Malika, who is originally from Kazakhstan, first heard about CSM while watching a reportage on a Russian TV layannel while she was in secondary school, and the idea of studying at the college never left her mind. “I have been drawing a lot ever since I was little, and I was even dreaming of becoming a fashion designer,” she recalls. Moving to the UK after high school; studying A-levels at Cambridge and spending sleepless nights during her foundation year to create a portfolio, she reached her goal. But, not the initial one of studying fashion design. So how exactly is FCP different from that discipline?

Malika Rayeva: I feel like fashion design is a lot like fashion communication, however it takes more time, dedication, hard work, and sticking to your ideas. I think I was quite impatient while in college. I did a module in fashion design and my teacher was always confused as I changed my ideas almost every day. I feel that on the FCP course it is still important to stick to your decision, but personally for me I feel like it has more room for improvisation and freedom.

“Everything is just too perfect right now, and it is boring.”

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If you had to choose, are you more promotion or communication?

For me it is difficult to divide these two. I almost feel like it is one thing. But of course if there was only one way to choose, I would say communication. I sometimes feel like the work that I do doesn’t promote anything. It’s just there, it’s how I communicate that moment, looks, people.

Did you do a placement year? 

Yes, I had a huge pleasure interning and working at Chalayan. I think my year was a little surreal. I started as a PR intern and did all the things interns do: cleaning showrooms, making coffees, taking rubbish out, sometimes staying late to finish work. However I loved it, mostly because the team and Hussein himself became like a family to me. So when the PR Director, Elizabeth, told me that she was leaving to America, I was very upset. My internship was coming to an end, but the General Manager and Hussein approached me and asked me to stay and run the PR department for another 6 months until I went back to university. So from being intern I suddenly had my own interns. It was a great time, I had so much responsibility. It did change me, I think I became more clear about what I need, the amount of work to do, and deadlines. It made me more organised and taught me how to stick to plans, so I wasn’t as confused about my work as I was before. And of course working for and with Hussein was incredible, I always admired his work, I love how he communicates his ideas and vision.

Tell us about Gavot — how did you curate the photographic contributions, was there an underlying narrative or concept?

When we had the final project brief, I was breaking my head thinking about what I could do. Should it be very fashion? Should it look cool? Should it have expensive clothes, amazing sets? Originally I was inspired by Punch Magazine’s satirical illustrations, Neil Boorman’s Shoreditch Twat zine and films, and the French magazine Harakiri.

If I go to a magazine store I still want to read about current trends and maybe fashion, but I want it to be easy, light. Everything is just too perfect right now, and it is boring. Gavot is just random, it is strange. It doesn’t really make sense to some people. The name was also a coincidence, I was confused about what a good name could be… So I just went on a word-generator site, got about 30 words written, put it in a hat, asked someone to pick one word, and got ‘Gavot’. It was a folk dance, sort of like a roundelay, where people are sometimes holding hands, and there is always someone leading and doing moves, which others then repeat. I felt like it was perfect. Our society is totally dancing this funny dance right now.

“Everything in the magazine was either borrowed from a friend or bought in charity shops, I wanted it to be about ideas and not about names.”

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Did you collaborate with many people for Gavot?

This issue was completely DIY, most of the models are my friends or people I met during nights out. The photography and collages were also done by me. My friends, however, helped a lot with art direction. I would invite them to mine and show the stories I shot; they would tell me “oh this is cool, oh this is shit, take it out”. They also helped me with the clothes — everything in the magazine was either borrowed from a friend or bought in charity shops, I wanted it to be about ideas and not about names.

We would go to these £1 thrift sales; get massive bags full of clothes; at night I would “disinfect” them by spraying surgical spirit on them, and then I would leave them hanging outside. Once the shoots were done we would carry them to charity donation points. And then in the magazine we would discuss credits like “who makes this sort of sweaters?”, and we would be like “oh, this could be Prada or Marni, let’s write that”. It was just fun and easy.

What was your experience of CSM? Was it enabling in someway, or is there something you didn’t like about it?

CSM is an intense place, not going to lie. First year feels like they are breaking everything you think of yourself and of your work. So then you kind of build yourself again, learn to justify your ideas; how and why you did something.

It was of course painful at times. My background was lacking experience in conceptual thinking, back home in Kazakhstan we didn’t have things such as cool trendy magazines, or art magazines, film festivals, and exhibitions. These all just start to emerge now. So when I just got into CSM my mind got twisted.

Where would you like to take your practice now? Are you staying in London?

I am currently looking for a job, I would love to work in a creative agency, to learn from someone, make them coffees in return. I want to stay in London for now, I think I haven’t experienced it to the fullest yet. For now, I’m not doing a second issue of Gavot. I am however working on my own portfolio and maybe it will become part of a second issue someday.

All images courtesy of Malika Rayeva

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