It’s early evening and Olya Kuryshchuk is busy online via Teams sharing valuable life advice. That includes: work smart, never take the easy option – and drink lots of water.
She’s speaking from Scotland, one of a number of places round the world she’s been based during the pandemic. It’s no problem for her. The Ukrainian-born creative is happy just about anywhere, as long as the wi-fi works.
Since 2011, Kuryshchuk has transformed 1 Granary from a blog for herself and friends at London’s Central Saint Martins into a multi-dimensional organisation spanning everything from an engaging website (recently redesigned and relaunched – and the reason we’re talking now) through to adventurous recruitment schemes. “We had no plan in the beginning,” she laughs. “We just created loads of content. There were never big ambitions; we just wanted to promote our friends.”
Next up (and another reason for our conversation) is an innovative joint venture with fashion group 247, which has showrooms in Milan and Paris. Child is the name of their jointly run agency, described as a “support system for exceptional young designers”. It’s intended to be a safe space for creative individuals to nurture and promote their work. “From day one, we help designers build their team and figure out the direction they want to take,” she explains. “We’re basically like a second person to the designer.” It’s early days, but Kuryshchuk has actually been working on it discreetly for several months and an eclectic Instagram account (@childagencylondon) already has 14k followers.
While at Central Saint Martins, Kuryshchuk recognised the struggles design students faced. She set up 1 Granary’s blog from her bedroom. “While I was studying for my fashion design BA, we just started shooting student collections. At that time no one did that,” she says. The first issue of the print magazine was sponsored by Comme des Garçons, the Japanese design label’s CEO Adrian Joffe being famously impressed by her youthful energy. Now 1 Granary connects with 32 fashion schools worldwide, including London’s Royal College of Art, Parsons The New School in New York and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp.
Kuryshchuk is a livewire personality, constantly brainstorming new ways to support struggling talent. Void, an international initiative she created in 2017, was designed to bring together young designers and established industry names in exclusive collaborations. It has nurtured a series of partnerships, exhibitions and events. Designers who have benefited from Void include Chopova Lowena, Charlotte Knowles and 419 Collective. “Doing exhibitions was amazing. It was so nice to actually physically see the designers and all the audience reacting to it,” she says.
Since its digital launch, the founder has pushed for 1 Granary’s online presence to be a canvas for individuality. “With the website, it was easier to go clean and minimal just because that’s how it felt easiest for people to fill in their own aesthetics,” she says. Now it’s been redesigned. “We wanted the platform to represent not so much a change, but a progression for 1 Granary. We were 1 Granary 1.0, now we want to be 1 Granary 1.2.” Kuryshchuk explains.
Moving away from a distinct parakeet green and white, the site now boasts a sleeker, more sophisticated, monochrome palette. But the founder is still adamant about sticking to her original ethos. “When we set up the [1 Granary] blog, we wanted it to feel fun and inviting,” she says. “I would often feel like an intruder when visiting these huge publications and their websites, like I was a spy that didn’t belong amongst the professionals and would get kicked out for not being ‘cool’ enough. So, it was important that 1 Granary never did, and never will, feel that way.”
Running – and sustaining – a largely digital publication throughout a pandemic is no small feat, yet 1 Granary has thrived and plans to publish its one annual print edition this coming autumn. “At first, I would stay up all night worrying about 1 Granary’s future,” she says. “But we managed to pull through pretty easily.”
The lack of coffee meetings during lockdown has been a relief, she admits. “To me, it just feels more relaxed and so much less hierarchical now. Over the phone, nobody cares about how where you sit, what time we’re meeting or what you’re wearing. Before, I had so many people asking to take me out for coffee. Which can be so draining! Why are we dragging people out for coffee when we can just Whatsapp a quick sentence?”
She’s supportive of her team and was happy when online editor Natassa Stamouli opted to work from Greece, her home country. But she is always pushing for more – not least from herself. “Sometimes you need to be your own push. If you don’t push yourself, then you don’t get higher.”
Fortunately, the website restyle has landed in time for the launch of 1 Granary’s latest initiative. Dreamers is a project launched in collaboration with McQ, partnering aspiring creatives with the names they look up to most – names the programme refers to as ‘Heroes’. In a series of impromptu mentoring sessions, one-to-one conversations and deeply personal interviews, the likes of fashion designer Bianca Saunders and photographer Ronan McKenzie open up and share their advice with young visionaries looking to break into their prospective industries. “This project isn’t just a case of sharing business advice,” Kuryshchuk continues. “It’s about forming true and, hopefully, lasting connections between creators across the globe.”