Interview with Andy Fiord for So Serious Fashion

The man, being an astrophysicist, built a telescope, a fashion photographer career, a unique for Russia group of advertising businesses and a wonderful office for his employees. He is a professional manager, philosopher, and scientific fisherman with a rare combination of charm, mental power and sound view at the gist of matters. All of those qualities belong to Andy Fiord, the president and art-director of Andy Fiord Fashion Advertising group of companies. The original interview in Russian:

About ELLE Fashion Days, AFFA and whims of couturier

SSF: From year to year, ELLE Fashion Days invite the best players of fashion arena to their team. This event is eagerly anticipated by both critiques and spectators. This is the place where one can see the latest collections of world-famous designers. All of the shows present European replicas. AFFA team worked on the rerun of something that had already been presented abroad. How complete were those collections? How does AFFA’s operating principle come along at the moment of their preparation? AF: The (participating) brands had their own technical rider. It considered whatever had been presented in Europe. We catered to their wishes in coherence with the European first show content. During the negotiation stage, we were bringing forward our own versions, but it was decided to rerun something that had already taken place. SSF: The ELLE magazine has held its Fashion Days for the eleventh time. This year, Andy Fiord Fashion Advertising group has come forward as a general partner of the international fashion festival. Have there been any clashes of the titans throughout the course of collaboration? AF: No, there has been nothing like clashes. There have been some moments of tension but it’s a normal situation, it’s the way it is supposed to be. ELLE is a pleasurable and easy company to work with. SSF: It is not the first time when AFFA works with foreign fashion designers. Are they smooth in cooperation? Do the world-famous designers, like Anna Molinari, have moods during the show’s preparation stage? AF: To tell the truth, they are very easy to work with, sometimes, it’s even easier than with our fellow countrymen. Designers do not tend to participate in the show’s preparation stage. Some attend the full-dress rehearsal, some don’t. Anna Molinari came when models were being dressed up, and despite the presence of Blumarine’s own stylists, she changed a lot of features in the models’ look and the order they come out to the runway. Does the level of petulance depend on the designer’s popularity? Maybe, no. There are people of all kinds. Anna Molinari, in particular, is a pleasure to work with. SSF: What kind of impact did this project make on your employees? And did any blamestorming take place after all? AF: Of course, every project is a lesson for us. After the end of every event, we convene a so called “capitalization meeting”. Every project contributes something into overall experience portfolio, that’s why we call those meetings this way. We recollect all the “traps” we fell into during the preparation stage or the event itself. Since all our project have always been accomplished successfully, one can forget about shortcomings while surfing the wave of euphoria. That is exactly the reason we hold such discussions, eliminating the feeling of false solemnity in order to reasonably evaluate the results of our work.

From fashion photography to business creation

SSF: I have an impression that you do your work easily, calmly and with pleasure. Is it true? AF: Talking about being calm, no, not always. I can be tough and emotionally tough. I am a professional manager and I know that the calm way of communication with employees has its downside: they suddenly stop listening without quickly responding to the communication coming from a manager. The rise in volume of voice and emotional sensitivity helps put them back on track. There is a type of managers who are always sawing air with their hands, who can be affected by emotions and fire someone but it won’t mean anything. In our case, it’s not an issue: we always mean whatever we say and do. SSF: Andy, since we started talking about business. The first company from AFFA group (Andy Fiord Photo & Film Production – SSF) appeared in 2010, am I correct? AF: Yes, in 2010, I decided that it was necessary to open a company that would deal with organization of photo and video shootings. Before that, I had been working as a fashion photographer on my own. I wanted others to know me exactly as a photographer, for that reason, I preferred not to disclose of my past in hi-tech business to avoid needless associations. SSF: Since all the beans have already been spilled, then the following question will ask you to elaborate on it: you are an astrophysicist by training, who used to successfully manage a company producing safety systems for a long time, so, who or what brings you from the world of science to the world of fashion photography? AF: Nobody and nothing. I did and I do various things according to my internal necessity, introspectively. Whatever happens is happening solely because of my internal impulse and can not occur under influence of external stimulus. I went into photography independently from the fashion genre. In the course of study, progress and sophistication of the shooting, I was getting more and more fascinated with fashion photography as the most complex area: it includes portrait genre, ability to work with still life shooting and a lot more. I have always been fascinated by this. The more synthetic the task is, the more interest it brings. SSF: The field of photography is divided into commercial photographers and those who work for personal pleasure. I want to understand, what idea guides you, and was it even a matter worth thinking about? AF: Such a division seems to me to be artificial, it is more connected to human psychology rather than to the existence of such a division itself. There is the same debate among mathematicians: this a mathematician and that is an applied mathematician. One deals with pure math, the other one uses it to construct technical models. It’s an eternal opposition, but the polemists, themselves, subconsciously know that such a division is a result of psychological constitution of people. All sorts of debates taking place in the areas of human activities, as for me, are defense mechanisms of their representatives. SSF: Andy, what lenses are the best to shoot a fashion show with? AF: Ha! The latest show was shot with 12 cameras and each of them had its own angles and lenses. It all depends on the goal of each particular shot. Check out a coming out video containing new features, where you’ll be able to see the cut from 12 cameras really enlivening the shooting. The lenses, by the way, define the style. When I was training photographers, I treated them this way: I gave them only one type of lenses and sent them out for shooting, so they would learn how to reach necessary goals with that specific type of lenses.

