When Zaha Hadid commissioned furniture maker Denis Milovanov to help design an interior, he knew he was on the right track with his fledgling business. The house belonged to Vladimir Doronin, the former beau of supermodel Naomi Campbell — a significant commission given that Milovanov turned to woodworking just a little more than year ago. Frustrated with the fashion industry, Milovanov left Moscow and set up a workshop in his dacha on the outskirts of Pavlovsky Posad, a somewhat prosaic town 70km from Moscow.
“We hope that, with time, people in Russia will develop a greater loyalty towards the culture of craftsmanship, and begin to show interest in the legacy of our ancient craftsmen”
As elsewhere in the world, consumer culture in Russia continues to become increasingly homogenous. Against this backdrop, Milovanov is just one of a new wave of designers to have embraced the tradition of craftsmanship in wood. Using ancient Caucasian oaks that have fallen or died naturally, Milovanov crafts everything from tables and chairs to bowls and chopping boards, all of which are characterised by their rough-hewn appearance. The 100-year guarantee on all of his products is a mark of his confidence in the quality of his items.
Since launching his venture, Milovanov, a bearded man of stocky build, has been travelling across Russia to study exhibits at local history museums and immerse himself in the techniques that have been used by Russian craftsmen for hundreds of years. With the help of Masha Larina and Nikolai Reutin, both of whom started out as apprentices for Milovanov before turning to the marketing side of things, the business has taken off. The pair found an investor for the workshop and have built up an exclusive list of clients. “Everywhere we go, we talk about why we’re making what we’re making,” says Reutin. “We hope that, with time, people in Russia will develop greater loyalty towards the culture of craftsmanship, and begin to show interest in the legacy of our ancient craftsmen.”