Last week we expanded our look at Reebok Classic Subcultures with a trip to Moscow to speak to the team behind the city's pioneering streetwear boutique FOTT. The store, which was the first of its kind in the city, was founded by members of an Internet forum of the same name who were frustrated at the lack of streetwear brands and culture present in Russia during the early 2000s. Today, it is one of the most successful retailers of its kind in Moscow and self-produces all its own lookbooks, as well as its own magazine, as a way to greater connect with the scene it helped nurture.
We sat down for a talk with Kirill Astrakhantsev, one of the store's core members, to discuss the journey so far. Check out the full interview below.
Nowadays you're part of a successful store in Moscow, but it wasn’t always that way. Tell us about the journey you’ve been on to get where you are now.
FOTT started in the early 2000s as an Internet forum. The main topics were clothing, music, movies and football - everything that young men were interested in. Many of the clothing brands that forum members discussed were impossible to buy in Russia at that time. In addition, there were no good menswear stores – that's how the idea of starting an offline store was born.
FOTT first opened its doors as a showroom; then it grew up into the 2-story store you see today. The main motto of our team is, "We sell what we wear." We appreciate values of the brands that we carry, and we carefully translate their history and style to make them work both for us and for our customers. That attitude really helped us to get to the top.
Would you describe the scene in those early days as a “subculture?" What does that word mean to you?
I'd say the scene around FOTT in the early days was more of a community. I see "subculture" as mostly a rebellious thing. It is usually about nonconformism and isolation. At FOTT, people of all different subcultures appreciate our store, our way of running retail and our general style. Different people can always find something in FOTT to reflect their individuality.
How supportive were forum members in helping you make the jump to a physical store?
Looking at our forum, we realized pretty quickly that there were people who needed the right menswear store in Moscow. We knew that even simply attempting to start such a business would be appreciated, so we felt we could rely on their support. Some of the forum’s residents became good friend of ours and they still support us. We are so thankful for it. Some of them even went on to become part of the FOTT team!
How popular would you say streetwear is in Russia today compared to the early days? Has it now broken into the mainstream?
Streetwear in Russia is getting more and more popular. Back in the day there were only one or two streetwear stores, and most of what you wanted you had to buy online. Now streetwear has a huge demand in Russia, especially in Moscow. Via the Internet and various streetwear enthusiasts, the culture has spread throughout Russia and, while it's still not as popular in Moscow as in New York or London, it's gaining a greater presence all the time.
What made you start shooting your own lookbooks?
As I already mentioned, we appreciate values of the brands that we stock but we also have our own view of their concept. As such, we like to show a brand’s legacy and character by adding our own twist through our in-house lookbooks and videos. Mostly all concepts for the videos are created by the members of our awesome photo/video studio.
You also print your own magazine. Is this the logical continuation of your days as a niche Internet interest?
Exactly. With the help of FOTTPAPER we tell stories, show people how our favorite brands work and give an insight into how we travel.
Do you think this is the future for retailers?
Of course. Obviously, unique content is the key but you can also build a strong reputation by providing a great service to your customer.
What about your past? What were the brands you grew up with as a kid?
In my teenage years it was mostly about graphic tees, hoodies, polos, Levi's jeans – some European classics mixed with streetwear staples. Sneakers were one of the main things in those days and Reebok was one of those brands. Everybody rocked Reebok Classics Nylon and Leather – from football fans to skaters and graffiti writers – although back in the day I wanted OG Pump Furys. Only problem was, it was practically impossible to get them in Russia! Then, one day, I finally got them. I was so happy, until I realized that the size was too small! I had to give them to my friend. Now I have my beloved OG Insta Pump Fury and everything's good again.
How would you like to see things progress both for you and for the streetwear scene in Russia as a whole?
Our team want the kids of today to show their own individuality and not just copy some other brand’s concept. Mixing styles is the way forward. Mix it up, guys!
Meet the crew above and stay tuned for more installments in Reebok Classic Subcultures.