It’s been over 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell, and today, the fashion world is under the unlikely spell of the East. It’s not just due to the fact that fashion is looking for new destinations and markets, but also thanks to a new generation of creatives from post-Soviet countries who are starting to make their mark on the industry. Gosha Rubchinskiy made the whole world fall in love with the underground world of Russian skater youth and the grim landscapes of Moscow suburbs. Demna Gvasalia, the head designer at VETEMENTS and newly-appointed creative director at Balenciaga, grew up in 80s Soviet Georgia before moving to Germany as a teenager. Vejas, the new boy-wonder of New York fashion scene, calls Montreal his home town but has Lithuanian and Polish roots. Designers like these channel the curious duality of belonging and being an outsider at the same time, creating stories fit for the new global avant-garde.
The designers in the list below are a fraction of the new fashion wave coming up in post-Soviet countries. Some of them, like the ones based in Kiev and Moscow, work on their brands despite the numerous economical, logistical and political obstacles. Some of them are based in the West, having studied at schools such as Central Saint Martins and the RCA, and create new looks and identities on the verge of local and global. At a time when the rhetoric of the Cold war is increasingly reappearing in the press, it’s more important than ever to look to these young creatives – whose work is about so much more than simply being born in a post-Soviet land.
Dasha Selyanova was born in Saint Petersburg but now runs her brand ZDDZ from London. Her designs are shaped by a hectic urban environment – slogans, signs, merging subcultures – and the desire to be protected from the depression and anxiety that it can trigger. Running a brand for Selyanova is not just business but a chance to explore the emerging generation in Russia and beyond – their obsessions, routines and struggles. As it turns out – ZDDZ workwear-inspired garments seem to suit them just fine.
Moscow-based Tigran Avetisyan graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins in 2012 with an LVMH scholarship, and has been on the radar of international press (including Dazed) and buyers ever since. Unlike most of designers in this list, he’s working with menswear challenging its conventions with unusual silhouettes (hypersize or extremely tight) and strong textures. He uses his collections to send subversive messages, often critical of fashion industry – for example huge slogan “NO JOBS” from his graduate collection, or this fake perfume ad. His latest collection features the abundance of conflicting animal prints and colours like red and fuchsia – inspired by the bad taste reigning the outfits of Moscow ladies.
Probably the most internationally-renowned Ukrainian designer, Anton Belinskiy was nominated for the LVHM prize in 2015. His collections reflect the rebellious and free spirit of contemporary Kiev youth. Oversized jackets evoking 90s tracksuit tops which he presented to the jury in Paris were proudly adorned with what seemed to be the slogan of Ukraine’s new generation: “Poor But Cool”. The SS16 collection followed with bold colours, loose-fitting silhouettes, collage-like approach and slogans – this time drawing inspiration from Joseph Beuys’s statement that “Everyone is an artist”.
Streetwear brand Sputnik 1985 is the perfect uniform for cool kids of contemporary Russia. The garments – sweatshirts, t-shirts, windbreakers, backpacks – are practical, the prices affordable, and messages (“I will always be against”, “I’m worse than you”, “No chances”) just right for the young generation. The brand’s slogans and attitudes reflect the struggle for new identity and a complex attitude towards the future and their place in the world of the ones born in 80-90s.
Self-taught George Keburia represents a new generation of Georgian fashion designers. Unlike most of his counterparts, Keburia doesn’t turn to traditional folk Georgian culture for inspiration. The image he created in his latest collection is a rather global party girl with love for black slip dresses, elements of masculine tailoring and huge star earrings. His example shows that going in the direction completely opposite to the one offered by your background is sometimes the best one to go.
The idea of duality is key to Ukranian designer Lilia Litkovskaya’s work – whether it’s the concept of the gender binary, contrasting materials and silhouettes, or the opposition of east and west. A geisha’s kimono becomes an outfit ready for a rave, lace is cut into a loose jumpsuit. The brand’s signature is statement coats: oversized geometric garments made of tailored hard fabric with the boldness of brutalist architecture, perfect for the era of post-Céline comfort.
Marta Jakubowski was born in Poland and grew up in Germany. She graduated with an MA from the Royal College of Art in 2014 and gained experience with Hussein Chalayan, Alexander Wang and Jonathan Saunders before setting up her own label. Her approach is minimal: often there’s just three colours, red, black and white, and the whole outfit is one piece. At the same time, her work is unexpected – just like the train of fabric connecting models at her graduate show. Her garments evoke the sense of energy and movement and a subtle cut instantly transforms a humble piece into something subtly sexual.
Moscow-born Yulia Kondranina set up her eponymous brand in London in 2012. On a fairly short run, she’s already stocked by Opening Ceremony and Dover Street Market. Her garments have everything: a striking look, recognisable ethereal silhouette as well as intricate techniques and embroidery.
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