Natasha: Max, wait, let me record this! I have to properly interview you at least once! But first let’s introduce you to our readers. Tell me, how did it all begin?
Max: It all started eight years ago. I was tired of Russia, of my lawyer’s degree, of the bad weather. So I packed a suitcase and moved to Milan. Instantly got a job as a consultant at Studio Zeta showroom which carried dozens of brands. I worked so hard that in no time became the best, I worked directly with different boutiques, chose new brands, started going to Paris and New York, picking out clothes for stores. About three years ago, during my friend’s wedding I met a girl that worked in Russian Glamour, as soon as she found out I was planning to make a trip to the Big Apple, she asked me to write a piece on the Fashion Nigh Out party, as well as one on the Fashion Week. I had to shoot everything exclusively with my iPhone, the era of Instagram was just beginning. When I saw the editorial and my pictures on the pages of a fashion magazine, my head started spinning from all the joy! That’s how I found my calling.
Murad: Natasha told me that you became famous because of your snaps from fashion shows all over the world…
Max: True, true, I bought professional equipment and started going to all the shows. Used all my wits to get inside where all the true action happened, the last thing I wanted to be is another street style photographer/stalker who just stand outside. I craved the exclusive! Don’t get me wrong, there was no shortage of photographers inside, the old dogs who shoot on autopilot, without giving it another thought, the don’t really care what the public or the brands need. I tried to capture the most interesting details, find new angles and new perspectives unseen before.
Natasha: I remember you told me how hard it was to get invited inside at the very beginning… It’s really surprising how people still perceive fashion as something easy, fun and glittery!
Max: It was hard! The first few years I worked almost always for free, the travelling expenses all came out of my own pocket, no one introduced me to anybody, I myself had to get all the bloggers’ and designers’ contacts. As you know, communications is a hard and tiresome process.
Natasha: So how did you come up with an idea of creating your own brand Fashion To Max?
Max: At that time I was still working for Russian Glamour but I was already feeling the need for a change, I knew I had to start something of my own of a more international caliber. I had to evolve, so I came up my own platform - Fashion To Max that was one of the few first ones that delivered live footage from shows all over the world.
Natasha: Do you remember your website’s first post?
Max: Of course! We did a shoot with Chiara Ferragni. It was a very bright project. I dressed her in clothes by Russian designers: A la Russe, Alexander Terekhov, Kira Plastinina…
Natasha: Wow! That’s quite a start!
Max: It sure was, the shoot created quite a buzz, which only increased the popularity of the site. By the way, Chiara and I randomly met at a Kenzo show. Somehow started talking, ditched the rest of the shows that day and went to some coffee shop in the outskirts of the city, where we chatted all evening all with her and her ex Riccardo.
I randomly met Chiara Ferragni, we went to some coffee shop in the outskirts of the city, where we chatted all evening...
Natasha: From what I understand you have close friendships with a few fashion bloggers.
Max: Yes, we are all very close, often involved in the same projects. At one point a few popular bloggers even wrote for my website, but right now Fashion To Max’s format has changed: it morphed into this fashion magazine about people, events and trends. But I never stop broadening my horizons. Soon, we are going to launch new projects like Beauty To Max and Travel To Max (about fashionable travel). We never cease to modernise, constantly come up with something new, hire new talents - I already have staff of thirty.
Natasha: Impressive! That is a lot of people to have working for you! How do you choose your team? It is not the easiest task to find like minded people who are also professionals.
Max: I always refresh my human resources, look for people in Asia, the States, Latin America… Everywhere and anywhere! The guys are extremely talented, but they don’t have any exposure, so I provide them with a chance to make a career. This one time I got an Instagram message from this Australian guy, he asked me if I needed a videograph. I took one look at his stuff and signed a contract with him on that same day! Now he goes everywhere with me, creating a portfolio so good that he could find a new job in seconds.
Natasha: At what point did the brands started coming to you?
Max: That first, most important step, after which everything just clicked, was for sure the Valentino project. I worked with them for a long time. And for them it was definitely a risk, they haven’t trusted anyone to create their Internet content in a long while. Every photo and video you see on their social networks during the Fashion Weeks is our doing. We weren’t afraid to take a risk and now we have a very successful and fruitful relationship with Valentino. Versace, Armani, Elie Saab, Brian Atwood, they all followed soon after. Do you know why I was late today? Because I got a call from Stefano Gabbana, he offered me a year contract with them! I’m genuinely over the moon happy about the fact that I managed to create lasting and trustful relationships with iconic designers and simply extremely talented people.
