Russian fashion design icon Slava Zaitcev is, this month, celebrated by an exhibition that serves as both a retrospect and a reworking of some of his most famous and artistic pieces. ‘New Old New’ pays tribute to the designer through a series of images and video installations that serve to embody the vocal narrative and expressive qualities of the archival collections. The exhibition, held at the Triumph gallery in Moscow, only highlights how far Russian fashion and heritage has developed – from constricted and controlled Soviet property to something every Russian can now enjoy, promote, and have the freedom to discover. Dazed spoke to Vconfessiosn's Ksenya Tarakanova and Alexandra Pavlova, who curated the show, to find out more about this Russki venture…
Dazed Digital: Could you tell me a little bit about how the project came about? How was it realised?
Ksenya Tarakanova and Alexandra Pavlova: ‘New Old New’ is a certain re-look and re-take on Soviet fashion. One of Russia’s very first haute couture designers, Slava Zaitcev, worked, lived, developed and expressed himself most noticeably during the Perestroika political period in the country. For us, the main idea was to focus on this decade, between the 1980s and the 1990s. Over the last 30 years nobody has ever really opened or explored his archive so we decided to tell a story about his era of success by using the body of work as unseen and forbidden pieces. The Soviet understanding of design has a great interchangeability with its own time in history and also represents deep and unique interpretation of local context. In fact, the 25 photos and video installation piece create a discourse into the designer’s world.
DD: Why did you decide to call the exhibition 'New Old New'?
KT&AP: Fashion is much more about circulation and the reinterpretation of forms filled from the ideas of the creator. New Old New is a transcription of this sense, an endless circle of renovation with reference to the past. Slava Zaitcev was abandoned by the epoch of new Russians, and now, after years of silence, he has become absolutely modern and relevant again.
DD: How do you think that the artwork relates to Slava Zaitcev’s aesthetic and work ethic?
KT&AP: Danila Polyakov has strong artistic intuition. He puts himself into a situation of dialog with the costume and reflects the series of speaking images with a huge personal feeling. He interpreted Zaitcev’s aesthetic in this way, redefining and recreating a legendary designer in a fresh, modern presentation.
DD: How did the artists work to embody the feel of Zaitcev in their works?
KT&AP: First of all they worked with the colours and textures that Zaitcev used, taking inspiration and keynotes from the traditional Russian fairytales Zaitcev so admired. That, mixed with the narrative images of Soviet children’s movies means that each photo is an emotional circumstance and creates very spontaneous feel to the exhibition.
DD: Zaitcev was influenced by traditional Russian and Slavic styles – what influenced the artists in the show? Is this something you can engage with?
KT&AP: The mutation epoch and years of violent political and cultural changes has had a great impact on every Russian creative. For the artists involved, the fascination of Zaitcev’s work lies exactly in his impenetrable, immovable creative position. He was working under the huge, political eye of the state and aimed to celebrate the soviet lifestyle in all its national diversity. The best example is his collaboration with the Olympics in 1980. No matter what Zaitcev worked on, he has been singing his own song about the elegance and beauty of fashion.
DD: How important is it for you to encourage and promote Russian heritage and fashion?
KT&AP: The question of promoting Russian heritage in fashion I would say is the same as just trying to record the present moment which is, in essence already a kind of past. Russian culture is so rich and historically complex – so we had a lot of issues with respecting the experiences of the past. The country is moving and growing fast, and we are becoming the victims of changing trends. So, that’s why we thought it would be interesting to showcase this archive, to keep the rhythm of registration and documentation.
DD: The film features a masked figure – it seemed to me that this could be interpreted as the need for Russia to free itself from the binds of the masked, communist history that it is so often associated with – is this something you would agree with?
KT&AP: The communist past is often associated with the pressure that is carried by many generations afterwards, but modern Russia and young artists now are not the children of those times anymore. They have their own perception and understanding of the vast transformation of contemporary aesthetics.
DD: What does Russian fashion mean to you? Can you define it?
KT&AP: Russian fashion is a very young substance indeed, but we wouldn’t like to really divide the fashion into Russian and not Russian. Talented work from talented people should be noticed wherever it is coming from.
Vconfession is the initiative of Ksenya Tarakanova and Alexandra Pavlova. They are rapidly building their names by supporting young talents and helping them raise their ideas onto a higher level.
'New Old New' is on at the Triumph Gallery, 40 Novokuznetskaya ulitsa, Moscow 115054, Russia