When St Petersburg collective Aloe set out their mission — to build a green community, focused on support, health, and conscious consumption — it was only natural that they picked the aloe plant, known for its numerous healing properties, as their name. Back in 2012, they were one of the first local projects to promote sustainable ways of living, long before the concept of eco-friendly lifestyles took off in Russia.
Over their eight years of existence, Aloe have grown from a second-hand store to a self-sustainable union participating in eco-activism, nightlife, independent publishing, upcycled fashion, and art. Their values remain one of the same: to encourage conversations around fast fashion, and other issues concerning young Russians.
“We want a new world,” shares Aloe’s founder Yana, whose plans for 2020 include a group expedition to the Kaluga region to protest the illegal trash polygon, and launching their very own radio station. “It will take time, but it’s possible. We will buy a boat, build a recycling plant, tour across the country, open an “office’ in Berlin and produce our own clean water.”
“Aloeland” exists online, firstly as a community on Russian social media platform VKontakte, where they post music and photography, and as a second-hand shop and upcycle brand. They also have a physical headquarters in St Petersburg’s Petrogradsky island. With its neon interior that could be taken straight from a Gaspar Noé film, it serves as a creative co-living space, an ad-hoc art residence, and a costume rental shop. Aloe’s residents include its co-founder, Yana, a designer who is dedicated to recycled clothing. Aloe encourage anyone to use the space: you can cook, hang out, garden, watch films, sleep over, and rent outfits and memorabilia for shoots. There is no need to sign up: they only ask that frequent visitors contribute to the community by helping them run their party night, or other activities on their events programme.
Avant-garde and ambitious, Aloe is scrupulous too. Last year, its members produced a manifesto on eco-activism to engage their community in environmental issues. “We have a magazine, where we get deeper into issues surrounding sustainability. For example, we published a 100-page issue dedicated to trash, featuring long reads, interviews, infographics, and photography,” says Yana. “We have always questioned the status quo. At the same time, we cherish diversity and respect various points of view.”
Aloe is currently made up of 16 active group members; however, its community totals to 13,000, a crowd you’d no doubt get to know at Aloe’s legendary Wild Disco parties. “These are the people who are sick and tired of consumerism and social media narcissism, people who have a lust for life, who love dreaming and dancing,” Yana adds proudly.
Although Aloe is self-sustainable, it has had to reduce its activities due to COVID-19 and has suffered financial pitfalls as a consequence. Right now the community is trying to tackle the rise of single-use plastics brought about by pandemic panic. “Wet tissues, latex gloves, masks, takeaways: we’ll have to deal with their repercussions another 100 years after the pandemic is over. And during all of this, the Russian Constitution is being changed right under our noses, which we consider a greater danger,” Yana concludes.
Visit Aloe at 11/13 Podkovyrova Street, apt 2. when you’re next in St Petersburg or tune in to Aloe via Zoom on quarantine.