Fashion in Russia: a Breath of Fresh Air from the East

March 22, 2019 0 By HearthstoneYarns

After a decade of remarkable consumption and luxury retail sales, the
Russian fashion market is clearly moving into a new direction. More mature
and smarter, it’s becoming more predictable for a long-term strategy and
thought-out planning, creating new potential for the domestic fashion
industry.

In 2017, the Russian fashion market grew by 5 percent to 2.4 trillion
Russian rubles (34.1. billion euros) as outlined by the state-owned Agency
Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) in a recent country report. Russia now
represents one of the largest retail markets and one of the most dynamic
European economies.

We all know the names of the fashion capitals Milan, Paris, London, New
York and most recently Tokyo. Moscow remains an insider’s tip, even though
numerous Western brands marketing their products there have been
commercially successful in spite of the market volatility. But what’s the
outlook for the fashion industry of such a large country with local fashion
houses and design schools? Why is the new generation of Russian designers
unknown in the global world of fashion?

The Soviet era – fashion standstill and transformation

To answer these questions, we need to travel back to the times of the
USSR. Several designers – best known among them Zaitsev (who celebrated his
80th birthday this year) and fur princess Irina Krutikova – enjoyed a
celebrity status by designing clothes for the women of the Kremlin.
However, this industry was for most part developed for the purpose of
producing functional clothing and not to create high-end fashion styles.

The greatest changes occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when
the industry declined to the point of non-existence for lack of demand and
consumer spending power. Dolce and Gabbana along with other western
high-end labels were popular at the time, flaunting the wearer’s financial
status.

When the neo-punk movement reached the country’s youth, we saw a wave of
“Soviet style” fashion trends with a hint of irony: sparkling red stars
graced the collections of Olga Soldatova, while Gosha Rubchinskiy dedicated
his fashion odes to Yuri Gagarin, and the ”USSR” signature appeared on
T-shirts designed by Denis Simachev. The target group, born after 1970,
welcomed the styles with nostalgia and joy.

Small niche brands with a large potential

Times are changing; the fashion industry all over the world is enduring
one crisis after another – albeit this is not necessarily the sentiment at
the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia in Moscow. To the contrary, attendees
demonstrate an enthusiasm for fashion that organisers in Berlin or London
can only dream of. Smaller, so-called niche brands definitely have
excellent prospects, says Alexander Shumsky, president and organiser of the
Fashion Week in Moscow, which is currently in its 36th season and has much
more to offer than bling-bling, Soviet symbolism or stage outfits for local
popstars.

Shumsky is hoping to establish and support fashion made in Russia
internationally in the long term. ”We should evolve from the conventional
retail market with all the major western labels into a hub for home-grown
talent”, he says, adding “that’s why we invite buyers and the media to come
here and learn about the concept of Russia and Russian fashion, in our very
own multifaceted, cultural and social context”.

There is a large pool of home-grown talent – more than 3,000 local
designers apply each season to present their collections at the exhibition
centre. Nearly half a dozen are selected; with Shumsky paying careful
attention to a well-balanced portfolio. Fashion for both women and men is
presented and there are plenty of names to be remembered.

Click through the slideshow to discover more.

Artem Shumov is one of these promising designers. Originally from Saint
Petersburg, this young creative is now dividing his time between Moscow and
Shanghai, where he gathers the inspiration for his collections. Clean
western cuts are playfully mixed with colours to create a new
interpretation of a conventional suit that is appropriate for both men and
women to wear.

Anastasia Dokuchaeva, who bears a striking resemblance to young
Christopher Kane, brings an impressive eclectic mix of colours, fabrics and
unusual trends to the table.
And then there is IVKA – the brand established by Anastasia Gassi, the
young graduate of London’s Central Saint Martin’s College, who works with
unique and natural fabrics with a focus on “less is more”. Nikolas Legenda
is another example, presenting his minimalist collections with a strong
Scandinavian influence and combining avant-garde and tradition.

More than 100 Russian, Cossack, Georgian as well as South African
designers presented their autumn and winter collections for 2018/2019.
Aside from the shows, each season features the symposium titled “Fashion
Futurum” in the context of which lectures and workshops are held for junior
designers. On the last day of the fashion week, numerous shows and
presentations from the newcomers are also organized in the City Museum of
Moscow.

Paris can wait or exploiting the home advantage

”This is our future”, explains Shumsky, a firm believer in Russia as a
nation of fashion lovers. It is not about an isolated world. Russian
designers flocked to Florence to present their creations there – a
legitimate action in Shumsky’s opinion. But he believes that the concept
according to which many young German or British designers first attempt to
make a name for themselves abroad in order to become successful on their
home turf, is somewhat outdated. The competition is fierce and Shumsky’s
strategy is to advise designers to exploit their home advantage.

Moscow has created its own ecosystem, its own fashion industry. The
question remains whether the West is ready to open its market to it.
Further solutions are in the works, aimed at preventing Russia from missing
the mark and failing to make the global connection.

E-commerce is also
available in Russia, with online sales benefitting from a boost in buying
mood and expected to generate revenues of 1.1 trillion rubles (about 17
billion euros) in 2018, according to the study conducted by the Agency
Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI). And the tendency is rising.

Russia remains a mysterious place when it comes to fashion – leaving us
guessing what the future will hold. Only time will tell and it would be a
shame if Russians were unable to play their part in the fashion industry,
just as they do in music, ballet, chess and in literature.

Our guest author Natasha Binar has been at home with the fashion
industry for many years and was working among other things for the British
Fashion Council in London. Today, the trained sociologist is active as a
journalist and consultant and teaches at the AMD Academy for Fashion &
Design. Her first book titled “Berlin Catwalks” was published in 2011.

Photos: Autumn and winter collections for 2018/2019 designed by Artem
Shumov, Anastasia Dokuchaeva, Nikolas Legenda, Za Za and IVKA. © MBFWRussia