Amidst anti-war protesters, LGBT activists and Pussy Riot, Moscow’s youth is getting louder and louder about the things they care about, and they’re doing it with art, music and, of course, fashion. While, from the outside, it appears that Russia is experiencing a conservative resurgence, the young people would certainly disagree. As the cultural climate continues to shift dramatically away from the memory of communism and cold war tension, the younger generations are clashing with the old. For most Russians, transitioning into this new democracy has not been simple or easy. It is hard for them to relate to the younger generation that grew up with more freedoms than they would have ever imagined. And wherever there is a significant generational divide, fashion is often the most immediate and clearest manifestation of what the divide actually looks like. Russia’s first post-Soviet generation is among the first to use fashion to culturally redefine itself.
The effervescent youth of Moscow is filling this generation gap with counter-traditional street styles that are nothing if not inspirational. It’s almost as if every era of the past century is happening all at once in Moscow, from fringed flapper frocks to patchwork busboy caps. Not only has the youth of Russia adapted Western fashion trends in the most unconventional ways possible, but they’re also spinning out some entirely out-of-this world looks that can only be attributed to the energy of Moscow itself. The culmination of designs could not be more compelling.
Essentially, the style storm brewing on the streets of Moscow is more or less reminiscent of the fashion revolution that was 1960’s America but instead of blue jeans and suede they’re wearing, well, absolutely whatever they want.
The unapologetic, experimental counter-culture thriving in Russia’s capital city made its way to the runway this past fall in the 29th season of Moscow Fashion Week, the largest fashion week in Eastern Europe. Sponsored by Mercedes Benz, the same sponsors of our beloved NYFW, the Russian fashion event is, for the first time, promising to make a mark on the fashion world beyond its borders with distinctly Russian designs.
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Designer Ulyana Sergeenko
Emerging Russian designer and blogger Ulyana Sergeenko’s glamorous designs are inspired by Russian literature and fairytale. Since establishing her brand in Paris in 2012, she has been called upon by the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Dita von Teese. Last spring, she sent her model heroines on a glamorous train ride across the vast Russian landscape on a journey reminiscent of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
This past season, Sergeenko’s designs took an edgy turn, channeling times of upheaval in the region, in light of the current situation in Ukraine. Specifically, Sergeenko reflected on the beginning of the 20th century, when the czar fell and the USSR emerged. The elegant feminine designs in this collection reflect the attitude of the fashionable well-dressed city girls of Moscow.
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Designer Ria Keburia
Ria Keburia challenged gender boundaries this fall with a pastel line of gender-neutral frocks reflective of baby clothes and Japanese tailoring, which were worn by both male and female models with rosy cheeks and child-like twisted hair. Keburia scattered the runway with toys, which the models would sit and play with periodically throughout the show. “When you’re a baby you don’t think too much about borders, limits – you’re free, you’re happy,” Keburia said backstage.
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Designer Julia Nikolaeva
Julia Nikolaeva earned a cult following in Russia with her namesake couture clothing label that’s been boldly blending fashion with politics since 1992 with designs that have sought to capture the mood of mass discontent and societal tension in Russia. This season, Nikolaeva continued to use the runway as a platform in order to voice the youth’s desire for a new democracy in Russia by means of her signature sleek aesthetic, which calls on sheer fabric, graphic tops and glossy jackets. The finale consisted of a stampede of models that stood before powerful wind turbines that blustered through the sheer fabrics and the hundreds of post-its stuck to the floor. According to Nikolaeva, this collection was about kinetic energy.
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Designer Yasya Minochkina
Yasya Minochkina is a Ukranian designer who was featured in Moscow fashion week this fall. Interestingly, Minochkina also presented this collection in lesser-known Kiev fashion week in the midst of war- not an easy feat. Though Kiev is a fashion outlier, Ukraine actually has a history of clothing making, as it was the producing region for the USSR and later Russia. Certainly, Minochkina’s bright designs, featuring nets, silk, leather and metallic fabric are durable statements of optimism and strength during a time of turmoil.
These designers, along with the youth of Moscow have proven that change is indeed a breeding ground for creativity and fashion is an endless shimmering fountain of rebellion. “Dressing differently increases your chances to be seen and heard,” says Julia Dale, founder of The Russian Fashion Blog. We hear you Russia.