Vse Ravno Lubov: More Than Just A Brand
I’ve reached out to Alexey Artyushin who recently started his own clothing brand with one of his friends and co-founders – Lera. Official brand Instagram page now has more than a thousand followers with many of them being both supporters of the idea behind the brand and those lucky ones who already got some of the goods.
In a short interview Alexey shares a story of how he got the idea of creating his own brand, both good and bad experiences he had while working on it and his plans for the future.
My name is Alexey Artyushin and I’m one of the founders of the brand “Всё равно любовь / Vse Ravno Lubov”. I am currently a third-year student studying at Higher School of Economics.
I was really hesitant and spent a lot of time thinking about the major I wanted to choose and, just in general, what I wanted to do in life. And I ended up choosing “Sociology and Social Informatics”. I became a lot more confident studying here and felt like I finally was free to do what I wanted. During my freshman year I was working on several projects connected with the topic of LGBTQ+ community, read and learnt quite a lot about this community and its culture. So, I guess, even just me choosing this major had an influence on me deciding to create my own brand.
Summer of 2018 was a really rough time for me. That was also when this thought of “You don’t have to be sorry for what you feel” crossed my mind. I used it as a caption to one of my posts on Instagram, but back then I couldn’t even imagine that one day there will be dozens of people, including me, wearing T-shirts with this exact phrase.
It is really scary to identify yourself as homosexual in Russia and I personally think that this feeling of simply not being safe is one of the worst things majority of LGBTQ+ community members have to experience. It’s just unfair, isn’t it? And I simply don’t want any of them to be scared of being who they are or scared of what they feel.
My personal opinion is that homophobia is reinforced in the environment where people are just being ignorant and pretend nothing is happening. As Ekaterina Shulman says: “We are afraid of those things we don’t see”. Which is why, I believe, there have to be brands like ours. I believe that through our products and activities we might reach out to those people who feel like they are just lost and alone and remind them that they are not alone. Remind them that they are worthy of love, life and acceptance. Make them feel like they are important.
I really hope that one day we will be living in a world where LGBTQ+ is not considered something strange and unusual. I just want LGBTQ+ community members all around the world, including Russia, to live with no fear.
Even though the idea was already there in our heads, we started working on our brand, in a way, by chance. Me and my friend Lera wanted to make a collaboration for my VK community and create something which is why we decided to make T-shirts. I had this idea of a video in my head and told Lera about it. She was really supportive and by bringing ideas of both of us together we created our first design with two guys kissing each other while crying.
Then I posted a story on my Instagram account asking all of my followers if they could donate some money to help us bring this whole idea to life – that’s how we raised money to actually rent a studio to film a video, buy materials for T-shirts, etc. For a whole summer (of 2018) we were working on it, coming up with new ideas, changing some details, planning. We filmed a video (it was just me, Lera and one of our mutual friends to work as an MUA) in August and officially started this whole thing in September.
One year later, we also decided to launch a new collection – this time, bags. We worked really hard on it because this time the scale was even bigger, but what was different is that we were already experienced in this area and I met a lot of talented people who could help us. One of them, Ivan Vydumlev – creator of a film "SAINT-PETERSDRAG", agreed to assist us on the set for the new video idea that I had. And it was amazing. A lot of people – both friends of me and Lera came, the atmosphere on the set was just incredible.
We try to just ignore those negative comments we get, but, luckily, that rarely happens. We get a lot more positive comments and there are a lot of people who are ready to support us.
Our brand was featured in many publications of various VK communities, both “The Vyushka” and «Higher School of Equality» published articles about us. In August of 2019 we participated in a fair that took place in Sevkabel port, In November we also collaborated with Side by Side – the only LGBTQ+ film festival in Russia. People could get our products by participating in a giveaway that was held the day before the actual festival.
We keep creating new videos, keep posting new photos and try to always be in touch with our followers. There are moments when it is a bit scary to do all of this, but we know that we are doing the right thing and try to share positivity. Our message is all about kindness and acceptance that some people are in need for.
I just want to say that it is extremely important to just be yourself. It is hard and hurtful to live in the world where your sexual identity can be considered “wrong” when in reality there is no such things as “right” or “wrong”, no clear division between “them” and “us”. In fact, there is no “them”, it’s just “us”. “Us” – the people. And it’s time to just live our lives as we want to. Time to feel loved and accepted. We need to always support those people around us and work together to create this atmosphere, where everyone can feel safe and worthy.