Creator Series introduces the individuals who are using their inspiration and talent to push football culture forward.
Aside from lining-up for Girlpower FC, Yana Davydova is a ground-hopping photographer/writer with a keen interest in football and fashion's crossovers.
How was your experience of the World Cup?
My personal experience has been great, because it has brought a lot of professional opportunity. Being a multidisciplinary photographer with a strong personal interest for football, I often fell as a first choice for brands like Adidas and Nike when it came to producing work for them. And to my surprise, we had plenty of creative freedom, so we were able to present our vision
I’ve also appeared in a cool Nike film about amateur football, which turned out to be a big festival piece. COPA90 also made a really cool initiative bringing together female football fans including myself in a public discussion, and where I’ve, for example, met Felicia Pennant, Amy from This Fan Girl, and we had a very nice and productive conversation and discussed future opportunities after. Without the World Cup happening these topics would not get as much attention on their own, so it was great for me personally, I have met a lot of new people, and was able to showcase and establish myself through my work and various public appearances as well.
Was it seen as a success in Russia?
For sure. I was in a pub in Riga the other day, and overheard the conversation of a British guy who was telling his local mate that he just came back spending a month in Russia for the WC and it was the best experience of his life. I’ve heard such feedback from many people, especially foreigners. I know for sure that it was one of the best organised WC, just because Russians like to show off on large sport/cultural events, so Moscow probably was the safest city to be at the time of the WC. I think the main success is that guests finally were introduced to Russia and its people, because the foreign media coverage prior was really negative, so a lot of fans were scared to come, but those who did are now sharing stories that it’s actually safe and fun and we are just as normal and friendly as people can be. There has been, of course few initiatives ran while people were watching FIFA, such as raising retirement age etc., so it is safe to say that it has become a success for the government as well.
But also tournament-wise, it was pretty spectacular, and even though there were many games which dragged 120+ minutes, especially Russia-Croatia, there were plenty of beautiful goals, and it was really interesting to see how VAR will come in to play. I think it makes the game fair, and eliminates human error, which can be devastating especially if made in the final games and can turn the game around, so I think it’s rather a good initiative.
Who's your team?
I am not from Russia, so honestly I do not have an emotional connection for the national team, so I was looking at the overall performance and was choosing teams as the tournament unveiled. I really enjoyed watching Iran, Croatia, and Uruguay. I thought Portugal vs Spain was a great game. If we are talking about clubs, it’s Torpedo Moscow, FC Liverpool, and I sympathise with Juventus as well. I was born in a small city in Kazakhstan, and my family wasn’t really fond of football, so I was raised without the club, but I have consciously made my choice later on in life, which for some can seem as non-authentic, but I think in a contemporary world our backgrounds allow for such fluidity of choice, which to me, is normal.
I visited Anfield this May, there were no games played, but I still had a great time at the empty stadium, just being there, and photos from there ended up in my book, so I have a strong connection. I think LFC now is the strongest it’s ever been, with an amazing manager, great new player purchases and their open play style is so captivating to watch. I am very charmed by them and happy that my club is doing so well.
How did you get into Girl Power FC?
Last year I have finally put an end to my two year long traveling fashion weeks as a photographer and editor, and was looking for next thing. I have found myself in Moscow for the first time actually “staying” somewhere for over two week period, so I realised that while I am at it, why don’t I look for a way to return sport back to my life? At that time I had a legitimate four-year break from football since I have competed on high school level in Kiev, because uni and work/travel made it impossible to commit to a team. So I started doing research, and found myself in GPFC.
From the first practice I was impressed with their training grounds right at the Luzhniki, and the charisma of the founder and also my coach, Vladimir. Later on, not only did I find a place where I am able to train three times a week for two hours, but also a great community of people, and even a creative and work opportunity with the nature of GirlPower FC being a project. So we were doing events with adidas during the World Cup, I’ve shot a look book of our new kit which went on SoccerBible and VOGUE, and there are a lot of ideas for the future, such as doing merch etc. I just love how this becomes our way to speak and create the culture of amateur female football which has not really existed before and we are able to represent it in our own way. Right now I am reducing my practice time, because football is not necessarily a healthy sport, my knees and back really hurt, so I am taking the activity itself easier, but really want to use that time to work on projects around it.
What/who inspires you?
People around me. I am blessed with having an amazing circle which constantly feeds me with ideas and thus brings an inspiration which actually turns into projects. After quitting pretty much all of the fashion work, or only working on my terms, doing as personal as commercial projects can get, I now feel a constant stream of inspiration, because I am doing what I love. So doing that and working in that beam is what really inspires me at the moment. It’s banal to say, but it’s a feeling of love, for people, for projects, for the subject matter etc..