About scientific fishing

SSF: Four years of Andy Fiord Photo & Film Production company’s operation that gave it credibility, weight and popularity are in you opinion “whole four years” or “just for years”, was it a long journey or a breakthrough? AF: It all depends on how you look at it. On one hand, those four years have zipped along really fast. But if you think of it in a different way, then you see it otherwise. Considering how much has happened during this time, I am in the presence of two feelings: of a long journey and the one that passed by in a blink of an eye. When one’s life is rich in the events, then there are always two feelings. SSF: A four-year-old company can be boldly called young. How come that in a short time frame, you have built such star-packed clientele? AF: People do not always believe but I’ll say one more time: first, it’s necessary do an awesome job. And then, you’ll get something that is often called luck. This type of luck can be compared to the one you have while fishing. If you know that you’ve come in the right season, at the right time, to the appropriate river, if you’ve learnt how to measure river stream flow, tell where the stones are by the water whirls, and if you know all of it, then you are not likely to leave trophyless. The question is how many casts it will take you to pull out whatever you have been waiting for: one, three or ten. People who have been watching me from the sidelines say that I was just lucky. It seems they are right. What is it, but just a turn of events when exactly at this time, in this place where I put out a rod and a line, exactly that fish was passing by? Nevertheless, it is not just pure luck. It will be defined by the extent of circumstances that you have brought together. Anyway, it does not matter how many attempts it took you, you will not go home empty-handed. People are usually afraid to put out those rods and start hesitating about everything, but even though, chances of finding fish in that place, at that time tend toward zero, it should not constitute grounds to stop trying to catch it. SSF: Can you exemplify the theory of fishing? What was a bait? How did you strike? What did it look like, the first big catch? AF: When we started photo production, the luck was quick to come along in the form of an order from Condé Nast (magazine publisher that is a subsidiary of Advance Publications media company. In the United States, the publisher issues 18 consumer magazines, including Architectural Digest, Bon Appétit, GQ, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair и Vogue – SSF). There happened the following: we were asked one unit of photo equipment, I do not even remember what kind, but it was important to seize an opportunity and bring the entire cart of tools besides the claimed item, for instance, pins, elastic ties and a phrase: “Hey, guys, if you are missing something for work, please, use this (cart).” Next time, in the similar situation, they asked for a half of equipment necessary for shooting, and then, they suddenly stated: “Do it yourself and we’ll go chill.” But for such a script to play out, you have to be ready and that cart with all the necessary equipment must already be in your disposition. In our case, it is educated people, English-speaking assistant, etc. We always try to envision everything beforehand, imagine what might be needed and stock up on it. It is all according to the script of scientific fishing: you need a set of circumstances and personal promptitude to carry out the cast. Even though if Condé Nast had not come by, then someone else would have come over to us, and we would be not a four- but a five-year-old company.

