“Although I am the author of the largest publications on this topic, I am a pessimistic prophet: no Russian fashion! There is a Russian style of clothing: furs, diamonds, pearls, hats, bright combinations and certain cut shapes. What I'm looking for in Russia is not a superficial American influence in the hooliganism rampant of the 1990s, but something more national, broader, more authentic. A shard of a shard is not a work of art for me. However, I wish Gaucher success,”fashion historian Alexander Vasiliev told Afishe Gorod in early 2015.
This controversial interview merged into a wave of alarmist sentiments that were in the air in connection with the sharp weakening of the ruble. Of course, the economic crisis that began in 2014 had a number of more serious consequences than the difficulties of the Russian fashion industry. But it was because of him that everyone sharply remembered that rich Russian clients made our luxury market one of the largest in the world and created conditions for the emergence of domestic (most often not cheap) brands. This flimsy new foundation could fall apart overnight simply because people had less money. The question "What about fashion?" sharply became topical, attached to patriotism, the division into "ours" and "aliens", and the rapidly deteriorating financial situation did not in the least contribute to the elegance of the discussion.
Politics does not form a fashionable agenda, but it creates an informational background, and in the case of Russia and the former USSR, this background is very charged
Almost two years have passed since then, and the world has not collapsed. We began to spend money on things more carefully, some brands closed some Russian boutiques or left our market altogether, and & Other Stories ceased to seem such a democratic brand (thanks to seventy-six euros each). However, TSUM's sales are growing, most people have not abandoned Zara and H&M for reasons of import substitution, and premium brands popular in Russia like Alexander Terekhov and Ruban work as they did. Not without difficulty, but everyone has adapted to the new reality, and there is nothing to be surprised at. The surprise came from an absolutely unexpected side: whatever Alexander Vasiliev thought, Russia suddenly had a clear and loud fashion voice. So loud that it blocked almost everyone else in the international arena, and Rubchinsky's mark, a “splinter of a shard,” is at the forefront of this sudden triumph.
Russia and Russian culture have long had no distinct influence on what is happening on the big fashionable earth. We were justly proud that Maya Plisetskaya was the muse of Coco Chanel, and the aristocrats who fled from the USSR became famous fashion models and the best embroiderers in Paris. Almost a hundred years ago, Diaghilev's Russian Seasons seriously impressed not only amateurs and professionals of ballet, but also fashion designers, and Yves Saint Laurent's collection Russian Operas and Ballets from 1976 is still remembered with aspiration. Then it really was about furs and diamonds, about the exotic luxury of tsarist Russia, the myth of chests bursting with heavy brocade and sables.
The last big homage to that era was the Russian collection of John Galliano autumn-winter - 2009. John started from images from Russian and Balkan folklore: cold beauties walked along the catwalk in multi-layered images, as if powdered with severe Siberian blizzards. It was a beautiful and very timely final chord in nostalgia for its former glory. In a few years, the world will want a different fashion, in which there will be no place for porcelain fairy princesses in corset dresses. And tsarist Russia with its splendor will not have a place there either.
Cutting-edge ideas most often arise at turning points in history, in times of crises and cultural upheavals.While designers like Ulyana Sergeenko, who were flourishing on the basis of impressive budgets, were staging large-scale shows at couture week in Paris, in the post-Soviet space (an expression that managed to sore mouth, including thanks to frequent mention in Dazed and Vice), a real revolution was ripening, which significantly changed the face of international fashion … We cannot know how Demna Gvasalia and Gosha Rubchinsky would have been accepted in the industry if they had appeared in a different time and in a different context. But now, at this particular moment in time, it was these designers who suddenly most accurately fell into the mood of the new generation of luxury consumers, who no longer consider Dolce & Gabbana to be the embodiment of all the most beautiful.
In the collections of prominent young designers who grew up in the perestroika era, there is nothing reminiscent of the domes of St. Basil's Cathedral and the cap of Monomakh. They make clothes that are quite aggressive from the point of view of aesthetics, in which there is both the anger of the inhabitants of the USSR divorced from consumer goods, and the excitement of young people who bought jeans from the Ukraine Hotel for dollars, and the entire visual nuclear hell of nineties fashion, which was actualized again.
