NASTIA AND HER ASPIRING ACTOR BOYFRIEND live in the Narkomfin building located in central Moscow, right near the American Embassy. The building hides between surrounding buildings and large trees. Once inside, you almost forget you are in the center of a city containing more than 11 million people.

The three of us headed up to Nastia’s second floor apartment, in an elevator that just squeezed us all in. On the second floor, we walked down a corridor that was bathed in light, yet looked almost abandoned. Nastia’s apartment, unlike the corridor, has a lived-in, home feel.

Sketches and papers were scattered throughout the room. Nastia is in the middle of her last year exams for her textile design course. Although at the end of her four years, she has had a slight change of path and is now focusing on shoe design.

After a successful first pair made last year, with a sewing machine found at the markets, she was offered a job for a company (which she holds secret!) in China when she completes the year. Very excited about the prospect, I ask how she was offered the job? “A few scouts come every year to the end of year shows.”

Excited about the opportunity, she is keen to move there for a few years for the experience and eventually return to Moscow to further her career.

When Nastia went into her textiles course, she wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do – at the beginning, she couldn’t even draw! It was only through hours of doodling during course lectures that her illustrations came about and she now has multiple sketch books filled with detailed part fashion-part fairytale illustrations.

Looking around, I can see purple colours, fairy lights and the odd doll scattered around the room. The two dolls on the dresser were both made by Nastia; one doll is for her mother, who has been receiving hand-made dolls from Nastia every year on her birthday since Nastia was a child.

Nastia is feeling quite drained when we meet. She has spent much of her time finishing her final assessments. Her English is limited so her boyfriend helps out with the translation for the most part. Her boyfriend is extremely proud of her creativity and as he translates he pulls out pieces of Nastia’s work to show off her skill.

I notice, like most of the houses I have been to in Moscow, her bedroom is also her living room – the futon bed is also the couch. This means her two-room flat can be transformed into a more liveable space during daylight hours.

Over the space of a few hours (and several emails post-meeting) Nastia answers the following questions.

What did you love about growing up in Moscow?

Well, it’s not an easy question to answer. Many trivial things seem amazing to a little kid. I love to walk in parks for example. The main Moscow toy shop was also a centre of my pilgrimage – I remember a giant bear that used to stand there. And one more thing: I love the evening lights of Moscow, it makes me feel that I am in another country.

What do you wish Moscow had, that you admire about other cities?

I would be really happy if there was a sea near Moscow.

Are your parents creative?

In a way. Look how much creativity they put in creating me!

What do you like about shoe design?

It is much more interesting than the design of clothes; I especially obsess with high-heeled shoes! It is very graceful I think, though I don’t wear high-heeled shoes myself.

Who are your favourite shoe designers?

Alexander McQueen for his complex and sophisticated images, and Rick Owens for his plain but interesting vision.

What is it that interests you so much about fairy-tales and fantasy? Do you have a favourite one?

I like to make drawings of skinny, elf-like girls. Like the ones that are in the Lord of the Rings.

What do you do when you are not being creative?

I try to get new emotions and experience. Emotions are the main power of my creativity and I try to get them as much as possible.

One of the many dolls Nastia has made for her mumThe sewing machine Nastia found at the markets – perfect for shoes!The pair of heals that caused Nastia change her career direction
Illustrations by Nastia KuzminaIllustrations by Nastia Kuzmina
Illustration by Nastia Kuzmina