About similarities and distinctions

SSF: Are there many people working in the company? AF: Since creation of Andy Fiord Fashion Advertising holding, the number of employees has gone up and company now employs about 40 people. Today AFFA includes photo and video production, as well as show production, two modeling agencies, and many other things that are about to launch. SSF: Your company works a lot with foreign clients. Can you tell any difference between domestic and foreign customers? AF: Perhaps, there is no striking difference. In Russia, not everybody believes that there can be such a company as ours, but it is more likely to be due to their own complexes. SSF: In what way does AFFA define itself? Are you a part of the world fashion trend or Russian fashion industry? AF: To tell the truth, we do not feel like we are a part of something, although, most certainly, we are. Today’s distinctive feature is that it does not matter where you are located. SSF: People treat business differently, for instance, Mr. Tinkov creates successful business and sells it, do you pursue another strategy? AF: I have a different approach toward this matter. I am not motivated by money, that’s why I have neither will, nor opportunity to sell something that I have created. For instance, the company that I established before AFFA will never be for sale, because they are a family to me, the company has never split, fallen apart, no one quit and opened other companies. These people have been with me for 20 years, it is my environment. How can I sell it? SSF: Listening to you, I understand that you get the greatest pleasure from having created a company that is now successful. Do you experience, besides all other things, any self-fulfillment from your creation? AF: I have got a problem with that. I sometimes force myself to feel delighted about, for instance, having built this office. It is a big deal and I have all rights to be proud of having created a place that other people love. But, as I have mentioned before, everything that makes me move on or brings me a joy is inside me. I take delight in having become someone or having received something in the course of activities, and I do not really care about outer manifestation and consequences.

About stars and moods

SSF: Does it happen sometimes that once in a blue moon you breathe a heavy sigh about not having accomplished something in the scientific field? AF: No, it does not happen to me, because if it has ever occurred, I would not be able to live with that. I would go to make my dreams come true. I can not go depressed about something that I could not make happen. SSF: Tell me, do you still look through a telescope? AF: Only last year, I had purchased two amazing telescopes that I installed here (at AFFA office – SSF). I have not got a chance to try them out. This summer, I will definitely set them up and take my colleagues to look at the cosmic space. That is the deal about telescopes and the Universe – nothing changes up there during human lifespan. When I was a kid, I saw everything that it was possible to see through the telescope which, by the way, I had assembled myself. Nothing has changed up there since then. SSF: There is no point to look twice? AF: Basically, there is. But the thing is that our lifespan is so tiny compared to the speed of the processes taking place in the Universe, therefore, we will not see anything new. The Orion Nebula is, for example, exactly the same as it used to be in my childhood. SSF: Are you surrounded by a lot of happy people? AF: Yes, let us say, I am surrounded by the selection of the happiest people ever. I do not like unhappy people, therefore, they are not around. SSF: Does the nature of activity affect your personal views and preferences in the context of, for instance, choice of clothing? AF: Definitely, and it’s interesting! First of all, it’s important to me that everything that is happening around me affects my inner world. Four years ago, I decided, since I was dealing with fashion, I had to make my look fit in with it. Before that, I had a pair of jeans, a shirt and nothing else. There is a rule of thumb in filling up my closet: outfits should be for different occasions, goals and match up easily. I am my personal image-maker, you can find clothes from 10 designers in my closet, but it is a very specific list compiled by me personally. I want to say that there is a problem in our country with how men dress – no one tries to dress them well and they, men, do not even care about it, therefore, there is nothing to choose from. SSF: What is the most significant event, occasion of this year? AF: I will answer this question with a quote from the movie Dog’s Heart when the seeress was answering the question from the audience: “The most significant event in my life?” She was prompted: “Ahead!” So, it is all ahead!

Interview prepared by Darya Sochneva

Reference: Andy Fiord Fashion Advertising (AFFA) – – is an advertising holding offering clients services in the area of fashion show and event organization, commercial photo and video shooting, brand management, public relations and fashion business. Working globally with luxury brands and leading glossy magazines, AFFA team organizes shootings for Vogue Japan, W Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Louis Vuitton, Interview, ELLE, GQ, Porsche, Apple, Burberry, as well as fashion shows and events for Alberta Ferretti, Blumarine, Iceberg, Trussardi, David Koma, Mary Katrantzou, Philipp Plein, Viktor&Rolf, Ralph Lauren, Missoni, Thom Browne and other fashion houses. The group includes one of Russia’s leading international modeling agencies Andy Fiord Models and its regional department in the north-west, Lukovsky Model Agency. Today, models of AFM and LMA occupy the top positions in the most established rankings of fashion industry, being faces of Prada, Tommy Hilfiger, Chanel, See by Chloe, Calvin Klein, Kenzo, Stella McCartney.