‘What’ya Lookin’ at?’

PHOTO by Messir / Wikicommons
How street style is affecting new Russian fashion

Jogging bottoms, tracksuits, sneakers and baseball caps represent modern Russian fashion to the rest of the world. Russian style no longer means Pavlovsky Posad shawls or ushankas. Gazeta.ru investigates this phenomenon and identifies the drivers of this change.

Folk and fairy-tale motifs have traditionally been utilised as a vehicle to promote Russian fashion in the West. Russian contemporary couture is not so much about Khohloma designs and kokoshniks as the tracksuits and peaked caps which have been popular with loutish lads across the country since the 1990s. We used to find chavs intimidating in our youth, but having outgrown our childhood fears, we feel something like nostalgia for that time and are happy to wear leather jackets with tracksuit trousers ourselves. The stern Russian face has appeared to be quite attractive.

Apart from Western fashion critics and journalists, fans of the new Russian style now include Rihanna, Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Kylie Jenner, who have all been spotted wearing Gosha Rubchinsky’s creations. American rapper ASAP Rocky, one of the Russian designer’s major devotees, turned up at the latest VMA ceremony dressed in Rubchinsky right down to his socks.

Fashion 1

First Breakthrough

In autumn 2008 Gosha Rubchinsky kicked off his new fashion line by staging a hugely successful show at a small stadium in Sokolniki, Moscow. The show was aping a school PE class and featured teen roller-skaters dressed in the refreshing athleisure style, which enjoys rampant popularity today and has even become acceptable at high-end social events.

The show made Rubchinsky so famous that he would have been physically unable to deal with the snowballing customer orders. At this point he started his collaboration with Comme des Garçons as a result of which Gosha Rubchinsky creations became available in Dover Street Market, London.

Gosha started his project at a time of change. Members of the Russian elite with some lingering vestiges of the Soviet mentality were still drawn to Manolo Blahnik pumps and mink coats, which they liked to show off at the exclusive Dyagilev club in Moscow, which eventually went out of business in 2008. Europe, however, was moving towards simplicity and minimalism – a journey that was difficult and unfamiliar for Russia.

Fashion 2

Eight years ago it was almost impossible to imagine a Russian celebrity wearing overstretched jogging trousers and a captioned T-shirt to a social event. Today we are seeing it left, right and centre.

Rubchinsky’s latest collection is chock-full of cotton trousers printed with “Save and Protect” (a tattoo phrase popular among Russian chavs) as well ushankas and windbreakers inspired by the Adidas tracksuits which were so fashionable in the 1990s. Recently Gosha Rubchinsky met with rapper and sports footwear designer Kanye West, possibly to discuss the prospect of future collaboration.

Fashion 3


Vetements, a French fashion brand with Georgian and Russian origins, also enjoys a reputation of being a couture rebel and stereotype-breaker. The brand was created by Demna Gvasalia, creative director at Balenciaga, and stylist Lotta Volkova. Their idea was to make “simple clothes” a new fashion trend rather than follow the rules of couture dictated by Paris. Vetements collections are obviously influenced by grunge and post-punk aesthetics, “chav” style and nostalgia for the Soviet past: the brand has even put a limited number of red hoodies with a hammer-and-sickle design on sale.

The original Vetements aprons were inspired by the common oil tablecloths which could be found in each and every flat in the Soviet Union, including the home of Demna's grandmother.

However, it is American street style of the 1990s, with its ubiquitous hoodies and sweatshirts, that has shaped Vetements’s recognisable style. Combining a floaty dress with a bomber jacket or wearing trainers and a T-shirt with a delivery company logo is now à la mode. Glamour has completely gone out of style - a mini-dress and high heels in a nightclub now look decidedly uncool.

Fashion 4

Street Romantics

Denis Simachev is another Russian designer who is shaping the image of Russia abroad. He made his appearance in the early 2000s and presented his first collection in Paris a year after beginning his fashion career. His signature features are bright patterns, ironic playing with national stereotypes and intentional provocation – in fact, Simachev is one of the few designers who made patriotism fashionable.

Simachev’s latest collection entitled “Hooligan” was inspired “by chav romanticism”.

Simachev sees his work as part of a national fashion trend. “People's preferences are changing. The sleek, airbrushed types are no longer interesting for customers – new characters are needed. A corner boy fits this part perfectly.” Despite its bold name, the Hooligan collection consists of basic casualwear such as leather jackets, sweaters and long t-shirts, mostly in black.

Fashion 5

Based on khokhloma motifs, ushankas and sailor-style clothes, Denis Simachev’s style is often perceived by Western audiences as the sum of all Russianness. The new collection shows that “chav” style is an equally important part of Russian culture. “In Western mentality, hooliganism and banditry have always been associated with Russians - just think about how Russians are represented in Western movies,” Denis Simachev told Gazeta.ru in an interview about his new collection.


The young and promising brand Outlaw Moscow entered the Russian market just two years ago and soon became better known internationally than in its country of origin.

Outlaw Moscow was named by Teen Vogue among the top 12 most interesting new brands.

Fashion 6

Along with unusual-looking coats, light dresses and pink bomber jackets, the new Outlaw collection by designers Maksim Bashkayev and Dilyara Minrahmanova offers a full set of generic “chav” track pants, windbreakers, hoodies, peaked caps and t-shirts. Its contribution to world fashion has recently been confirmed by the film project taken on in collaboration with the celebrated photographer Nick Knight; the film premiered in Melbourne last week.

Author: Maria Borisova