As critics note, this is a timely reminder of what a strong negative charge the post-Soviet nineties carried in themselves: men in expensive, ill-fitting suits, beautiful women in revealing dresses and at the same time style of streets from the "sleeping areas". This is not "vocational school aesthetics" and not "dashing nineties", but a seething hodgepodge of everything at once. And in a difficult, even dangerous time, it was in this hodgepodge that an irritated nerve was found, which a priori designers from Italy, France or the USA cannot offer to the consumer.
This time we can offer the world something more topical than earflaps, fur coats on the floor and fluffy sundresses
Of course, this tendency should not be perceived as a collective effort of Rubchinsky and Gvasalia, applied to one point. First, these designers make different clothes for different target audiences. The aesthetics of skaters and football fans that made Rubchinsky famous do not have much in common with the digest of reimagined codes from different eras that Gvasalia offers at Vetements. And of course, she has even less in common with Demna's postmodern Balenciaga. If they have something undeniably in common, it is Lotta Volkova. The stylist is friends with both Gosha and Demna, goes to shows for both, advises designers, collects images for their shows and parts of the filming. All three are united by a clear, professional approach to business with a cool head: no "business in Russian". “We need a system. We want to do what we like, and the system helps us in this,”confirms Lotta.
Both Vetements and Gosha Rubchinskiy are shown and sold in the right places, communicate with the right buyers, and make friends with influential people. They want to make clothes that are sold, and not just bear the imprint of an inexplicable and complex Russian soul. And this combination of perestroika and post-perestroika bitterness with the business miscalculation of every step has borne fruit. Have we ever seen at least one designer from the post-Soviet space in the chair of the creative director of a fashion house of the Balenciaga level?
The role, I think, was played by how unattractive Russia looks now in a political sense. The public has always liked the fighters for justice who are trying to undermine the rotten system - just remember the popularity of Navalny, Pavlensky and Pussy Riot in the English-language press. And in this context, designers are also beginning to be perceived in part as artists who respond to violence with art. The pioneering slogans on Rubchinsky's T-shirts and the exaggerated uniforms of Soviet schoolgirls Vetements look like an ominous warning at a time when talk of a return to a totalitarian regime is increasingly heard. The quote from Zemfira's song “There are such skirmishes here”, embroidered on the dresses of the Ukrainian brand Maria Hitcher, sounds much more tragic than if it was embroidered in Italian sartorias.
Another Ukrainian woman, Yulia Efimchuk, does things with the print "Lord, help me survive among this mortal love" - the famous phrase with graffiti on the Berlin Wall where General Secretaries Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev kiss. Artist Slava Mogutin takes to the Hood By Air catwalk not because he is handsome and in tattoos, but because in 1995 he fled from homophobic Russia, where he was oppressed. No, politics does not form a fashionable agenda, but it creates an informational background, and in the case of Russia and the former USSR, this background is very charged. The products of our modern culture cannot be perceived now in a vacuum.
The fact that Russia has become interesting to everyone is noticeable everywhere. Buyers from other countries willingly buy, for example, things with Cyrillic inscriptions - the above brands, and Walk of Shame, and the Ukrainian Poustovit do such. This phenomenon has grown so much that on sites with cheap T-shirts there are separate sections for things with inscriptions in mysterious Russian (there you can find curious items with the prints "I love vodka" and "Angela"). On the other hand, inscriptions about Russia in English are no worse accepted. Vogue.com dedicated a separate feature to sweatshirts designed by Vsevolod "Sever" Cherepanov, a model of the Lumpen agency who participated in the shows of Vetements and Gosha Rubchinskiy. He ordered several copies with the words "Russian Mafia New World Order", and as soon as the photo of the sweatshirt appeared on his Instagram, orders were poured on him, most of them from Australia and the USA. It turned out that there are a lot of people in the world who want to join the "Russian mafia" - now this means not bandits from the 90s, but a wave of highly fashionable designers with the most cheerful clothes on the market. You shouldn't even think about Zemfira sweatshirts - you've definitely heard of them.
You can talk as much as you like about the triumph of stylization and parasitism on the post-Soviet heritage - it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter how long the minute of Russian glory lasts on the international fashion market. We have what we have: the unhappiness of Soviet and post-perestroika Russia has become one of the strongest messages in today's industry, and this time we can offer the world something more topical than earflaps, floor-length fur coats and loose sundresses.
Photos: Film Studio named after M. Gorky, Yulia Yefimtchuk +