With streetwear infiltrating luxury fashion, it’s no longer a novelty to see urban culture staples like trainers, tracksuits, and cross-body bags on the runways of world-renowned brands like Prada or Louis Vuitton. Street culture itself has long become big business: Supreme, which started as a small NYC skateboarding shop in 1994, is now worth $1bn.
Streetwear is fashion’s great equaliser, and its meteoric rise has much to do with the way it transcends age and class. The question of gender, however, is more complicated.
Streetwear has an overwhelmingly male image: that’s obvious not only from the demographics of the lengthy queues outside Supreme and Palace shopfronts, but also the designers and style icons like Virgil Abloh and ASAP Rocky associated with it. Women’s labels like MadeMe, Aries Arise, and Ashleigh Williams have been trying to redefine the male-dominated industry, but there is still a long way to go.
In Russia, the streetwear scene is currently going through a homegrown renaissance. Though still a minority, a new crop of brands run by women is on the rise. Streetwear has always been about something much bigger than sweatshirts and graphic T-shirts — it’s about a rebellious DIY mentality and the freedom that comes with it.
With that in mind, and together with FACES&LACES, an annual expo of Russian streetwear taking place in Moscow this weekend, The Calvert Journal picks the best female-run labels to watch out for.
Minimal label Novaya (meaning “new” in Russian) was founded in 2011 in St Petersburg from the desire to make clothing more straightforward and practical without compromising on aesthetics. The label’s main preoccupation is functionality, something which has been long been overlooked in womenswear. The materials are air-permeable, waterproof, have a soft shell layer, and are easy to maintain. Many garments are adjustable according to the season and temperature: you can take off the sleeves of a jacket to make it into a vest, or tailor the length of a garment with zips. Most of their garments are unisex, in keeping with contemporary utilitarian aesthetics. For FACES&LACES, Novaya created the Liniya Pobeda capsule collection, inspired by the constraints of budget airline travel: every garment has a number of removable pockets and sections to keep one’s belongings in as a response to the one-bag policy.
Moscow-based label Turbo Yulia is known for blending futurism, rave culture, and social awareness. Yulia Makarova began her design career in 2014, and soon her cyberpunk-style helmet hats gained popularity among performance artists, the fashion crowd, and Opening Ceremony buyers. Now she takes cues from functional, high-vis workwear, which has become a highly politicised topic since the gilets jaunes protests in France last year. Adorned with smileys and alien symbols, her designs are staples amongst Russia’s emerging rave crowd. However, Turbo Yulia designs and catwalk shows can also be read as a commentary on workers’ rights and immigration. In her shows, rave kids appear side-by-side with cleaners and construction workers (usually migrants moving to Moscow to find work) — people who are often underrepresented in the cultural sphere.
Goldmans is the collaborative project of two sisters, Jane and Yulia Goldman, founded in 2010. It was Yulia’s love of painting and Jane’s idea to feature her sister’s artwork on garments that started it all. “We want to make day-to-day clothes less boring. Our style combines provocation, defiance, and creativity. We don’t care about labels and just do what we like,” the sisters explain. Goldmans’ clothing has a playful DIY attitude: cats, devils, and female figures appear on T-shirts and sweatshirts as prints or embroidery. Combined with colourful lacquer skirts and hand-painted leather jackets, they would make a perfect outfit for any modern riot grrl. For FACES&LACES, the Goldman sisters have prepared an installation dedicated to their love of counterculture, which will feature a performance by musician Pasha Eremeev (Holy Palms, Usssy).
Founded by designer Natalia Bakaeva in Moscow, A Shade More is about good quality wardrobe staples with a contemporary edge. It offers a fresh take on classics like oversized trench coats and blazers, tailored shirts, and silk slip dresses, but also more relaxed comfy sweatshirts and tracksuits. Much in line with current trends, there are a lot of earthy, muted tones and sculptural, oversized denim jackets and vests with frayed hems. A Shade More’s designs might seem reserved, but they’re all about nuance, detail, and quality.
Moscow-based project Temporary Mark, created by Ulia Kimaeva, centers on the idea of multi-purpose uniform. TM produces only five unisex garments: T-shirts, long-sleeve tops, shorts, tracksuit bottoms, and baseball caps. They do come in three colours, to add some variety. Stripped of details, TM seeks to simplify our approach to choosing clothes that fit our lifestyles, but also brings intuition and playfulness to our wardrobes.