Ukranian photographer Yurko Dyachyshyn first met the style icon, Slavik, on the streets of Lviv, and decided to photograph the wide and colorful styles of this unusual homeless man. After two years of chance meetings and more than 100 portraits, the "Slavik's Fashion" project gathered enough evidence to prove once more that style doesn't necessarily have anything to do with money or trends.
Who is Slavik?
Slavik is 55 years old. He is a homeless gypsy but not an ordinary one. His way of life is different from that of other homeless. He does not carry lots of bags, nor does he rummage in the trash cans. He does not talk to other homeless and other gypsies have abandoned him.
Slavik almost never wears the same clothing, which is very strange for a homeless man. Besides a daily change of outfit (sometimes twice), he changes his hairdo and his style of beard regularly and shaves his armpits. How is this possible for a homeless person? He has a shelter which is not known to anybody. He keeps it in secret.
Slavik always fiddles around the city and asks things of random people, but he is not annoying. He regularly drinks alcohol, mostly beer, but he is not an alcoholic.
How did you meet him? How did the project evolve?
All my daily life and creative work is tightly bound to the central (old) part of the city. The central part of Lviv, just like similar places in other cities, is a magnet for everyone. There are always lots of people and events, tourists, various eccentrics, and Slavik was among them. I noticed him long before, constantly seeing him in the street, but I did not want to deflect my attention away from another project I was working on and at the start I did not know what would come out of it. Later I noticed him changing clothes daily and decided just to capture his clothes.
All Photos (over 100 different portraits) have been taken at occasional meetings for two past years. I might meet Slavik every day or once in a few weeks or even months. I gave him some money for each picture (about $1). Later he got so used to me, that he tried to find me himself, knowing the places where I usually spend time, and I wondered around the places where I could come across him. It was impossible to do it otherwise, because you cannot make plans with him.
Slavik really does have a unique feel for fashion. What does he think about fashion & style?
Slavik is a freak, so he does not communicate adequately and his answers are not entirely clear. To all my questions about clothes and why he does it, he replies that things are vanity and that you can find lots of things in the trash. Slavik says that man should care about staying healthy and avoid breaking one’s peace of mind. But despite such indifferent answers, Slavik still has the feeling of beauty, style and fashion. His clothes are not random and it is by no accident that he changes them every day, adapting his style to suit the weather and season.
What do you think about fashion & style?
I don’t follow fashion and fashion or trends. As I am a photographer, convenience and comfort are the most important for me. Comfortable shoes are also important for me, because I walk on foot a lot. However, I love beautiful accessories, such as scarves and handkerchiefs.
Fashion is a business and permanent manipulation on our wallets, while a super-high-quality shirt, which you can wear for many years, will not be fashionable next summer. However, as we are living in a society, we can not stay away from fashion altogether, and, no matter what we think of it, we give up, take out our wallet and run to the shop to buy a new shirt. Fashion is deception and a game but we all play this game and we love it.
Do you know where he finds his clothing?
Slavik didn’t want to talk about it, but most of his things come from trash containers and from places giving social assistance to homeless.
On your website, you explain that Slavik is different from the "homeless" streotypes. Can you tell us how he lives, what he does and how he differs from other homeless people in Lviv?
How do we see homeless people? Most of them are people wearing dirty clothes, carrying big bags in which they keep all their things. They also collect bottles, paper and other rubbish. They always drag their things, they are begging, lying on sidewalks and corners. But I've never seen Slavik with a bag and or carrying something except a bottle of beer and a cigarette. It looked like as if he went out on an after lunch for a stroll around the city and to have a beer and show everyone his new outfit.
What have you learnt from him?
It is difficult to single out any specific thing that I took from Slavik. It was difficult to communicate with him as his speech is incoherent. I did not try to influence him somehow or enter his life, I only stayed an observer and capturer of another strange human story.
Often Slavik disappeared for long periods of time and, then suddenly re-emerged again, asking where I had been. He called me his friend and said that it was very scary to lose a friend.
I saw him for the last time in January of 2013. I hope he is well now and that one day he will suddenly appear behind my back saying: “Hey, man, where have you been?"
What other project(s) are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I'm working on several new projects, but I do not like speaking about it beforehand, it is better to show a ready-made work. Also the project Slavik's Fashion will have a second part and a different form.