Interview: Sinead Reilly/Photos: Andrew Peters
‘The sunrise is never far behind the mountain.’
This is, as skater and Rassvet co-founder Tolia Titaev has previously stated, the motto and driving force behind the brand he jointly runs. Though it may seem clipped at first glance, it’s a principle that speaks volumes about the optimism of the community it represents. Titaev wants to bring the creative scene of Moscow—including, of course, its boundlessly energetic skate scene—into a brighter spotlight. This is where the genesis of Rassvet lies.
Rassvet—initially branded as PACCBET—was a collective founded by designer Gosha Rubchinskiy and Moskow-based skater Tolia Titaev. Together, they launched Rassvet in late 2016 with the intention of symbolising the rise of a talented, creatively rich new generation of youth in Moscow. First and foremost, though, Rassvet is a brand for skaters. Rubchinskiy and Titaev manage to effortlessly marry form and function rather than giving preference to one or the other. Wearing Rassvet, you can skate all day and then go out for dinner with your parents. As it has grown, the brand has expanded its crew one by one. Enter Val Bauer. A talented skater from a village just outside of Lille, France, Bauer nabbed his own Rassvet pro board in late 2020, alongside fellow team rider Cambryan Sedlick and Titaev himself. Val—who also rides for Vans, Levi’s Skateboarding, Öctagon, Venture, Spitfire, and Zeropolis—is a crucial arm of the Rassvet machine, his style fitting seamlessly into the brand’s devil-may-care outlook. Freshly returned from a stint filming for Rassvet in Mexico City and Los Angeles, I spoke to Val about getting through quarantine in Paris, meeting the Rassvet crew, and swapping European winter for sunnier skies.
Let’s talk about Covid-19 first to get it out of the way — did you head home during the first round of quarantine, or did you stay in Paris? Were you able to skate at all?
Home for me is Paris now. My parents both moved from where I grew up a while ago. Anyway, I wouldn’t have quarantined myself with my parents even if I love them both. So yeah I stayed in Paris with my girlfriend. Movies, cooking a lot and trying to pimp the flat as much as we could. I got lucky though —Joseph Biais is living in my neighbourhood, so we could almost ‘legally’ skate together. We were skating a road sign as a flat bar almost every day for like two months. It got kind of boring in the end, but it really saved us. We were only able to skate before 10 am or after 7 pm. As it was spring/summer it got dark around 9.30 pm, so that was a good thing. The fun fact was that right under my window they had just finished building that little new concrete skatepark which is pretty good to skate. They finished it like three days before the quarantine started, but unfortunately, the city didn’t finish the flat ground part. So we were skating that little stupid sign right next to this spot that was meant to be a brand new park.
Was it difficult being confined to one place, when usually you travel around quite a lot?
It was, especially regarding the fact of not being able to exercise and get tired from skating like I’m used to. I would go to bed at night without being physically tired.
And do you have plans to keep yourself occupied for subsequent Parisian lockdowns?
I actually skated skating every day during the second one. We had working authorisations from Vans, so we were fine being out there skating. My girlfriend just opened a thrift store, so she was also working a lot getting the online orders shipped.
Where have you been so far on your most recent trip, and who were you with? I’ve been home in Paris for about two weeks now. I went to Mexico with my good friend Remy Taveira. He was thinking about going to Mexico City after Christmas, and I was down. At first, the idea was just to escape Paris after almost a full year of being at home. He was joining Felipe Bartolome and some other friends to film for a Carhartt project they had been working on for a bit. As I skate for Levi’s, I thought I’d need a plan to be busy out there. So I called Cambryan (Sedlick) and Trevor (Dare) to set up a Rassvet mission in CDMX. We spoke to Tolia and he was super down to send the three of us there. We did two weeks and a half in CDMX, then Remy and I thought there would be no better opportunity to go on proper holidays anytime sooner, so we decided to extend our stay for a bit and went to the beach in the Gulf of Mexico, Oaxaca State. It would also be our chance to go back to the USA. As we had spent at least two weeks in Mexico we would be able to make it through the customs with the usual ESTA visa. We just went for it. Our plan was to stay two weeks in LA at Cam’s, but we ended up staying there for two months.
What were the best things about your trip? Apart from getting to travel again, of course.
Everything we did was exciting on this trip honestly. What we’ve seen from the Mexican culture was really amazing. The people, the food, the architecture, the music… everything was a bit of an experience to me; I loved it there. The beaches were incredibly beautiful too. The only bad thing that happened was me taking a bit of a bad slam on a scooter. I struggled a bit healing my leg as the wound got infected in a small village at the beach. I sorted things out after seeing a proper doctor back in Mexico City before flying to the States, though. Getting to live the full LA experience was sick too, I mean not going there only for two weeks as usual. Then you really get to map the city in your head, search and pick up your spots, fix some shit, and then skate it. Getting to escape our winter and the curfews and stuff, honestly nothing to complain about. We’ve definitely been lucky on this one.
How did your friendship with Tolia and Cam start?
I met Tolia in Berlin. We had followed each other for a while, I guess just out of common tastes skateboarding wise. We clicked pretty fast. I met him during one of the parties at that tradeshow; we were both pretty drunk and clicked straight up. We kept in contact ever since. I met Cam in Los Angeles through Tolia during the Giddy trip we did two years ago in the winter, and we clicked just as fast — Cam is a lovely guy.
When did you get the news from Tolia about your pro board? Did you all work together on the design?
It was all a surprise. Tolia told me he had made a crazy plan where all the team would have gathered in Moscow then we would have all went to Paris together and they were supposed to organise a big party there. Due to Covid-19, none of it happened. In the end, Joseph (Biais) and Lilian (Fev) surprised me at my place with the help of my girlfriend. Then Tolia was on the phone. It was kind of a weird feeling, to be honest, but I’m still grateful and stoked about it.
Have you sent your parents the board to hang on their wall?
Not really. My little sister is 8-years-old and she asked for one for her birthday, which was really cute. So, I gave her one, but I still have to send boards to a couple of friends who have asked for it. I’ve been lagging on this one.
What are the best parts about skating in Moscow? Does it feel super different to skating in Paris?
Yeah, of course, each city is somehow very different. Moscow has shitloads of spots, and also a lot of untouched ones. The trips there also sick since I’m always stoked that I get to spend time with Tolia. I feel like it’s always the thing too, every trip can be a good one if you get the chance to travel with your friends. The kids on Rassvet are cool and the OKTYABR skate shop crew are super sick too.
Here in Australia, Rassvet is still quite a niche brand. It’s not often I see it around, but a skate shop in Sydney, UPS, recently started to stock it, along with a few clothing stores. Do you feel like it’s already an established brand among skaters in France?
I feel like it’s getting bigger and bigger. It’s carried by some of the best shops in the country — Zeropolis, Nozbone, and Riot —which is pretty important in my eyes.
Can you see it turning into a more mainstream skate brand in the future?
We’re trying our best to make it as good as we can for sure. Let’s see.
Did you run into any troubles travelling during a pandemic? It sounds like you got quite lucky.
It hasn’t been any difficult at all honestly. You just need to respect the same rules you’re respecting back home.
What do you like the most about what Rassvet represents? What does it mean for you personally?
It’s kind of hard to put down on paper without being too cheesy. I like working on projects for the company, and what makes me stoked about it is that it embodies Tolia’s vision boards wise and clothing-wise. Of course, we all have input and we do argue about some stuff, but most of the time I’m happy with what the company is releasing both product-wise and content-wise. That’s the most important part of it: I skate for Rassvet because it’s exciting to be with a growing board company and to witness this growth surrounded by some of my best friends.