Nobody likes to be pigeonholed — fashion designers especially. In the past couple of years, the fashion press — Highsnobiety included — has talked about the former Soviet Union. A lot. Every publication under the sun has done stories about this new wave of creativity from the East: or the Post-Soviet movement, as it’s come to be known. It’s shown just how open the world is now — people can appreciate cultures and aesthetics from all over the globe, thanks to the internet and social media.
Naturally, Russians, Georgians, Ukrainians and guys from the rest of the former USSR, all feel a bit weird about this sudden obsession with all things post-Soviet. That’s understandable — nobody wants their work, their culture and their history reduced to some simplistic fashion trend. But at the end of the day, it’s our job as journalists to talk about what’s going on out there, and it’s impossible to deny that there’s some amazing things coming from the old Soviet bloc these days.
Giving it a name — putting it into a box, as it were — makes it easier for people to understand it. When you give something like this a name, you can take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and appreciate just how important it is. At a time when there’s constant talk of tension between the East and West, a Russian designer celebrating the uniting power of youth culture is a vital symbol.
Last week I flew to Kaliningrad, a tiny pocket of Russia nestled in between Poland and Lithuania, to attend Gosha Rubchinskiy’s FW17 show. The show itself expanded on SS17’s tailoring, and included a glimpse at what’s going to be one of 2017’s biggest collabs: a collection of on-the-pitch sportswear designed with adidas Football.
More important, though, was the show’s soundtrack. As each of Gosha’s boys walked out, their own voices boomed over the PA, and they each introduced themselves, their home town, and what their dreams in life are. They were as diverse as you’d expect from guys born all over Russia: PACCBET co-founder Tolia Titaev spoke of his love of skateboarding, while a local Kaliningrad boy said he one day dreams of joining the FSB (the modern-day KGB). You’d get similarly diverse answers from kids anywhere: a symbol of how young people are the same the world over.
After the show, Gosha gave each of the journalists in attendance a one-on-one interview, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to get his own perspective on this, as well as to find out why he chose such an obscure location for his show.
First off, why Kaliningrad?
It’s because I’d never been here before [laughs]. I wanted to go somewhere I’ve never been. I thought: “What’s next after Florence? After Pitti? Come back to Paris?” That was too expected, and we wanted to do something unexpected. We decided to do it somewhere in Russia. At the same time adidas came to me with an amazing football project. I said: “Hmm, if it’s adidas Football, and the football cup, let’s do it in the city where the cup will be.” I started to search, and Kaliningrad was perfect, because it used to be German. German brand and Russian brand all together. The territory used to belong to Germany, it’s in the middle of Europe. It’s perfect.
What was the story behind the collection?
First of all, I wanted to continue our games with tailoring since the last collection. This football-themed adidas collaboration, it was an inspiration for me. I tried to create some characters that you can see today in the show, some football fan characters, football players, the owner of a football club. It was to show different kinds of customers, uniforms for different types of men.
You had the boys announcing their dreams as they walked out. What’s your dream for the Gosha brand?
The main dream is to keep energy and power to have dreams, because our dreams are driving us and sending us to weird places like Kaliningrad [laughs]. I want to keep dreaming and to tell more stories to you.
Very optimistic and positive. How do you feel about youth culture in this day and age?
It’s interesting. That’s why we did the casting from different cities in Russia, and made those interviews. For me, it’s the image of the generation of today. People from different countries being in the same mood. It’s interesting to hear what boys are answering. Some were very serious, others were infantile. It’s interesting to see what young people say. Sometimes when you grow, you miss something, and talking with young people helps to open your eyes and see reality. It’s an interesting balance, sometimes kids can be infantile, sometimes when you hear them, you see real things.
You have people from all over the world wearing Gosha. Can you see that the streetwear is uniting people?
Yes, I think so. Things like music or football and fashion can unite people. It’s great. We now live in the age of the internet and Instagram. People can see what is happening in our city or country, you don’t need to read the newspaper. You can find your own channel where you can find the truth.
How do you feel about all the attention on Russia at the moment?
I don’t remember a time when there was no attention to Russia [laughs]. It’s hard to forget about this country, just look at the globe.
How do you feel about this post-Soviet thing that’s become a trend now?
I don’t know what it is, the post-Soviet look. I thinks it’s a cliche. The press can’t say what it is so they try to put it in the box. I don’t know what it is. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I invited you to Kaliningrad, so you can see the post-Soviet look with your own eyes.
Do you feel the pressure that the brand is much bigger now? The whole world is watching you.
Yes, but we try to figure it out bit by bit. I think it’s interesting, it helped me bring a crazy project to life and invite people to Kaliningrad.
Does being in Moscow help? Do you feel disconnected from main fashion world, feeling calm and at peace in Moscow.
When we made our first show, my first idea was to do more of a personal project, not part of fashion or fashion shows. We showed outside of fashion week. That’s why I want to do this project, it’s kind of back to the roots for me. Of course we follow fashion weeks and the calendar for buyers and stockists, because it’s comfortable for people to do orders during that time. I think now we are free to do shows where we want, because of the internet. You can do a livestream or video and send it via the internet, and people can watch it.
Will you do more shows in Russia?
Yeah, I want to do next shows in different cities.
What do you find so special about these Russian youths?
It’s not very special. Young people are the same all around the world, and I can say that youth culture and young people are interesting to me. Why Russians? Because I feel comfortable speaking Russian, to be in Moscow, spending time with friends. It’s only because I’m Russian.
For more Gosha Rubchinskiy, read up about his FW17 show to discover what his models said.