to know each other?

SK Nazar won the Bazaar Fashion Forward contest, and we met at a shoot for Harper’s Bazaar magazine, where I was invited to style the shoot. After that, we became friends and began actively collaborating with various publications and brands. 

NC Yes, I won Bazaar Fashion Forward, and Anna Zemskova, who was the Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar Ukraine at the time, told me at dinner when we were discussing the team with whom I would create the project: “I know someone with whom you will work great.” After that, I met Sasha, and she was right.

Let’s talk about your intriguingly innovative joint projects. In 2020, you sparked a social conversation with a captivating shoot featuring exclusively black models, which you seamlessly carried forward in your subsequent projects. Within the global context, such a move has always been perceived as somewhat revolutionary and accompanied by a discussion about the lack of diversity in the fashion industry. Could you elaborate on what motivated you to conceptualise this idea and why this shoot became an iconic milestone?

SK Nazar’s work has been focused on diversity, as well as on incorporating the aesthetics of different cultures, so we decided to continue this topic that is close to us in future projects. The idea of the lack of diversity is very important, so talking about it within the pages of a glossy publication to a large audience was an important mission for us.


When creating a film, do you consider the audience and their reaction? In general, is the audience important to you?

SK For me, it’s always about dialogue. At this stage, all my work carries a reflection on certain events that happen to me and may resonate with other people and help them in some way. It is very fulfilling when strangers write that they are inspired by what we do, and you realise that you are on the right track. I’m pleased to receive positive feedback from my colleagues, and they inspire me as well. 


Sasha, what do you think you have in common with Nazar?

SK Probably the aesthetics and vision of the shot, as well as risky ideas for filming. At the initial stages of negotiations, you don’t even understand how to make it happen, but the result always surprises you.


Nazar, what do you think you and Sasha have in common?

NC We both passionately love what we do. It’s when you can create 24/7, give your all, stay up all night without feeling sorry for yourself, create something, draw, build, invent – in short, do your own thing. 


If misunderstandings arise during your work, how do you resolve them?

SK There have been very few such moments because we trust each other, and our creative process is always about collaboration.

NC They don’t arise, even though I am an uncompromising person. We’re on the same page, so there’s nothing to deliberate. 


With an unwavering commitment to artistic integrity – to what extent do your personal experiences infuse into your work? Do you feel that you can articulate things that are important to society through your work?

SK 100%. All my work has something important to me. I talk about some personal experiences and life events in this way because it helps me on my way to healing, and it’s cool when it can help someone else.


What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

SK For me, it’s the initial stages of planning. It all starts with communication with the photographer; together, we create a draft of our vision and share the ideas that we have long wanted to realise. I always review my notes and think about how I can translate all this into a real shoot. Then I make a selection of clothes, immediately thinking about how to shoot these things not only as an object but also to provoke the audience to contemplate what this shoot is about and what you want to say. For me, it’s not about trends. It’s more about the story that these things help to tell. I like to include things from my archives or create something independently. It’s even cooler and more interesting when you can weave them into the story; it adds reflexivity. Then there are casting and logistical issues because a high-quality result depends on cooperation with people you feel comfortable with and trust. 

I would also like to mention the research I undertake before filming. I create mood boards, though I don’t like them because they limit you. But they do help because you can show the team the visual components. However,  sometimes you can get stuck on a picture, which slows down your creativity; you’re already starting from a re-enactment. I’m interested in making something authentic that doesn’t resonate with your mood board. That’s why I like to work without them.


NC The hardest thing is to reject cool ideas because you only have 12 hours in a shift. And in that time, you have to fit everything in. So at that moment, you reject most of the thoughts and ideas. And it’s very hard to reject your ideas. 



Do you feel you have helped each other evolve and develop during your time together?

SK Yes, Nazar has partially expanded my boundaries in terms of the fact that anything is possible on the set. As an example, we had a shoot where Nazar suggested that we shoot a model sitting on a glass structure and film it from below. Four people held up this structure, and the model had a fear of heights, so it was something of a challenge. But the result was worth it. Sometimes you wonder how we did it with so many limitations. But when you create something with people who are inspired by their work, it produces a cool result.


NC Of course. Every project is another step where you teach and learn from professionals. I can’t wait for a new project with Sasha.  


What influenced the formation of your taste and visual language?

SK In general, my work is inspired by quantum physics and the beauty of nature. Visual culture and music are also influential. If I mention specific personalities, I would say Cy Twombly, Berndnaut Smilde, Egon Schiele, and Robert Mapplethorpe. As for musical artists, TR/ST. 

NC It probably all started in my childhood. It was my mother and her taste in clothes; she was always looking for more than what the small town offered her. And I guess this search was reflected in me, and then it was a search for music, movies, and people with whom you communicate. Everything we see and hear edits our taste. 


You belong to the new generation of the Ukrainian creative community that emerged after Euromaidan. The moment of our professional formation came at a time of dramatic changes in the country. That is, we somehow felt the influence and participation in the socio-political process. However, the global fashion community was perceived as somewhat detached from political phenomena/processes. But we see that everything has changed. In your opinion, how does this involvement of fashion and culture representatives affect the world in general?

SK It is very valuable to tell the truth about our country and brave people in these difficult times, so this is an extremely important influence that has helped change the attitude towards Ukraine around the world.

Speaking in general, through art, you can communicate about important things in a way that will be close to many people, even those who are not interested. I think it’s a big plus when the field goes beyond the usual framework, no longer being isolated from important topics. But I understand that this is a sales-oriented industry, which is limited in this sense. You can’t fully express yourself creatively. Now I’m focusing on the creative aspect because it’s about self-expression. If you look at global brands, they are focused on the commercial component, and it’s clear why. Everyone notices that brands have become more open to the public in their positioning and are implementing many social projects. There are a lot of collaborations with artists, and many brands are trying to do something similar, competing for originality and creativity. Casting calls have become loyal, and anyone can join the show. And this is a big plus. But, in my opinion, this is all aimed at making it a commercial success. Therefore, working in the fashion industry, you still won’t be able to express your creative potential to the fullest extent. There will always be a commercial component to it. But everything is changing. There are more and more independent publications and slow fashion brands that play by their own rules. 


When we discussed your future projects and whom you would like to work with, you mentioned Ukrainian women: namely Julie Pelipas and Cate Underwood, who have established themselves globally. In this regard, how have your ambitions expanded this year? And is it important to emphasise your identity and background when working in the international sphere?

SK Actually, Nazar and I have been thinking about whom we would like to work with for a long time. We both like Cate Underwood. She is very interesting both in appearance and as a person. She is also a famous Ukrainian model. 

I think that, yes, this identity is important. Without it, you are not you. How do you maintain it when you work in an international context? I think it’s good to talk about where you come from. It’s good to show and not be afraid to move in a modern direction because, in addition to a rich ethnic heritage, we also have a modern culture. 


NC I absolutely agree with what Sasha said.


Thank you for submitting the form!
Your information was received successfully.
We will create your profile shortly.

Thank you for submitting the form!
Your request was received successfully.

Thank you for your donation!
We act united to win Peace for all.