For years now, Russia has been working to cultivate itself as a creative hub for fashion and culture. And while Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia is technically the largest fashion event in eastern Europe featuring more than 120 local designers and 70 runway shows, Russia’s fashion reputation to the rest of the world has been largely confined to the post-Soviet style tropes of Gosha Rubchinskiy. Or in the case of eastern Europe, the evocative aesthetics of Demna Gvasalia of Vetements and Balenciaga and Lotta Volkova, stylist extraordinaire.
For emerging designers who are trying to break into the industry and become players on a global scale, getting started can be overwhelmingly challenging in a region inhibited by political regulations and restrictions. Designers like Yury Pitenin of Saint-Tokyo, along with many of his creative contemporaries, have lamented the obstacles that come with launching and developing a brand, which include difficulties in sourcing quality materials and manufacturers.
But for all the complications within it, the industry’s future seems bright as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and the Russian Fashion Council are as dedicated as ever to fostering up-and-coming talent. On the final day of MBFW Russia Spring/Summer 2018, the fashion shows moved from the event’s usual venue and picked back up at the Museum of Moscow. The scene was a refreshing break from the typical runway setup at the Manège, a convention center located near the Red Square that regularly hosts the biannual event. The setting at the Museum of Moscow looked like a mix between a warehouse party and a streetwear exhibition. While a modest runway path was set in the center of the building, young designers set up small sections along the walls of the building to showcase their designs, inspirations, photography, and art. Attendees could get up close and personal with the designs, chat with the designers, and dance to an eclectic playlist of hip-hop and Russian pop between (and during) runway shows. The crowd was also noticeably different – like the designers themselves, they were young, experimental, and unencumbered by the aura of elitism that often marks fashion week goers. They were having fun.
Organized by the Moscow Museum of Fashion and the Museum of Moscow with support of the Moscow Department of Culture, this newly added component to MBFW Russia is the starting point in a long-term project to support emerging talents. ‘Supporting young designers is one of the priority goals of the work carried out by the Museum of Fashion,’ said Oksana Fedorova, the newly appointed Director of the Moscow Museum of Fashion.
Alina Saprykina, Director of the Museum of Moscow added: ‘At all times fashion has been an indispensable part of the city culture and has been reflecting the changes taking place in the society. The works of young designers will help us see the future through the eyes of the new creating generation.’
Support comes in many forms, but to reach long-term success, the new generation of creatives need resources and consultancy to progress and finance their careers. ‘It is not enough to discover young talents, they have to be provided with platforms for promotion, creativity and active market entry,’ explained Alexander Shumsky, President of the Russian Fashion Council and founder of MBFW Russia. ‘In order for the Russian designers to become experienced participants of the fashion market. A display and presentation held with the Museum of Fashion and Museum of Moscow will become a platform for an open dialog between the designers, professional community and the public.’
Out of all the shows at MBFW Russia, the designer presentations that closed the season were undoubtedly the highlight of the week. Even though there’s still progress to be made, Russian designers are starting to garner the attention they deserve. If this new wave of talent is any indication, Russia is bound to expand as a sartorial reference point and churn out more cult-worthy sensations to join the ranks of Rubchinskiy, Gvasalia, and Volkova.
Below, three up-and-coming Russian designers to follow.
Designer Jean Rudoff has a penchant for the unconventional. Since his first debut at fashion week in March 2015, the law-student-turned-streetwear-designer has become a mainstay at MBFW Russia, partly due to the hype that surrounds his unexpected, often conceptual presentations, and partly due to his wearable designs. But for all its practicality, his clothes are intended to be subversive and aim to reflect a deeper analysis of culture and identity, which is apparent in his Spring 2018 collection.
Though the name may not sound familiar, Opening Ceremony fanatics may recognize the brand’s futuristic helmets and plastic caps that were stocked by the renowned retailer back in 2014. Founded by Yulia Makarova in 2012, Turbo Yulia gives an artistic take on nineties rave attire. Her direction is one that sits comfortably alongside brands like Jeremy Scott and MSGM, focuses on a fluorescent palette, with sportswear influences with a futuristic, dystopian twist.
Volchok is the type of brand with a cold, palpable attitude and lots of punk appeal. From the graphic hoodies emblazoned with nihilistic messages to the heavily tattooed models, there’s a raw aggression in the brand’s DNA, a nonconformist, don’t-give-a-fuck mentality that captures a gritty perspective on urban youth culture in Russia. The streetwear label designs streetwear gear for both men and women, but most of the designs fall under unisex.