Model-slash-stylist Victoria Sekrier boasts the likes of shoots with Steven Meisel and Ellen von Unwerth, alongside runway walks for Miu Miu and Margiela under her belt – but after copious shows and countless off-duty snaps, she decided to take the plunge as a stylist, and now regularly contributes to taste-maker magazines such as Tank and 032c. Known for her fun-loving attitude, fearless creative flair and off-kilter aesthetic, Sekrier says about stepping into a backstage creative role. “Never compare yourself to others.” The Russian-born London-based 28-year-old (with legs that go on for miles), met up with good friend and fashion writer, Kate Lawson, for a glass of wine (well, a few glasses), to chat about leaving home in the quest for identity, why MTV became her best friend, challenging conventional visions of fashion… and why you should always leave your ego at the door.
Interview by Kate Lawson
Photography by Martin Zähringer
This interview was first published in the Ace & Tate AW15 & Journal.
On her first encounter with fashion.
“My Mum sent me to a modelling school in the hope of me becoming more feminine. I was into sports at the time and ran around with boys so she was desperate to bring out the feminine side in me. Needless to say it didn’t work! [Laughs], although a few months after that a scout from img models came to my hometown. I was called in for a casting and the rest is history.” Kate: “ohhhh, now I get why you sound like a dude most of the time!” Victoria: “no shit sherlock!”
Humble beginnings and being inventive.
“In the late 90’s and early 2000’s in russia, there wasn’t a lot of fashion to choose from, especially living in a suburban town. There was a lot of imported stuff, really bad clothes though – stitching coming apart, misspelled brands like “abibas” instead of Adidas! [Laughs]. Everyone was wearing the same shit clothes they bought on the same market. And everyone was pretty poor anyway. Of course we looked at magazines, whichever were available on newsstands, like Russian Elle and Cosmopolitan, so my Mum and I drew inspiration and made a lot of clothes ourselves. She taught me how to knit, crochet, remodel old clothes into new styles. It was really fun, you had to be inventive to stand out I guess.”
On swapping dumplings for a big apple.
“I got bullied relentlessly (because of my height and, I guess, because of my hand-made clothes, thanks Mum!) Until 8th or 9th grade at school, so I was really eager to get out of Russia and when the model scout came, I was thrilled. I was like yes, this is my golden ticket out of this place.”
I want my MTV.
“I was mute when I first got to new york! I think the language barrier was the hardest really. Not being able to express yourself or understand people, you feel inadequate and quite stupid actually. So I watched a lot of mtv, it was my base for English language. Awesome! [Laughs]. I think when you are that young and you are thrown into the unknown, you become fearless because you have no point of reference. You are just drifting from place to place and exploring.”
On hanging with Steven Meisel when she should’ve been at college.
“I’ve modelled for 12 years and I’ve loved every experience – good or bad, and people that I’ve met and worked with. I mean I was modelling and travelling during my formative years, at the age that most people go to college and try to work out what they wanna be in life. And instead I was shooting with Steven Meisel. I mean it’s pretty crazy. But I feel that it’s kind of a done chapter. I’ve reached and gained everything out of it I think I possibly could and transitioning into styling whilst modelling was pretty smart because I had the financial support from modelling.”
That lightbulb stylist moment.
“The photographer Fiona Garden got in touch with me about 4 years ago, and offered to shoot with me as a model and I said I would do it if you let me style myself. I’ve collected a lot of clothes over the years from being paid in clothes for runway shows and other modelling gigs. So we did this shoot together and she was very encouraging. She said you should really pursue it. So in a way I owe it all to her.”
On doing things her way… Inspiration and creativity.
“I’m quite interested in finding characters. Together with a photographer I like building a story about a certain person and using clothes as tools to bring it to life through images. I also reflect on my own experiences in my short life. Things I was into as a kid, someone I met yesterday, the way my Mum used to dress, music my brother listens to – anything goes, anything that springs into my mind at a given moment. I like to bounce ideas back and forth with the people I work with and develop it into something substantial. It’s an organic process. Normally it starts as one and it becomes something else. It’s really fun! To me creativity is about having the ability to express yourself freely through whatever medium one chooses.”
The other side.
“I think what I like to show in my work is that there is a different side to what is socially acceptable as conventionally beautiful. I don’t want to rub it into anyone’s face though. I’m more of a “I’m just gonna leave it here so you guys can see that this can also coexist and be interesting and beautiful”. I don’t think forcing shit down people’s throats ever worked for anyone. And I never worry about what others are doing. The number one rule for me in how to be a successful freelance creative, is never compare yourself to others.”
Respect to Tilda Swinton.
“I really admire and respect the works of Marie-Amelie Sauve, Joe McKenna and Melanie Ward from the old-school, and guys like Benjamin Bruno and Max Pearmain. I think it would be quite fun to work with someone quite daring, who really doesn’t give a fuck and stays true to their senses. Someone with an already peculiar sense of style. People like Grimes or Tilda Swinton spring to mind. Like they reallydon’t give a shit what anyone thinks. I respect that a lot.”
On defining her success.
“I’m a bit obsessive and if I set up a goal I work as hard as I possibly can to achieve it. I work on different projects at the same time which can be fun as I feel that I’m using different parts of my brain – though it can get really stressful as I can get a bit flustered.”
Leave your ego at the door.
“It’s incredible what bursts of geniality mixed with an absolute lack of talent I’ve witnessed over my 12 years. It’s taught me a lot about relationships within the team and the creative process, and to respect others opinions and be selfless in some way. At the end of the day it’s all about team work and egos should be left at the door.”
Street style or no style?
“To me it’s about representing a person’s individual aesthetic and taste – a genuine unique personal take on dressing is what makes a killer street style look to me. I think style is so subjective though. I mean I find a lot of things really unstylish, a lot of people who get papped at fashion week are horrifically dressed! [Laughs], but then who am I to say that they are badly dressed?”
“I look at the collaborative relationship between Marie-Amelie Sauve and Nicholas Ghesquiere that formed back in the 90’s and I really admire it. I would feel so lucky to find someone that you are so much in tune with that you’ve managed to work together for over 20 years. Personally it’s not so much about wanting to collaborate with a particular brand, but about building this long-lasting relationship with an individual within the industry and progressing and developing that throughout the years.”
You speaka da Russian?
After our lengthy chat, we ask for the bill, and I say to Victoria, (whom I actually refer to by the nickname we have for one another – one we can’t repeat in this magazine!), “So how would I say in russian, ‘you’re getting the drinks tonight right?” She adds finally, “well it would be, выпиваем за твой счет, да? But no way dude, [shakes finger] drinks are on you tonight, this interview took forever!” Typical Sekrier. You can take the girl out of modelling, but you can’t take the model (and free drinks she’s used to) out of the girl.