If ever there was a good time to be Russian in the fashion industry, it's now. Thanks to Gosha Rubchinskiy, who turned his obsession with Russian youth and skater romanticism into an international style empire, Russia is no longer the underdog. With the hectic mixture of Soviet architecture and new-era glitz, the city that never sleeps is constantly in flux, meaning that its fashion scene now is hardly recognisable as the same one that Rubchinskiy started out in. Moreover, it’s no longer just his global teenage fanbase, eagerly waiting for Rubchinskiy’s latest book or T-shirt drop, wondering what it’s going on in Moscow.
These days, Moscow’s brightest fashion talents exist off the grid
It seems a paradox that at a time when Russian fashion is getting so much hype in the media, Moscow's fashion weeks (Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia, 12-17 March; Moscow Fashion Week, 21-26 March) are not drawing international guests — simply because they do not stand up to global standards of quality. Yet it hasn’t always been this way: Gosha Rubchinskiy showed his first collection at a sports stadium in 2008, during “Cycles and Seasons”, an alternative fashion week which showcased the most exciting cutting-edge talents of the time. The change in attitude to Moscow’s fashion weeks doesn’t necessarily mean that Moscow the capital is lacking in creative talent, it just signifies a major shift in the industry. In an era when a collection’s presentation, distribution and retail could be easily done online, fashion experts are wondering if fashion weeks, with the huge expense for shows, travel and logistics, are even necessary any more. These days, Moscow’s brightest fashion talents exist off the grid: those striving for global recognition show abroad, while those that want to conquer the local market are doing so online.
It’s hard to underestimate Gosha Rubchinskiy’s influence on the Russian fashion scene, but his main gift to the designers following in his footsteps was not the media limelight, or even the hype for post-Soviet aesthetics — but his DIY ethos. The fact that his international success started from a few sweatshirts and good ideas has inspired emerging creatives: from streetwear brands like Sputnik1985 and Volchok to small businesses selling bespoke lingerie, jewellery and leather goods. The online market for small Russian companies is vast, and certain brands, like Cyrille Gasiline, even manage to rival the global mass market.
At the same time, there are fashion designers working in Moscow whose world is completely peripheral to Rubchinskiy’s. Established designers Vika Gazinskaya and Alyona Akhmaduliva and young stars like J.Kim are striving to reinvent contemporary womenswear. Ulyana Sergeenko runs her ambitious haute couture empire, while avant-garde pioneers Nina Donis experiment with bold gender-fluid garments. There are also talents with global minds like Tigran Avetisyan and Outlaw Moscow. The scene is diverse and thriving, and there is a lot to see and buy.
In terms of shopping, Moscow has always had a lot to offer. Kuznetsky Most 20 has a well-deserved reputation as a globally minded retailer with a perfect mixture of Russian designers, young talent like Martine Rose, Off White and Jacquemus, and fashion heavyweights like Raf Simons. SV Moscow offers a contemporary and refined vision, and it’s also a place to hunt for limited edition Vetements hoodies produced in collaboration with the store. TsUM, a former Soviet shopping centre-turned-luxury department store, is also a must, alongside Tsvetnoy Central Market, particularly Depst on the basement floor which sells clothes, accessories and furniture from a lot of independent Russian designers. If you’re looking for something with more street spirit, the Volchok and Sputnik1985 brands are hits among Russian urban youth, and both have their own stores in Moscow.
The style on the streets of Moscow these days is as diverse as its design scene. There are plenty of kids dressed head-to-toe in Supreme and Gosha, occasionally throwing in Adidas trackpants in homage to the Russian Nineties. Bomber jackets and sweatpants are now a completely acceptable fashion uniform, and although Moscow It-girls are still sticking to luxury, these days it often comes in the shape of a Vetements hoodie. The new generation determines its dress code according to the parties and raves it goes to, rocking a blend of Nineties sportswear and futuristic high-tech goth. All in all, Moscow has always had a restless, unapologetic energy, and this is what hasn’t changed.