Russian-born art director Elena Aryshtaeva’s passion for creative work predated the social and visual networks replete with her inspirations today. Before earning degrees in biology from Russian State Agrarian University and in graphic design from the Art Institute of Seattle, she had an affinity for drawing (which is pretty handy when developing mood boards). Believing that life was too short to not take a leap, she ventured to the U.S. on her own. As a freelancer with a career built upon conceptualizing visual ideas, her work registers as style stories indelibly attuned to detail and clarity.
What are your preshoot preparations?
I start with a concept, and from there I always try to develop it into a story. I collect inspiration online—photography, lighting, styling, mood, hair and makeup. I check Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, fashion blogs, and magazines. I usually compile everything I find into a folder or a Pinterest board, I sketch my concept and story along the way, and then refine it into a mood board that lends an explanation to the story and summarizes the inspiration I collected.
What item(s) are you currently swooning over—something you either have or want?
I just bought Adidas Superstar white high-tops that I am super excited about. I have a lot of black, white, gray, and beige monotones in my closet and these sneakers go with almost everything. I also just purchased a pair of white denim destroyed boyfriend jeans.
What stylist's work do you admire ?
What music do you like to play on set?
I usually ask the models what they would like to listen to. It’s really important that a model feels comfort and is inspired and having fun. On my first shoot, the photographer asked the model what inspires her, and she found her favorite music and the process of the shoot went really well.
What’s your most memorable shoot experience?
It was for my friend Volya Dzemka, a Belarusian folk singer and documentary filmmaker, who needed a poster for her upcoming documentary. The film is inspired by her heritage, culture, and personal experience, which I can relate to being that I was born and raised in Eastern Europe as well.
Your work seems to be influenced by your cultural identity. What is your take on Gosha Rubchinskiy, the biggest designer out of Russia right now?
He's a designer who I really respect and relate to. A lot of his influences are from twenty-first century Russia, Cold War nostalgia, Russian constructivism, and exoticization of the east, which are all relevant to my life and upbringing in Russia. That’s why I respect what Gosha does. He tells the story of his generation, without trying to shock or please anyone.
What are three pieces you think every woman should have in her closet?
Classic black heels, little black dress, and black skinny jeans.
Are you for comfortability or taking risks?
My personal style at the moment is pretty minimalistic and comfortable, but it took some experimentation to find that. I think it’s good to take risks sometimes, or all the time, as long as you’re having fun with that and it doesn't travel too far beyond the mood or occasion.