Q&A – Sasha Unisex & Anna Lebedeva, cofounders, Sasha Unisex Tattoo & Style Brand
The business partnership of Russian tattoo artist Oleksandra Ianchukova (aka Sasha Unisex) and Anna Lebedeva has made the Sasha Unisex Store lifestyle brand a hot ticket far beyond the borders of their native land. The co-founders spoke to AGENT about the history of the company, which has expanded on Sasha’s iconic temporary tattoos to include clothing and accessories.
THE uniquely minimalist designs of Russian tattoo artist Oleksandra Ianchukova have caused a sensation among enthusiasts of body art in recent years. Best known by her professional name, Sasha Unisex, she has become one of the most influential of tattoo artists, inspired by a diverse range of artistic muses, including geometry, nature and classical watercolour painting.
But the chief strength of the beautiful and distinctive body art sold by the Sasha Unisex Store brand—founded by Ianchukova and Anna Lebedeva in 2010—is that they are temporary tattoos.
The Sasha Unisex Store has deftly achieved a neat business conjuring trick by tapping into the desire for body art but without the major lifetime commitment (and for only a fraction of the cost) that’s required for a permanent tattoo.
Another bonus is, of course, that they allow you to wear the body art that has stunned the tattoo world with its beauty, without the requirement to travel to the Sasha Unisex studios in St Petersburg and Moscow. They can be ordered online and delivered to your home.
These stunning tattoos are just one aspect of the Sasha Unisex empire that, with Anna Lebedeva and her team, Ianchukova has built steadily over the past 10 years.
The brand also encompasses clothes, pins, patches and other fashion items, all bearing the characteristically striking Sasha Unisex artistry, which, for online browsers, is best sampled on Sasha’s stunning Instagram page.
11 Questions for Sasha Unisex and Anna Lebedeva
For such a well known artist, little is known about Sasha Unisex, as she prefers to let her work do the talking. She is currently in New York, capitalising on the demand for her work outside of Russia. We are delighted at AGENT, therefore, that Sasha and Anna Lebedeva (pictured left, below) spoke to AGENT about the story of the Sasha Unisex Store, and other aspects of life in one of the world’s most in-demand startup brands.
1. How did you first get into business, and what are your business goals?
Sasha: I’ve always wanted to make products of the highest quality, and I really love doing that. Our goals are 1) creativity; 2) quality; and 3) communication between the brand and our followers.
2. What age were you when you realised you wanted to run your own business?
Anna: Sasha was 26 and I was 25 when I finished my work in advertising, and we decided to start our own business.
Sasha: I became a tattoo artist when I was 23. At the age of 26, I started to work with my team on my brand, the Sasha Unisex Store.
3. Who are your business icons and inspirations?
Anna: Our whole team adores Steve Jobs, but for me Estée Lauder and Kat Von D are inspirational. Both were and are are beautiful, talented and had their own mission and brand.
Sasha: I admire Steve Jobs too, and how he created products. He was fantastic in his research and endless innovation. I also love Walt Disney. He created his own Universe—without Walt Disney, half of the planet couldn’t imagine childhood.
4. What has been your biggest challenge in business, and how did you surmount it?
Sasha: I’m a perfectionist. For me, it’s very important for everything to be perfect. Due to this I can get anxious, because it’s not possible for everything to be perfect all the time. I tried my best to put together a team where everyone is brilliant at their own job. The most important thing is to find common ground, because when everyone is creative it is difficult. However, these difficulties are overcome through the team’s desire to find a compromise that moves us closer to the overall goal.
Anna: We have created a market of temporary tattoos in Russia, and we have a lot of competitors who are trying to enter it. However, we strive to make our own brand perfect, and we try to stay a few steps ahead of the rest by coming up with strategies and interesting collaborations with bloggers and brands.
5. Work-Life balance: is it possible? How do you achieve it?
Anna: Your own business always becomes a way of life. When there is no clear timetable, you work 24/7. We all have families and some of us even have kids. So for us, it’s important to find balance.
Sasha: Sometimes it is important to stop. I try to make time to relax and to be inspired. I spend time with my family, dogs and by doing outdoor activities. This helps me recover and gain strength.
6. What is the first thing you do every day?
Sasha: I check my emails.
7. What screen saver picture is currently on your phone?
Sasha: It’s a photo of Big Ben in London.
8. What is the most important app on your mobile phone, and why?
Sasha: Instagram. It’s a great platform to share my work with people, and great for communicating with my followers.
9. What is the last thing you Googled?
Sasha: I Googled the 10 top places to see in London.
10.What item do you never leave the house without, and why?
Sasha: My iPhone. I need to be in contact with my team in Russia 24/7.
11. What advice would you give to your younger self starting out in business?
Sasha: You must be able to work hard, treating your business and customers as you would treat yourself, with quality, love and magic.