"Destinations" met with Fayina Yerenburg, the art director of Davis Casa concept store, for an interesting conversation about design in Ukraine.
Fayina, what are the specific features of Ukrainian design today?
I have a dissenting opinion in terms of Ukrainian design. After the Revolution of Dignity in 2014 in Ukraine interest to ethnical things woke up. And design is no exception. Indeed, a lot was said and written about the Ukrainian design over the last 2 years. Our designers attended international exhibitions. A number of Ukrainians received Red Dot Design Award: Katya Sokolova got it for speakers’ concept, Kuznetsovy - for the concept of doors, Pavel Vetrov - for table concept There is a feeling that the Ukrainian design exists. Recently I’ve placed "The phenomenon of Ukrainian design which does not exist" article in Salon magazine.
In fact, Ukrainian design as a marketing category is absent, and I do not see any problem in this respect. This does not mean that there are no talented Ukrainian designers that can affect our imagination with their creations. There are three national design schools in the world: Italian – it is about beauty, Scandinavian - it is about purity, German – it is about functionalism. That is it. After all, there is no concept of American design, despite the fact that the USA is powerful country and it has bright talented designers. We enter the epoch of post-industrial technologies and the development of cosmopolitanism, and it is ridiculous to speak about emergence of any national design. But anyway, the Ukrainian designers have to develop to enter the world market. There are some manufacturers who will work for Ukrainian design. Our national spirit can give impetus to this development. But we must do a lot of things on this way.
What projects supporting Ukrainian designers are currently in Davis Casa portfolio?
Davis Casa is 23 years old and all these years we have been engaged in the promotion of design in Ukraine. We started in very difficult times when the Soviet Union ceased to exist. We studied and developed together with the market. There are two ways of development: the first one is to offer the market what the consumer wants. At that time, Ukrainian inexperienced customers did not want anything special. People used to purchase the pseudo-classical furniture of low quality. I'm sure there is a gene of taste. It has not been discovered yet. If the person has it, he/she develops rapidly and starts to understand the beauty of things quickly. But there are those who do not have this gene.
That is why we have chosen the second way when we tried to form the market. We got the world trends and to tried to go with them in the same direction. When 20 years ago we brought items of design furniture in Ukraine it was a shock. We were told: “You're crazy.” Imagine, at that time one-bedroom apartment could be bought for 5000 dollars while the bed in Davis Casa cost the same. It was the difficult time. But things are changing.
We implemented a lot of projects to support Ukrainian designers. One project has been in place for 6-7 years already. It is called “Modern interior: the facts, emotions and decisions”. We meet with architects and designers and discuss their projects with the professional audience. We argue, ask questions and get expert opinions. This enables everyone to see how his/her thinking in design is relevant and competitive and how the colleagues perceive it. Davis Casa was the first who released the book about the Ukrainian interior design. We have two books already: “The modern interior - Kiev 2006-2008” and “Modern interior - 2008-2012”. And now we are preparing a third book which will be titled “Modern interior. Ukraine”. It will feature designers from all regions of our country. It will be released in 2017.
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The project which we decided to implement in 2016 to support the Ukrainian designers is called "Miksuem" (we are mixing). In Ukraine there are about 10 good studios that make quite decent design objects in which there is a good mix of idea and quality. We choose 2-3 studios and some their pieces of furniture and held mixed exhibitions of these items combining them with high Italian, German and Ukrainian design. We want to show that these pieces can coexist and look organically. It is evident that our objects in their quality do not discord with German and Italian high-tech products. During a year we will have 4 such mixes. The first one was in March 2016. Such studios as “The Field”, “Woo” and Olexii Karman were represented over there. While this exhibition the architects met their colleagues and potential customers and talked about the quality of these items, the warranty on the products and delivery terms. These consumer characteristics are very important. And it was quite interesting. The exhibition lasted for 1 month. We leave some items from every studio in Davis Casa and sell them.
Is there any demand for Ukrainian object design among the foreign audience?
There are no so many foreigners in Ukraine now who furnish their homes. The brand means a lot for them. But of course, some of them purchase small items of Ukrainian design. The prices are acceptable.
When will the Ukrainian object design be competitive with the European one?
If we talk of design I might say that we hopelessly drag behind Europe in terms of production base. The equipment is there, but there is no culture of design, no one understands what is good and what the quality of the product is. A new generation of manufacturers must grow and there is a need to catch up with the European design in technology. We need to educate and to invest into the future designers. The design will exist. We need to avoid the category of Ukrainian design but to call it Ukrainian product.
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There is cultural design code in Ukraine. It is the desire to surprise and the feeling of freedom. This can rather form gallery design, not industrial one. To compete globally in the sphere of design you need to create something amazing. It is impossible to compete only with the low price, it is primitive. And our gallery design can be really competitive and special.
What gallery designers would you recommend?
I would name Yuri Zimenko and Victoria Yakusha. They are interesting in this sense. Maybe we will do the next mix in Davis Casa with them and will show a slightly different angle of design.
What advice would you give to our designers?
We must learn and must be creative. There is such a thing as “underlayer thinking” in marketing. This is when I start to think about my product from the consumer’s point of view. And this method should be used by our designers. For more than 20 years we travelled a long way and we did it by quick steps. But there is still a long way ahead and we need to move quickly. We need to research the global trends, such as avoiding monostyle and mixing different technics and styles. There are conflicting trends that coexist harmoniously, like high technology, ergonomics and natural materials, care about environment and prudent use of natural resources. I understand that in poor countries people don’t pay much attention to such things. And now Ukraine is a poor country. BUT I agree with the statement of Vyacheslav Vakarchuk (famous Ukrainian singer): “We have to think about Ukraine as of a country of our children, but not our parents”. We must look to the future and make our country better. And this applies to all spheres of life.
Interviewed by Anna Vishtak