ira tataurova runs & friends, a womenswear shop in saint petersburg, russia. we met through a mutual friend while ira was in new york following her studies at parsons several years ago. she has always had an interesting aesthetic and i've long been obsessed with her tumblr. during her time in nyc, ira was very inspired by the intimate and informal shop culture of new york boutiques. so when she moved back to russia a few years ago she decided to open her own store with a friend who lives in france. ira says there are not many small independent businesses in saint petersburg and that the prices are infinitely higher there. most stores are bigger and more commercial; thus it is harder for a customer to establish a relationship with the staff. & friends was born out of ira's desire to offer customers a small and friendly experience as well as a selection of cool european brands at a reasonable price. more about ira below ~
cultureisland: tell us more about you.
ira tatourova: i grew up in saint petersburg, russia and lived their until i graduated high school. since i was super young my parents always pushed me to study english. so when i graduated high school i moved to ireland to study hotel management. when i was 17 it sounded like a great idea, but soon i realized that this was not for me -- it didn't suit my personality at all and i couldn't imagine working in a hotel for the rest of my life. a summer before my last year i applied to parsons (just a few days before the deadline) and somehow got in. there i studied design & management in paris for 2 years and then transferred to new york. in the end my student visa expired and sadly i had to move back to russia. i always knew i wanted to do something on my own back in saint petersburg. my parents had their own business so they are a great example and support system for me.
cultureisland: tell us more about & friends. where did you get the name and how did the shop come about?
ira: the name & friends comes from the concept behind the store. we wanted to create a small space with a friendly atmosphere, where our customers would feel almost like home. we try to learn their names, some general information about them, their taste, etc. russia is famous for its bad service and a lot of times people are judged on how they are dressed in stores. so our goal was to do things differently. almost everyone i know never shops in the city, unless it is an emergency. people shop when they travel or online. the 2 main reasons for that are very high prices (the markup in russia is usually extremely big) and quality. korean clothes became really popular in the last few years and they are not famous for being well made garments. we made a list of what we wanted in the store and try to stay as close to it as possible. living in new york i loved all the little neighborhood shops around the city. you would go have brunch on a weekend and just spend an afternoon walking around from one store to another. in saint petersburg this kind of culture is just starting so i really wanted to be a part of it. people are still scared of opening a business, but more and more young people take the risk which i find amazing. of course i worry about competition but hearing about a new store popping up always makes me really happy.
cultureisland: what kind of products and brands do you have in the store?
ira: we have women clothes, shoes and accessories. some of the brands we carry include custommade, baum und pferdgarten, won hundred, dress gallery, gertruda, chloe stora for my pant’s and antik batik. we really gravitate towards scandinavian brands since i feel like they have amazing quality and design with a great price point. also their climate is similar to saint petersburg so it's easier to do.
cultureisland: how do you hope to grow the store in the future?
ira: our first goal is to survive the economical recession that is happening in russia right now. but in general i hope to get involved with the community more, get to know local artists, creatives and collaborate with them. also hopefully soon we can do something with menswear since a lot of people have been asking for it. and i absolutely love menswear!
cultureisland: what are your favorite places to see art, shop, get coffee, eat and hang out around st. petersburg?
ira: i’m lucky because saint petersburg has so many museums, the city is a museum itself. so just walking around is amazing. not in the winter though. during winter i mostly hibernate at home. but my favorite museums since i was a child are state hermitage museum of art and culture (it used to be a resident palace for tsar and his family), kunstkamera (the first museum in russia) which is a little freaky since it holds a collection of human and animal fetuses with anatomical deficiencies in jars. some of them are like 300 years old. i also love to walk around the museum of anthropology and the museum of ethnography which are in the same building. in terms of food i usually eat at home because my family always makes the best food or i go somewhere near my house. my favorites are schengen, right place bar, brixton. and for drinks, dead poets and gin tonic. for going out i love dumskaya street, it is full of trashy bars that look like someones apartment. i think they were inspired by similar places in berlin. and it's the best place to go with friends and dance like nobody is watching.
cultureisland: what are some of your favorite websites or magazines for inspiration?
ira: i have a million blogs on my feedly reading list. i also love tumblr and lately i’m into pinterest which i was avoiding for many years. i get all my magazines from le big mag. they have a pretty good collection and some of my favorites are apartmento, cereal, kinfolk, the gentlewoman, and love magazine. lately i've stopped buying magazines. in russia i have to go through a whole process of ordering them online so i stop and think first.
cultureisland: where do you find inspiration?
ira: lately i’ve been really inspired by people around me. i feel like when you have your own business people start sharing advice, their experience or just stories that they think you might relate to. i love it!