Streetwear and menswear have become synonymous with one another over the last few years. It’s no longer a novelty to see trainers, tracksuits, and cross body bags — staples of urban culture — on the runways of luxury brands like Prada or Louis Vuitton. The ascent of streetwear into luxury clothing has been meteoric across the world, and there’s no denying that Russian and Eastern European designers have a played a part in its success by blurring the boundaries between high and low in fashion with the so-called “post-Soviet aesthetic”.
Resting on the legacy of Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy, Eastern European streetwear has become a brand in its own right. But a new generation of labels is proving that the trend is about more than tracksuits and a “poor but sexy” attitude. It’s about practical garments which fit perfectly around shifting gender norms, our urban lifestyles, and a DIY spirit. Here are 5 brands which will dominate your social media feeds in 2019.
Moscow-based project Kruzhok started as a photography magazine exploring the visual idiosyncrasies of contemporary Russia, the poetic nature of its urban environments and the new faces of its youth. In 2017, Kruzhok launched a clothing brand, and, as with the magazine, the label is deeply committed to exploring Russia’s visual environment — from its architecture to its iconography. Kruzhok’s designs are unelaborate but the young label makes up for this with inventive collabs: they have previously produced collections with a chess club and Russia’s Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics.
Founded in Kiev in 2010, Syndicate has been at the forefront of Ukraine’s streetwear craze. The label’s garments are what you would expect from a popular streetwear brand — but the label does more than produce slick T-shirts, hoodies, and jackets, also collaborating with local artists to create one-of-a-kind items. Over the years, the label has produced collections with designers Sasha Kanevski and Masha Reva, artist Vova Vorotniov, and most recently Love Curly, who incorporated 3D prints made with augmented reality technology in her designs.
The gender-bending nature of Shura Gang garments is perfectly summed up by the brand’s slogan: “Menswear for girls”. Established by Russian designer Shura Filippova, the Paris-based label plays with binaries of hard and soft, practical and dressy, male and female. The influence of queer vogueing culture is mixed with military gear and bondage, and complete with dreamy, otherworldly styling. Tapping into the performative nature of gender in fashion, Shura Gang creates subversive femme style, but separate garments like silky bomber jackets and baggy shorts could easily be incorporated into your day-to-day wardrobe.
From bomber jackets to minimal sportwear, UEG’s garments often carry a strong political message. The Warsaw-based label have created a wearable manifesto opposing the country’s rising nationalist powers, and have also produced collections in response to issues such as immigration and Polish youth’s quest for identity. For the latest collection, UEG took on the fashion industry’s overproduction problem, and the way social media pressures designers to constantly be “Faster! Bigger! Better!”. The collection, for this reason, was made up of archive pieces instead of new designs. They also frequently collaborate with Zuza Krajewska, one of Poland’s leading photographic talents.
A collaborative project by designers from Russia and the US, Ziq & Yoni was established in 2010 and is now stocked in over 60 stores worldwide, including such major retailers as London’s Selfridges. Ziq & Yoni ticks all the boxes for a contemporary streetwear label: it’s gender neutral and eclectic, it features different languages in its designs, and takes its inspiration from workwear and womenswear. Ziq & Yoni also possesses that rare combination of humour and cultural awareness. Their latest collection, for instance, was shot in the Izmailovo Kremlin in Moscow: a glorious monument to Russian kitsch from the late 90s which is located in one of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods of the city.