Models wear buttoned white denim skirts with silver crop tops, silk pyjamas, transparent dresses with transparent bombers, and light white coats. Their skin is covered with bruises and fake tattoos: last night, it seems, was fun. It’s the Walk of Shame Spring / Summer 2014 catwalk show, tonight’s destination for fashion-obsessed and fun-loving Muscovites. Designer Andrey Artyomov once again tells his favourite story of beautiful indulgence and its consequences. “I had the idea of bruises from the very start,” he says. “It was bruises and love bites from sex, and then I added tattoos.”
When I call Andrey Artyomov of Walk of Shame to organise a visit to his studio in Moscow he refuses. “It’s not about me as a designer,” he says. “We have a story which we want to tell. It’s about girls and parties.” The story definitely involves both the hedonism of today’s Moscow and the designer’s vision of contemporary, edgy Russian glamour.
“In Moscow, there is no division between youth and money. It’s a city where people still drink champagne for breakfast”
He finally agrees to meet on the terrace of Oldich Dress and Drink, a bar, restaurant and vintage store in one. He’s wearing a black T-shirt, dark jeans and a blue denim jacket that matches the colour of his eyes. He has dark brown curly hair and makes a good first impression: friendly, and easy-going but with a quiet confidence most likely gained from years of dealing with the chaos of fashion shoots.
Artyomov is a former stylist who started Walk of Shame in 2010. He now sells his collections at a range of high-end department stores and boutiques in Moscow and in 11 cities across Russia. Starting from this season, his clothing can also be found at Opening Ceremony’s boutiques in Tokyo, New York and London. That’s not even counting his numerous fans around the world who place orders via Facebook, Tumblr or Instagram.
The 32-year-old has come to be known for collections that capture Moscow’s consumerist, excessive side; a city driven by ambition and fuelled by easy money. His clothes are for young women who like to have fun and enjoy the finer things in life, who can afford his silk bomber jackets, floating dresses, fur coats and velvet slippers. “Moscow is a fun city that’s young at heart and has lots of money,” says Artyomov. “In Moscow, there is no division between youth and money. It’s a city where people still drink champagne for breakfast. It’s weird, it’s borderline, it’s crazy, I love it.”
“It’s about fun and its consequences told in the language of irresistibly seductive design”
What started as a bit of fun among friends — “My friend created the logo,” says Artyomov. “At that point my life was one big walk of shame” — soon extended beyond the borders of the Russian capital. For Artyomov, Walk of Shame is a universal story about “Bruises on knees, yesterday’s hair and yesterday’s make-up. It’s about fun and its consequences told in the language of irresistibly seductive design.”
Walk of Shame is representative of a new type of Russian fashion label — small, independent and homegrown. It’s one of several brands to have grown out of the capital’s fashion scene, which has undergone dramatic change in the last few years. It’s no longer about loud catwalk shows and fashion weeks sponsored by big brands but about young designers investing their own money and a new generation of consumers both at home and abroad. “With the expansion of the internet, the mechanisms of fashion marketing have changed,” says Artyomov. “It’s the era of Facebook likes. People are interested not only in brands which are very famous and expensive or popular and cheap. People are looking for something new.”
Even taking the growing interest in Russian brands into consideration, Walk of Shame has achieved success quickly, with fans ranging from the Moscow skateboarder crowd to Russian it-girls like Elena Perminova, the wife of billionaire media mogul Alexander Lebedev. One reason for Artyomov’s success is his background. A costume designer by education, he worked as a stylist for long enough to understand the mechanisms of the fashion industry and learn how to make a garment shine at a fashion shoot. “You see this world from the other side,” he says. “You take the clothes for fashion shoots, see how they’re sent in, sent back and how fashion PR works with the editorial team.”
More important is Artyomov’s talent for creating captivating narratives. Since its inception, fashion has been sustained by illusions: you’re never buying a dress or a pair of shoes, you’re buying a story. This has only increased in the digital age when your physical interaction with a garment in a shop is preceded by images in the fashion press. At the Walk of Shame Fall / Winter 2013 show, pale-skinned girls with wet hair and dark lips walked around an abandoned concrete warehouse. Artyomov’s main stylist is Dasha Anichkina, fashion director of Elle Russia. With her help, and that of video artist Avdotia Alexandrova and fashion photographer Alexei Kiselev, Artyomov builds an astonishing picture of rough cutting-edge urban glamour.
In spite of Walk of Shame’s heavy emphasis on Moscow’s champagne-fuelled lifestyle, the brand has a wide appeal thanks to its broad price range.“If you can’t buy a dress you can buy a T-shirt,” says Artyomov. “If you can’t buy a fur coat you can buy a sweatshirt, jacket or sweater. Prices start from £80 pounds for a simple cotton T-shirt with an embroidered Walk of Shame logo and go up to £4,000 for the fur coat.”
“Walk of Shame injects some much-needed fun into the contemporary Russian fashion scene”
Both ends of the line are popular. One of the stand-out Fall / Winter 2013 items was a lilac and purple fur coat. “Pre-colored goat fur is cut into stripes and attached to a silk base by hand so that it is light and moves beautifully. We created the coat as a signature item for fashion shoots and celebrities. It’s a risky product so we only produce them on order.” Another hit, this one more accessibly priced, was Walk of Shame’s bright-coloured sweaters emblazoned with one of two declarations: “I’m luxury” or “Glory to Russia”; both items sold out and are now only available via a waiting list. “The Glory to Russia sweater was sort of a statement. It reflects where we stand,” says Artyomov. “It’s a football fans’ slogan recreated in the colours of the gay rainbow. The ‘I’m luxury’ sweater was inspired by the Noughties and the cheap aesthetics of street markets.”
Walk of Shame injects some much-needed fun into the contemporary Russian fashion scene. There are thoughtful minimalists like Vika Gazinskaya and talented visionaries rethinking national aesthetics like Gosha Rubchinskiy; and then there is Walk of Shame. The brand is all about partying and the kind of girls who only return home the next morning after a night out. Artyomov gives them a choice about who they want to be. “Some wear it seriously, some ironically,” he says. “I create it, and then it has its own life.”