There are few designers who have captured the attention of the fashion world in recent years quite like Gosha Rubchinskiy. Buyers, journalists, consumers and casual onlookers have all been swept along by the Russian designer’s post-Soviet streetwear vision, and each of his collections is met with anticipation and adoration from many corners of the fashion world.
Yet, nobody can quite place their fingers on the reason for Gosha’s success – his widespread popularity remains somewhat of an anomaly. The same industry insiders who love Gosha struggle to articulate why. At times, I feel like I’m laughing at an in-joke that I don’t quite get, such is the fervor that meets each of his collections. And yet, some several seasons in, it is apparent that there’s something of much greater substance to Gosha’s work – it’s not just hype. But what is it exactly that makes Rubchinskiy and his creations so fascinating to the fashion world?
Part of the reason such a question even needs to be asked is because Rubchinskiy’s clothing is, by typical standards, ugly. Acid-washed denim, unattractive brown hues, ill-fitting coats, fake shearling – all the epitome of bad taste, which is something that Gosha embraces. The resources at Rubchinskiy’s disposal are unlike anything available to other fledgling labels – COMME des GARCONS handles his production, so he could make the finest quality jackets or knitwear if he chose to. But he doesn’t.
This, in itself, lends a sense of intrigue to his output. He is seemingly uncaring and aloof when it comes to what’s considered “good” within fashion. His designs are inherently naïve, so they carry an alluring charm. And, equally important, none of it feels contrived – you sense that Rubchinskiy genuinely does not care about creating an exacting vision of “cool.” Which, of course, is cool in itself.
But beyond the aesthetics of it all, the rise to fashion stardom for this shy, unassuming Russian is very much about timing. 10 years ago, in a slower, more isolated and certainly more pristine fashion environment, Rubchinskiy’s apparent bad taste would have been taken at face value, and his work consequently shunned. But that formula of exclusivity and perfectionism inevitably became stale – designers began to look further afield for inspiration.
One such inspiration was streetwear, which was having a renaissance after years in the sartorial wilderness, when heritage menswear was all the rage. Men had, seemingly, decided they were too grown-up for trainers and that investing in a good pair of wing-tip brogues would mean that they would never need to buy another pair of shoes again. Timelessness, however, can be awfully boring.
As the fashion zeitgeist shifted, many turned to streetwear, looking for something decidedly less “timeless” and altogether more exciting. Fast forward several SS and FWs, and Rubchinskiy – along with the likes of Virgil Abloh’s OFF-WHITE, Jun Takahashi’s UNDERCOVER and Demna Gvasalia & co’s Vetements – is of equal relevance to the state of high-fashion as Gucci or Prada.
Gosha Rubchinskiy is very much at the forefront of high fashion’s new obsession with streetwear. This shift seems to be less than a trend and something more permanent, as streetwear and the runway become intertwined and, through social media and the internet, we enter a new, more democratic epoch in fashion. Arguably, the Russian designer is symbolic of this shift and, as such, many have heaped well-deserved praise upon him. Rubchinskiy’s work is indeed a breath of fresh air.
Gosha, however, is not unique. Nor is his work particularly ground-breaking. Placed in the correct context, though, it can seem that way. His Tommy Hilfiger pastiche t-shirt, one of FW15’s most memorable pieces due to its knowing simplicity, felt new in high fashion. A label flipping another brand’s logo to create a subversive, tongue-in-cheek homage is something that previously would have been unthinkable at high-end level. In streetwear, however, pastiche logo flips have became so over-used that their power has been rendered nearly benign.
The same could be said for a number of Gosha’s creations, which tap into facets of bygone youth cultures in a manner that’s more brazen than referential. Raf Simons has continually drawn on similar themes in the past, but his creations typically transform these ideas into exaggerated catwalk silhouettes. In terms of brand adjacencies, were it not for the runway and the COMME des GARCONS co-sign, Rubchinskiy’s work is far more Supreme than Simons. And that’s no slight on what he does – I own and love several of his pieces. I personally believe he’s a refreshing addition to the often-uptight Paris Fashion Week schedule.
However, this paradigm also exposes why fashion is in love with Gosha. He is a vehicle for understanding streetwear for those who otherwise would not get it, either through misplaced elitism or apprehension of such a cliquey sub-genre of clothing. Gosha Rubchinskiy, however, applies the same tenets of streetwear that Erik Brunetti or Eddie Cruz are so well-versed in, but within the high fashion discourse. The catwalk lends a weight to his concepts that may have otherwise been dismissed. The medium is familiar, even if the styles aren’t, making it digestible to press and buyers alike – it allows them to experience streetwear without diving into an unfamiliar, often unwelcoming world.
The reason Gosha Rubchinskiy is feted within high fashion is because he offers an insight into streetwear, which is pretty much fashion’s bastard-child genre. He bridges a gap for many, providing an easy way into an industry that, until recently, perpetually shunned fashion, and vice versa. They are still uncomfortable bedfellows, which is why many labels’ attempts at tapping into this emerging high-meets-low market have looked nothing short of awkward, but old-world notions of luxury within high-fashion are receding these days. Fashion is becoming faster, more pronounced – and perhaps less nuanced – where the influence of seasoned critics is giving way to that of Instagram personalities. And streetwear’s often brash, unflinching aesthetic lends itself perfectly to this evolving paradigm – as does Rubchinskiy’s.
The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not reflect the views of Highsnobiety as a whole.