I’ve just put together an event at which I performed, and I’ve never been on “the other side” before, I was usually behind the camera separating myself from the world, and that time I was the show, and it was an amazing new experience when you make a crazy decision to sing at your book presentation, work on putting all pieces together and then you just walk on the stage to purely enjoy yourself, share your energy and receive it back. So that experience was really inspirational too.
What have you got coming up?
Actually a lot. I have just released my most grandiose personal project up to date, which is a book featuring my photography and verbal impressions I got from visiting London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Brighton this may. As you can guess, the book is football related, it features Anfield, Hampden Park and Falmer stadium, but the book itself is rather about moving, seeing and manifesting my personal experience through text and photography. It grew to be a project about off-peak activities and traveling, which was marked by the presentation in Moscow, at which I performed British songs and launched personal merch. Now it’s growing in scale, soon there will be re-edition for the western market and more events, next one being my concert/launch event followed by the photography exhibition in Saint Petersburg.
We are discussing an off-peak clothing line with my sister, which is going to be an alternative home wear and I really want to focus it around women being present with themselves and in a moment, and do an impressive presentation on a scale of a museum performance with a piece of video documentary work surrounding it, so there is a lot of ambition in that and I really want to execute it over the next couple of months.
What excites me the most is change in a notion of the authenticity. I am constantly having this conversation with myself, how do I feel about this fluidity within the culture, to an extent that there is no real 'culture' left.
I’ve already mentioned some of the projects for my club, GPFC, such as march, which will also be not just apparel, but a story of our vision of amateur female football culture told through the objects, my photography and art direction.
Music is definitely staying with me, I want to record live videos and perhaps start putting together original material. I am also modeling and consulting a couple of friendly lingerie and swimwear brands promoting inclusivity and introducing variety of sizes, so it’s seems like a lot of stuff going on in all the directions, but I also want to show through my personal experience that if this is something you are interested in and if that’s what makes you happy, there is no borders, just go out and do it. If you wanna model lingerie today, then launch a photography book tomorrow, after attending Torpedo home game and yoga class in a morning, it all can co-exist and there is no limit to what one is capable of.
I actually get so much feedback on my social media of people being inspired and amazed observing someone doing things, so I also start seeing it as my mission, and if my personal lifestyle can make someone’s mood better and motivation up, I am humbled and content. I also discover a lot of things as I go myself, but if I haven’t done it, I would never know, simple as that.
What excites you about the crossover in football and fashion?
What excites me the most is change in a notion of the authenticity. I am constantly having this conversation with myself, how do I feel about this fluidity within the culture, to an extent that there is no really “culture” left, there are now performances, happenings and news. People like Virgil, due to not having “proper” football background are, on the other hand, are not limited by the past notion and are able to, without any sentimental value, express their vision of football upon request from a big brand. So it is as open as never before, I notice myself struggling with finding the way I feel about it, but I notice that I feel rather accepting.
This is the current reality we are facing, everyone has opinion and vision they are expressing, and nothing is sacred anymore, we have to deal with it. I am pretty tired of people hating the un-authentic, because it is a lot of energy being wasted instead of doing what is an “authentic” product. I am speaking on behalf of myself mainly, because I would get so frustrated and upset seeing lousy, in my opinion, collaborations just exploiting football due to the hype around FIFA and Russia, and I couldn’t look at any more of USSR collaborations and seeing creatives having no desire to go deeper into the subject. Then I just started sort of minding my own business, asking myself, why does it affect me so much and what are the consequences? So I have decided that this is destructive to me so I am now in a process of producing something that I would like and enjoy the process.
Having background in both fashion and football, as well as art and photography, it’s an interesting mix, so I am super sensitive and aware to what is happening around, as well as accepting and productive and trying not to get overwhelmed and rather convert this energy into something positive.
Where do you think the scene is going next?
I am really curious at looking at how art world is also entering this, with publications like OOF and SEPP, SHUKYU, exhibitions like the one at the Naughton Gallery. I experience a whole range of emotions from looking at such work, and on one hand it may miss that traditional and “authentic” approach to a subject matter, sometimes treating football as something purely aesthetic, but on the other hand the language that is finally used to express within this subject is so relatable to me as a contemporary creative within this industry, and I am glad that it is presented in such way I am able to relate and understand. I also think football is not what it used to be before, so this is a logical and in my opinion, even more honest representation of the current reality.
Looking at the technology coming in place is also really exciting, I am waiting for the day when players gonna have kits with motion sensors and you can pick the color and style of what they are wearing while watching the game in real time. It’s gonna open so many creative opportunities. Also I wanna get closer and observe what is happening in the USA, because anything that is successful there, is successful to an extreme, so the future of football is definitely already happening there, it helps them being cleaner from the rigid “culture”, female football is equally as popular there, and you are still able to see Rooney and Zlatan performing miracles on the pitch, so MLS is a really exciting scene to observe growing.