It’s been a while since Russian fashion had a groundbreaking moment on the international scene. The last major success came courtesy of Gosha Rubchinskiy and the so-called post-Soviet movement — an aesthetic defined by skateboarding, '90s subculture, sportswear, and gritty architecture. Yet this type of look, often very urban and masculine, has always been too rigid to reflect Russia’s cultural multitudes. Thankfully, a new generation of fashion designers are here to tell stories on their own terms.
In the last few years, Russian fashion has seen a new wave of emerging voices – all very different, but each of them authentic in their own right. From pre-Soviet craft traditions to provincial small-town quirks to using streetwear as a means of galvanizing politics, this is a group that can't be grouped into one specific box.
It’s not only about stories, but garments and technologies; experimenting with different methods to achieve a more sustainable product. It's a challenging path given the lack of institutional support for young designers, but one that reflects Russia’s new generation’s commitment to creative expression. Forget the conservative cultural mainstream — the new guard is hellbent on defining beauty, style, and gender expression on its own terms.
Seven Russian fashion newcomers to watch
Vereja uses traditional Russian crocheting techniques to explore the body and sexuality. Label founder Igor Andreev learned to knit as a child in a small town school crafts section and rediscovered his passion after quitting his job in fashion media three years ago. All the Vereja garments are hand-knitted, often using reclaimed sweaters, tablecloths, and doilies. The key inspiration for the label are some of the lesser publicized pre-Soviet Russian cultures: Think fairy tales, traditions from rural villages, and pagan holidays.
Moscow-based Kultrab is not only a fashion label but a creative collective focused on political activism. Founded by Alina Muzychenko and Egor Eremeev in 2018, Kultrab has since become a collaborative platform for independent artists, activists, and organizations that support equality and freedom of expression in Russia. When it comes to garments and photography, Kultrab’s vision is sharp and its language relatable. When asked why it’s important to keep talking about feminism, the environment, and LGBTQI+ issues, the founders explained how Russia's younger generation feels that it's been robbed of its future by the government. They're not going to stop anytime soon.
Ch4rm designs are sleek, sexy, and pack a hint of early '00s glamour — see the ultra low-rise jeans, silky bombers, and dresses that accentuate the curves of the body. Strongly inspired by Russian visual culture, the meticulously constructed clothes still lend a distinct universal appeal. Label founder and designer Nikita Chekrygin grew up in the small town of Tula in western Russia, where production is still located. His references include shiny textures of tacky Russian interiors and memories of his teenage peers dancing in provincial R'n'B clubs.
Nensi Avetisian’s signature design is based on the monumental arches of an ancient Armenian church, which is a nod to her family’s heritage. She uses materials such as recycled plastic cups and bottle caps to make bags, corsets, and jackets. Avetisian is focused on implementing recycled materials into her practice with the goal of bringing sustainability into the consciousness of the Russian consumer. Working with tactile textures and muted colors, she merges techniques from fashion and product design.
Nashe started as a subversive exploration of masculinity aimed at expressing a more tender and sensual side. The label works with delicate knitwear, elastic lace, leather, figure-hugging silhouettes, and cutouts that accentuate certain parts of the body. Nashe’s work is about intimacy and fluidity, both of which matter greatly in a time when the concept of gender is being redefined all over the world.
Korean designer Jenia Kim grew up in Uzbekistan and is now based in Moscow. Her work at J.Kim explores the intersection of all of these cultures, with a particular focus on the rarely talked about Soviet-Korean population. She incorporates elements of Korean national dress and Uzbek crafts into garments that look unique and timely. Lil Miquela counts herself as a big fan.
The founder of Vertigo Lorin Mai is half Russian, half Kurdish and the label is a partial research project delving into the idea of belonging in both of these cultures. Vertigo also explores the broader idea of immigration, memory, and the way the concepts of masculinity and beauty differ in various cultural contexts. Materials, textures, and looks in Vertigo’s work are saturated with personal histories, too. For the latest collection, Mai looked into memories she had of her family in Syria.