Streetwear clothing is notoriously difficult to define, even by those who wear it. This may be because, as its name suggests, streetwear is largely a grassroots fashion movement influenced by what is currently happening “on the streets,” and is thus constantly evolving. However, we can isolate a few general principles of streetwear. First of all, it is usually centered upon casual, comfortable pieces such as jeans, t-shirts, caps and sneakers. It is also largely influenced by skateboarding and hip hop details as well as 1980s nostalgia, and often features bold colors, graphic prints, and retro designs and logos.
The modern “war” between streetwear brands, however, have seen Moscow designer and photographer Gosha Rubchinskiy strike gold with his distinctly Russian take on urban and skatewear. Why is he emerging from the crowd so and how do you go from handmaking 10 tees to producing over 50,000 in just a few years?
To begin, Rubchinskiy’s collections bring something to the fashion-streetwear crossover genre that we’ve never seen before. While past generations of streetwear designers, whether high-end or low, have drawn influences from American culture, Gosha designs with a distinctly Russian accent. A sartorial expression of Moscow’s largely undiscovered youth scene, the label emerges at a time when Russian streetwear labels rarely make a name for themselves beyond Soviet soil. Rubchinskiy presents a unique take on streetwear that cares little for current fads and trends; his collections are wildly colorful and filled with awkward, ugly-but-beautiful quirks, oversized geometries, mismatched patchworks and colossally boxy cuts. The graphics are hypnotic, the cyrillic lettering used throughout Gosha’s imagery is familiar and at the same time completely alien and it’s hard to imagine it being so attractive to Western viewers if it was in the regular Latin alphabet. Visually it’s a reference to infinite parts of his country’s culture and history, while he enlists an ever-expanding gang of young associates, which he finds through Instagram, to star in his shows, lookbooks and photography. Gosha’s work is reflecting the mindset of young people in the age of social media and instant communication, and at the same time championing a new vision of Russia, one that’s young, nostalgic and beautiful.
All began during the summer of ’08 and after a bold presentation at Paris Fashion Week in 2014, the designer scrambled to fulfill orders that came piling in, with Dover Street Market‘s initial buy selling out in just two days. But times weren’t always so good. Indeed, the early days of the label were full of challenges. Rubchinskiy, a young photographer who largely trained his lens on skater friends and Moscow’s youth scene, never set out to launch a fashion business and the early stages of his brand reflected a scrappy, do-it-yourself approach. “We started from making t-shirts, very cheap, and we bought Fruit of the Loom sweatshirts and put embroidery on top. Very DIY. A friend of mine helped to fund the first collection and we made some shirts and denim jackets,” Rubchinskiy recalls.
Luckily for Rubchinskiy, Anna Dyulgerova, the former Russian Vogue fashion editor turned creative consultant, selected the designer to show as part of Cycles & Seasons, an alternative fashion week she launched in Moscow in 2009. Then, attracting the attention from some media publications and buyers, Rubchinskiy earned an invitation to London Fashion Week, where he presented a 12-piece collection produced with personal funds and transported by hand in his own suitcase. But without money, a team or production, Rubchinskiy fell into a period of depression and decided to put his label on hold. “It’s very difficult to start a fashion label in Moscow. Good fabrics are expensive and customs rules are very strict. I started thinking that fashion for me was over.” It was then that Rubchinskiy met Adrian Joffe, president of Comme des Garçons and retail expert behind Dover Street Market. Impressed with Rubchinskiy, Joffe was keen to stock his collection on market, the rest is history. “You design the collection, I make it, I sell it for you” Joffe recalls. From the start of the partnership, in 2012, sales grew steadily. But the decision to present the label’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection on the Paris runway, in June 2014, set the business on a whole new trajectory.
Over the last year, his label has jumped 350 percent in sales and 150 stockists worldwide sell his brand. Today, the Russian creative remains a discernible figure in the global spotlight, presented an outstanding Fall/Winter 2016 collection and this June, Rubchinskiy will be presenting a show at Pitti Uomo in Florence, Italy as a guest designer, just next to the iconic Raf Simons.