The Art of Fashion

With a list of clients and collaborators that includes Chanel, Tiffany & Co. and Kendall Jenner, Miso has established an impressive network of fashion A-listers. 

Stanislava Pinchuk is never in the same place for too long. “Being on the road alone is a really happy place for me,” says the 28-year-old, known to most simply as Miso. “I’m quite restless in one place. Once I have a small bag I can just go forever.”

Travel isn’t just an impulse for Melbourne-based Pinchuk – who has garnered an international reputation for her delicate pinhole drawings on paper, homemade tattoos and commissions for the likes of fashion houses Chanel, Tiffany & Co. and high-profile models such as Cara Delevingne, Bella Hadid, Joan Smalls and Kendall Jenner – but rather, a defining thread. The last 12 months alone have seen her make multiple stops in cities as disparate as Los Angeles, New York, Kiev, Tokyo, Lisbon, Tangier, Sydney, Adelaide and her birth city of Kharkov in Ukraine. 

Her art comes from a similarly diverse set of influences. The subtle works on paper that populated recent exhibitions such as Surface To Air (Karen Woodbury Gallery, 2015) and Fallout (Hugo Michell Gallery, 2016) may have proven beautiful, but their bearings were found in Pinchuk’s ongoing investigations into international conflict zones and sites of nuclear disaster.  

“I’m very interested in the way the land changes and the way the land retains memory,” says Pinchuk, chatting over coffee in her light-filled home/studio, set atop 19th century horse stables in a narrow Carlton laneway. “We think of it as something quite solid beneath our feet…[but] being from the Ukraine and being from the border, you realise how malleable that ground is.”

While Surface To Air saw her render both the rise and fall of the landscape and the arcing trajectories of missiles from the Ukrainian Civil War, Pinchuk created Fallout after visiting the Fukushima nuclear exclusion zone surrounding the stricken Daiichi power plant in Japan – her photographs and pinhole drawings describing the efforts to contain a contaminated landscape.

But her artwork is anything but gloomy. She understands the process of using more “feminine” materials and techniques as speaking to a different experience of conflict, citing a “very long history” of women using textiles to depict times of struggle, from American Civil War quilts and Afghan war rugs to French Bayeux tapestry. “Women have actually recorded very intimate experiences and understandings of conflict through relatively domestic means,” she says. Her artwork may refer to sombre events, but it does so with a quiet beauty and elegance. 

Despite her success, Pinchuk’s relationship to the art world has never been a conventional one. Having emigrated to Australia with her parents as a 10-year-old, she spent her childhood “drawing” and “making”, all the while believing that she would one day work as a fashion designer or patternmaker. She went on to gain a philosophy degree at university, all the while making a name for her architecturally scaled paintings, wall drawings and collages. Art school was never on her radar.

“Having a philosophy degree really taught me how to think and to write and to read,” she says, smiling. “It gave me this general knowledge of context – of movements, of references, of history, of thought.”

While she places her artwork at “the very top of the creative pyramid”, she actively enjoys working on fashion, personal and tattoo commissions, which she often undertakes as a trade for anything from a home-cooked meal or a bottle of whiskey to a painting (she once tattooed Florence Welch, of Florence and the Machine fame, in exchange for a song). She describes her renowned fashion clients as “incredibly cool and facilitating” and loves the challenge of working in other contexts, especially textiles. 

She also loves the independence it brings her as creative soul. “It’s really important to do things as independently as you can,” she says, grinning as she recalls a quote from famed German filmmaker Werner Herzog. “Don’t rely on anyone else’s money. Don’t work in an office. Be the bouncer in a sex club. Get a job where you see humanity.” A pause. “That idea really changed my life.” 

Most importantly, independence has enabled Pinchuk to travel and to plant seeds in new lands. Amidst all her expeditions, Tokyo has emerged as a kind of creative beacon – an ever-transforming home away from home. 

“It’s such an amazing city if you’re a visual person, because everything is so intensely visual but also just changing all the time,” she says, contemplating the thought. “I love a place that is equal parts really wild and really conservative – it’s that quietness and chaos.”