Popularly known as 'Shoestova' on Instagram, Natalia Shustova has carved a name for herself in Dubai's competitive landscape. We speak to the influencer about her journey, with a special focus on her latest project, Goshá
Natalia Shustova first arrived in Dubai in 2006, fully trained as a lawyer. She was hired by a local firm to work with Russian real estate investors and quickly rose through the ranks to make partner. It was during this time that she decided to pursue her passion for luxury fashion, which resulted not only in a bulging shoe closet, but also a blog documenting her carefully curated finds under the handle 'Shoestova'. It quickly captured the attention of the global style community, with Natalia amassing a wealth of followers on Instagram.
In one of her early interviews, Natalia joked that every three years, she finds the need to change either her house, her job or her husband. And true to form, over the last few years, her zeal for trying new things led to the founding of Grey Space – a distribution agency and consultancy that helps nurture local talent and bring upcoming designers to the Middle East – as well as Goshá, which is a luxury floral studio.
While taking on the world of blooms might seem like a departure from her usual pursuits in luxury fashion, it very much aligns with her interests. Natalia describes her brand as a designer floral studio, which is very much at home in a city known for its penchant for all things luxury.
When we caught up with the lawyer-turned-influencer-turned-floral-artist, she said: "Goshá was my personal way of dealing with the entire world being upside down in 2020, through a creative medium. I always had flowers surrounding me and my goal was to build a luxury brand with a strong disruptive design DNA."
Goshá was born out of a collaboration with Gurgen Yeritsyan (also known as Gosha, after whom the studio was named). "Gurgen was the head florist at a flower atelier in my former neighbourhood. We often collaborated on floral set-ups for gatherings in my home as well as gifts for my friends. We got addicted to the creative challenges and the inspiration we were giving each other on a florist-client level. After almost a year of talking about starting a brand, he finally convinced me to start Goshá."
Natalia describes the exact moment Gurgen won her heart. Following her father's sudden passing, Gurgen sent her orchids as condolences. But this was no ordinary bouquet. He transformed the fresh orchids by hand-painting them in black to appear dried and dead, in complete contrast to their otherwise vibrant hue. The flowers being stripped of their colour mirrored everything she was feeling during this time of grief. She said: "He made the flowers cry! His creation had me experiencing a full range of emotions. I had no option but to say 'with your talent and my creative vision, let's start Goshá.'"
Even though it launched during the pandemic, the brand was an instant success, evident in the fact that her very first commission involved creating floral displays for a Louis Vuitton fashion show. "Our biggest and proudest achievement has been creating and sustaining a luxury brand in a short space of time. Our strong DNA propelled us into creative collaborations with the world's biggest luxury fashion and lifestyle moguls. Seeing Goshá partnering with the likes of Cartier, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Rolls Royce (just to name a few) or being placed as an ephemeral retail experience at a Fendi, Gucci, Chloe or Bulgari store makes our team very proud."
When delving into what she thinks is the key to her success, Natalia said: "We don’t aim for perfect we aim to create poetry dedicated either to an individual or an occasion, where each flower is chosen for its beauty and character, and then carefully arranged into one rhyme or story. We never repeat our arrangements twice; Goshá is always and forever a unique expression of art."
Never keen to rest on her wins, in 2021, Natalia took the brand to new heights by expanding into an experiential and experimental storytelling studio, named Goshá Buro. "It challenged me to take my creativity to the next level. I never stop; I am always looking for inspiration and ideas for what is next. Our studios are creative factories, where we represent the human version of a hive – busy bees, flowers, buzzing energy and noise! We are very proud to be creating some of the most intimate and exciting experiences for our clients and customers. I truly love what I do and I do it with full dedication to my brand, my team and to Dubai."