Ever since menswear designer Gosha Rubchinskiy galvanized the fashion industry with his eponymous line of Cyrillic emblazoned streetwear hits in 2008, Russian fashion has been largely defined by a post-Soviet, youth-centric generation that’s garnered a cult-like following. His meteoric rise has pushed the Russian industry forward, leading the way for others. Now with eager eyes on the Eastern bloc, there’s a new appetite for up-and-coming homegrown brands. Russia’s next rising star? Designer Jean Rudoff of Lumiér Garson.
At 23-years old, Rudoff has already carved out a clear identity as a designer. The former law student got his first taste of the fashion world when he started his own street style blog. Not long after, he landed a gig as a fashion editor and stylist, which quickly inspired him to launch his own brand, Lumiér Garson.
When I met with Rudoff on a snowy evening in Moscow, I was pleasantly surprised with his cool, low-key demeanor. After being anxiously stuck in traffic, I arrived late to the Moscow Museum of Fashion where he was scheduled to show his latest collection, but he still graciously accommodated my interview. When we walked to a nearby café to talk, his phone was blowing up, but he declined all calls without hesitation. It was two hours before show time and he seemed impervious to preshow jitters. At first glance, he was the picture of nonconforming youth dressed in all black with a silver grill, stacks of rings, and a neck full of necklaces – one of which dangled a cigarette butt. Despite the hard exterior, Rudoff was kind and modest, even a little shy.
Since his debut in March 2015 at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia, the young creative has become a highlight of the event, consistently enticing the fashion crowd with his conceptual shows and cool, street-inclined designs. Case in point: for his AW18 collection entitled “Untitled (3).rar,” the designer brought the backstage onto the runway, mixing lace trimmed dresses and utilitarian styles with velvet face masks, boxes of pizza, and plastic folding tables. This season was no different. For his SS18 “Socio” collection, Rudoff was inspired by the notion of identity in the context of culture and presented his collection in the way of an art exhibit and runway show. His exhibit featured three local artists, each of whom created live paintings that correlated with the designer’s exploration of three cultural identities. Hanging alongside the paintings were photographs – a mix of Ruska Roma (otherwise known as Russian Gypsies), Japanese, African-American influences – that captured a pained realism that pervades below the surface. Underground hip-hop culture, in particular, has played a large role in Rudoff’s interests and personal style (he cites Frank Ocean and Childish Gambino as favorites). Because of this, the depictions of African-American culture stood out from the rest.
On the runway, the message was not lost. The well-edited collection was divided into three distinct parts, each of which translated one of the cultures through evocative designs. An asymmetrical patchwork dress and grey trousers embroidered with “still free” impart his Gypsy heritage, an easy oversized t-shirt and a collarless shirt with unique stitching details touch on oriental origins, and shorts and trousers with red and black bandanas (his favorite from the collection) point to the symbolism of colors in gang culture. The models he casted further underscored the message. It was by far the most racially diverse show of the week.
For Rudoff, fashion isn’t just clothing, rather than a medium to analyze and address broken cultural systems. But for all the high-minded ethos and subversion that drives him, Rudoff believes people shouldn’t take themselves too seriously. “The main thing I try to express with my clothes is the idea of self-irony,” he explained through a translator. “I like it when people aren’t afraid to talk about their nationalities, backgrounds, habits – the things that make them who they are. People today are too serious, they don’t like to laugh at themselves.”
As a young designer on the cusp of international success, Rudoff prefers to focus on the artistic side of design rather than the commercialization of his brand. “I don’t think about sales,” he said. “I make art first, I make what I like. It’s experimental – I study, learn, and test to see where it takes me.” When he talks about his design process, his approach resembles that of a scientist’s – rigorous, at times methodical, always driven by curiosity. He digs deep into the history and significance behind his convictions and creative inspirations, and by doing so, he’s able to stitch knowledge and reverence into his garments. He summarizes this idea in a Russian proverb: “It’s bad when the ring is hollow inside, but good when it’s solid.”
Still, with its raw energy, quality construction, and strong identity, Lumiér Garson is poised to be a hit with streetwear fanatics and international buyers alike. The brand recently launched its website, and will soon sell his full collections online.
As for the future, Rudoff has big goals – he mentions wanting to collaborate with A$AP Rocky – but “staying himself” is what’s most important. “Even if my brand gets bigger, I want to preserve the same philosophy that got me started,” he said. “I’m not trying to rush up the mountain, I’m just going with it.”