Do you know why I was late today? Because I got a call from Stefano Gabbana, he offered me a year contract with them!
Murad: Is there any jealousy between all these brands?
Max: There is a little. (Laughs) But they are all so unique that the projects we create for them are all very different, so there really isn’t a reason to get jealous.
Natasha: What is the most important thing about the social media?
Max: I think immediacy. It is very important that the reader feels the moment, the atmosphere of “right now and right here”. We post our videos on the day of the shoot. The show just started but we already have dozens of snaps on our Instagram. Yesterday is for the lazies.
Natasha: Tell me, what’s your main priority right now?
Max: The most important thing - our website Fashion To Max. We also want to develop our YouTube channel. Do you have a strong video-content?
Murad: Actually, we posted our first video not so long ago and it already has over a million views! But we haven’t gotten the gist of it just yet. It’s just that a few years back YouTube was all the rage and then it all kind of died. But now it’s starting to gain interest again…
Natasha: Let’s get back to fashion! Max, do you have any advice for how to get into the fashion industry? Is it determined by connections, a chance meeting, money?
Max: Of course not! Everything comes from extremely hard work. That’s exactly how I got myself noticed, I worked 15 hours a day, published project after project, never stopped. Unfortunately today it is even harder to get in, to become a part of this world. Before there was a very clear road to walk - street style. A road successfully walked by cult personas like Miroslava Duma and Anna Dello Russo… Right now this field is so highly competitive that it stopped being popular. The social networks though, they stole the spotlight. Thanks to the Internet my project gained recognition, just like yours. Just 15-20 years ago I would’ve had to walk a very different path: start out as an assistant at some magazine and slowly climb that ladder in one of the fashion publishing houses giants.
Unfortunately today it is even harder to get in, to become a part of this world. Before there was a very clear road to walk - street style
Natasha: That didn’t sound so cheerful! (Laughs) Okay, so let’s talk more fashion. Tell us about your favourite secret shopping spots!
Max: Actually, I almost never spend any time on shops.
Natasha: How is that?
Max: I’ve come to realise one very important thing - my luggage is my wardrobe. I need the exact amount of clothes that I can easily fit into a suitcase. Right now that doesn’t work. I have over a hundred pairs of shoes alone!
Murad: I have one pair! (Laughs)
Natasha: That is so not true! Stop talking nonsense!
Max: For instance, right now I’ve been travelling for two months in a raw. I have both a smoking for Cannes, trunks for Rio, leather jackets for New York and Moscow, a suite for my friend’s wedding in St Barts and snickers for walking in Istanbul. All that just for one trip! If I buy any more I’ll go mad. The only place where I just can’t help myself is New York. Here I can easily go to the more low key stores like Topshop or Urban Outfitters.
Natasha: Max, what place would you call your home?
Max: Our official headquarters are in Milan. But if I talk about me and me only then I’d have to say that I have three native countries: Italy, the United States and Brazil. Russia on the other hand has become very foreign to me. Yes, I was born there, but I don’t feel free. Except when I came to your wedding last year, Moscow has opened up to me from a completely different side. Maybe because both the weather and the company were lovely. I especially like the Patriarchi ponds area - a very New York kind of place: stylish crowd, cute cafés, parks everywhere, cyclists, runners… But still, eight months without sunshine - not my thing. Considering how I just came from the best beaches of Mexico!
Murad: Max, did you know that it’s actually quite sunny in Makhachkala! (Laughs)
Natasha: We actually had our second wedding there. But I’d very much like to get back to your travels. Share with us your top favourite spots of the world.
Max: I adore Rio, when it’s not the tourist season. I like the view of the Ipanema Beach with its twin hills and the Fasano hotel with a breathtaking view of the ocean and the mountains. I feel quite comfortable in Tenerife. The last time you and I were there Victoria’s Secret models and Bob Sinclair was sunbathing next to us. Truthfully, I love the combination of something blunt, colourfully national, with a celebrity level luxury. I love the south of Italy, the Greek island of Mykonos and the Spanish Formentera (not far from Ibiza). I’m also starting to warm up to Mexico. (Laughs)
Murad: Enjoyed your trip?Max: You bet I did! I already feel how Mexico is slowly finding its way into my heart. I visited the Tulum village – it’s exceptionally beautiful there, the sea like at the Maldives, and the restaurants serve the most delicious food. Mexico City - a crazy town with an unbelievable flair. I’ve also stayed at the Four Seasons at Punta de Mita. Basically it’s like heaven on Earth! I’m very hard to please, but if I do fall in love with some place that probably going to last forever.