Fashion

Meet Russia's Coolest Fashion Designers

We talked to six of Russia's most inspiring designers about their Fall 2019 collections.
Reading time 7 minutes

As you might expect, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia in Moscow is a flashy and brassy affair. The bulk of the shows happen by the Kremlin, at an old stone Neoclassical arcade amidst the city's bustling historic section. By the end of each day, the space is shaking to the bass of loud electronic music, overcrowded with champagne-sippers. Runways are full of caftans, big shoulders, and bold prints and colors, much of it “Fashion” with a capital F.

But, as is almost always true in life, the real energy is with those who skirt the conventional wisdom. Take Alena Akhmadullina, who easily had one of the best collections of the week: her exhibition was something out of a Wes Anderson film, with a collection of delicate, jewel-toned furs and leathers, inspired by a Russian fairytale, debuting within an industrial space festooned with red autumn leaves. The youth also had shining moments: Darya Tsapko is only 21, still showing as part of an umbrella of emerging talent, but she made one of the most fun, zeitgeisty, and truly wearable statements of the season. It was a Russian take on normcore and streetwear, worn on the runway with Crocs and flower-filled mesh grocery bags.

Here, we asked six of the most impressive designers how they arrived at their visions.

Translated with assistance from Olya Kravchenko

Describe your design process in three words..

What I love.

How would you define Moscow style?

Decisively decorative.

Who is your most important style icon?

Tilda Swinton, as the main character in Orlando. The collection is traditionally inspired by fairytale, this time a Russian one, named “Fox and Cat”.

What music do you listen to the in the studio?

ABC Lounge Radio.

What’s cool about being young and creative in Moscow right now?

The energy of the city makes you move forward, and become better and better every day.

Describe your design process in three words.

Fast, comfortable, and recycled/sustainable.

How would you define Moscow style?

Now you can wear everything. Absolute freedom.

Who is your most important style icon?

Maybe my mom. I’ve never seen style like this. She mixes so many different styles everyday—and I steal her clothes, of course.

What music do you listen to the in the studio?

‘80s New Wave pop.

What’s cool about being young and creative in Moscow right now?

Freedom and new horizons. You can do whatever you want and it will be cool.

Describe your design process in three words.

Self-motivation, time management, caffeine.

How would you define the Moscow style?

Moscow is a huge city with people from various cultures, with different ethical norms, financial opportunities, and freedom of expression. In one space, you can meet both people who are obsessed with brands and those who wear the clothes of their grannies from the ’80s. I like that more and more people are starting to combine all sorts of things—haute couture and things from flea markets, vintage and mass-market.

Who is your most important style icon?

I try not to create idols for myself. For this collection, it all started when I found a stunning vintage motorcycle suit the size of a 15-year-old guy in one of the markets in Florence. It set the entire direction. I studied the moods of the youth of the post-Soviet period, and I was listening to the legendary song by Victor Tsoy, “Changes.” The collection is one big story about a free, rebellious spirit, about brave young hearts demanding change. I used a lot of different leather, Italian wool, plastic, nylon, materials that at first glance do not match, but in this collection they perfectly complement each other.

What music do you listen to the in the studio?

Silence. The primary stage of creating an idea is that moment when I need to focus, concentrate on words that I want to say and how they should be heard. Usually all this happens at night in silence. When the process of implementing ideas begins, jugglers and circus acrobats can run around me, yet there is little that can distract me.

What's cool about being living and being in Moscow now?

Moscow is my hometown, my place of power and inspiration. Moscow is difficult to identify and comprehend, which in my opinion is a sign of a living pulsating city. All these contrasts and inconsistencies keep me in a creative mode and mood.

Describe your design process in three words.

Innovation, liberty, independence.

How would you define Moscow style?

I think it’s a crazy mix because Moscow is a center of many cultures.

Who is your most important style icon?

Russian culture, and this collection in particular, by a Russian poet, Alexander Vertinsky. He was a decadence poet, his style was romantic but dark. Very Russian. His poems made a celebration out of sadness, and I want my collections to that. It’s the idea of the sad clown.

What music do you listen to the in the studio?

Classical, Russian composers. Tchaikovsky. Stravinsky. It helps me relax.

What’s cool about being young and creative in Moscow right now?

I think we have a new Moscow. There used to be one view on style, and now there seems to be so many.

Describe your design process in three words.

Love, life, and inspiration everywhere.

How would you define Moscow style?

Brave.

Who is your most important style icon?

Vivienne Westwood. She’s crazy in a good way. She’s so brave, she’s so free, and she does what she wants. She’s real. I don’t necessarily consider myself a punk—just free, like her.

What music do you listen to the in the studio?

Classical music. Pagnini. The music is so free and crazy—you can’t even imagine how it was written.

What’s cool about being young and creative in Moscow right now?

I think I appreciate how much Moscow is about the future. It’s really about never being afraid of anything. It’s a really good place for fashion right now.

Describe your design process in three words.

Thoughtfulness and hard work.

How would you define Moscow style?

Poor, but not in the bad sense of this word. It’s all about the underground.

Who is your most important style icon?

K-pop idols. The group Got7. But for the collection, the clothes were designed with illustrations I made inspired by the films of the great Russian director Leonid Gaidai. His movies are so simple.

What music do you listen to the in the studio?

K-pop!

What’s cool about being young and creative in Moscow right now?

It’s still developing, so anything feels possible here. You can broaden your mind in any way that you want.

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