1984, Soviet sportswear and Moscow youth – a five point guide to the Russian designer’s latest ode to his homeland
Last season, Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy got inspired both by the football hooligan Nazbol subculture of his native land and a group of Italian label lovers from the 80s, whose passion for logos showed up in reworked brand graphics, familiar but uncanny. For SS16, he kept things close to home, taking his references from the art, culture and state of Russia, both in the 1980s and today. We break down the five major references behind the collection.
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With their blown out bouffants, boxy silhouettes with flashes of fluro colour and throwback patterned jumpers, the boys of SS16 channelled a very specific type of Soviet style, before the fall of the Iron Curtain opened up the country to outsider fashion influences. With make-up inspired by the country’s rock singers (white powdered faces with bold dashes of colour at the eyes), Rubchinskiy was commenting on the way the country’s cultural memories are resurfacing in the dress of the young, reappropriating retro looks of the 80s. “It’s a very nostalgic moment for them,” he explained – “but now they dress really like that in Moscow.”
The first indication that the show would have both an 80s and a dystopian feel came from the invitations – stark white, with the year 1984 marked out in square red letters, finished with Rubchinskiy’s logo in cyrillic below. “It’s because of the George Orwell book, and there are some references from the Soviet 80s, but it’s really about Moscow, Moscow now,” the designer explained backstage of the reference, seemingly drawing a link between the famous totalitarian fictional society ruled by propaganda (an extreme, allegorical version of the dictatorships that defined countries like Russia in the 20th century) and the state of his homeland today.
Alexander Rodchenko was the pioneering photographer and graphic artist responsible for some of Soviet Russia’s most iconic images, with bold blocks of colour, photomontage and typography acting as his trademarks. A revolutionary, he pretty much invented the propaganda poster as we know it, and his art has been widely copied and adapted. Rodchenko’s influence sprung up not only in the bold prints, but in the sculptural shapes models wore around their heads, as if they were living works of art – one even carried a giant hammer and sickle down the runway.
The boys who walked in the show were brought over to Paris from Russia’s radical street casting agency Lumpen, set up by Avdotja Alexandrova to subvert typical ideas of the country’s model exports with more unusual beauty. Rubchinskiy wanted to show the collection on the youth that inspired it, the kids in Moscow’s club scene – “It’s about boys – boys who come to the parties… the ten boys from Moscow, they’re real,” he said backstage of the casting. Real people are key to Rubchinskiy’s design ethic – like those he featured in his sell-out zine last year, titled Crimea / Kids.
For a collection that featured racer tanks, PE-kit worthy shorts, windbreakers and striped running socks paired with Rubchinskiy’s own sure to sell out Reebok classics, the designer chose one of the oldest basketball courts in Paris as a show space, updating it with a strip of rainbow neon lights that ran around the room. Eagle-eyed fans will have noticed that, weeks back, he posted a picture of a group of what seem to be Eastern Bloc athletes on his Instagram – the year that the USSR led Europe’s communist states in a boycott against the Olympic Games in America, this clue to the collection tied together Rubchinskiy’s key references.