A Russian menswear brand pays tribute to the Volga’s vanished barge haulers

A Russian menswear brand pays tribute to the Volga’s vanished barge haulers

1 October 2021

Menswear brand Infundibulum is reviving the now-submerged culture of Russia’s vanished barge haulers with their Spring-Summer 2022 capsule collection, Voda.

In 19th-century Russia, more than 600,000 men and women worked as barge haulers, in teams to pull boats upstream along the country’s Volga river. Despite long hours of inhumane and exhausting work, these communities developed their own distinctive culture, folklore, and way of life. But many of these cultural remnants died with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution. Not only did machines render haulers obsolete, but many of their villages were drowned as waterways were altered to cater to large factories.

The Infundibulum team travelled to Kalyazin, a once-flourishing trading town on the Volga, to shoot the new collection, which creates workwear-inspired outfits in monochrome linen.

Like many of the surrounding villages, churches, and ancient monasteries, most of the village was flooded after a power plant was built nearby in the 1930s. Models stand knee deep in water or on piers, a penetrative gaze piercing the lens. Simple earth tones and loose silhouettes hint at the hardships of a gruelling profession — but the images are tempered with a heady dose of romanticism, evoking the mysticism with which a vanished society is now remembered.

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