Gosha Rubchinsky - Design Bureau

Daniel says:

I must say, I have never come across Russian fashion with so much aestheticism. This particular project you have created reminds me of the street fashion of NYC back in the 90s which brings me back so much memories. It can be equally compared to Marc Jacob’s line.

Anastasia Kruglyashova says:

Thank you for doing such an insightful feature about Russia’s new style icon Gosha Rubchinsky and masterfully linking it with the socio-politcal changes having taken place in the country over the past 20 years. Written so well, the story is undoubtedly a revelation for many, especially style wise — not much (if anything) has ever been written or publicized in the Western world about the world of fashion in Russia. Rubchinsky’s designs are simple and edgy at the same — in fact, in their quiet, solid simplicity characteristic of the industrial world of ex-USSR mixed with contemporary urban culture, his clothes speak louder than any high profile couture brand. Rubchinsky is a rebel against convention. He does not tolerate subordination or being like someone else. The new McQueen of Russia has been born.

Gosha Rubchinsky

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Although skateboarders may be an unlikely muse for one of fashion’s rising stars, Gosha Rubchinsky is just as unconventional as his inspiration. A 25-year-old designer living in Moscow, the post-Soviet lifestyle of adolescent boys is reflected in his skateboard culture-inspired clothing, a line that has drawn the attention of the fashion world abroad.

“The last collection was inspired by my interactions with adolescents, 14-year-old boys,” Rubchinsky says. This inspiration hails from a fascination with what he refers to as their “freer” lifestyle, in comparison to how he lived at their age. Whereas Rubchinsky experienced life under communist rule as a young boy, the 5-10 year gap between their age groups means these teenagers have lived free from Soviet rule their entire lives. He also notes that certain things disappear as a consequence of globalization, like national identity and national particularities.

“This generation is unique. They grew up in a new Russia, and they are almost not at all different from their peers around the world. I try to pay attention to that, and therefore everything that I do is not only about them, but for them, as well. The main idea is that, yes, we’re the same as you, but there’s no need to be afraid or to repeat that which already exists. If we do that, we’ll always lag behind when we need to be moving forward and doing something new that recognizes our uniqueness.” His designs reflect these feelings, as well as the things that influenced him when he was an adolescent in the ’90s.

Just as Rubchinsky’s muses don’t fit the typical designer mold, neither does his method for presenting his work. At the presentation of his 2010 Autumn/Winter collection, the imagery he created to accompany the runway show gave viewers a brilliant insight into the inspiration behind his collection. “I tried to show in the collection what a young person feels when he comes home after school, is alone at home in his room—all the thoughts and feelings that trouble him when he’s alone with himself,” he says.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, foreign influences started appearing, and that is what we try to show. The things that influenced me and that influence the younger generation are what we try to express through the clothes. – Gosha Rubchinsky

The video he created shows a stark, solitary high-rise apartment out of the window of a moving car—a silent reminder of what life was like in Moscow during the ’80s and early ’90s. The scene changes to that of a young boy’s room as he sits alone in his sterile, nearly empty apartment. Rubchinsky actually spent time with the subject in the video over the course of several months in order to perfectly capture the mindset of a young boy in total solitude. “That’s why the clothing is very simple and looks like what you’d wear at home; things that make you feel comfortable.”

The candid black and white photos shot of his friends have the same powerful effect as the video. They show young boys sparring with one another, innocently horsing around and acting as teenagers do. The photos honestly and naturally capture the boys in their everyday environment, making it easy to forget that the clothing they’re wearing are actually Rubchinsky’s designs. It’s this intense desire to express to others whom he’s actually designing for that sets him apart from other young designers.

One of Rubchinsky’s primary reasons for designing this line is to create clothing that is affordable for these boys who have given him so much inspiration. Textiles are not a popular industry in Russia, so he is forced to look to outside countries like Italy, Turkey and France for fabrics in order to keep his price point low. “The biggest problem in Russian fashion is that we don’t have our own domestically made cloth. Because of this, it’s very expensive to make clothes. People have a choice: either buy European and American clothing, or buy Russian. It’s clear that people are going to lean towards the western brands because they are higher quality and less expensive.” He thinks it’s this lack of access to quality fabric that is keeping Russia from competing as a fashion mainstay on a global scale. “There are a lot of talented designers in Russia, but because of these problems, the fashion industry is still in its early stages.” Rubchinsky does his sketching at home and employs some friends at a small factory near his house to manufacture his designs—all ways in which he keeps the production costs down.

“Our first priority, of course, is to make clothes for the young people here, because what I do is inspired by those guys, and they are the ones we want to wear our clothing. But it’s been very nice to learn that there’s an interest in the West in what we’re doing.” This ‘thanks but no thanks’ attitude towards his recognition in the fashion world as an up-and-coming designer should not to be confused with a lack of appreciation. Being the next Karl, Tom or Marc was never his main goal (when asked if he admires any designer in particular, the answer is “All sorts of things influence me.”) Rather, his mission for creating these clothes is simply to give his friends—the young, “free”, Moscow skateboard set he so gingerly protects—affordable, comfortable clothing to fit their lifestyle; one that remains immeasurably inspiring to him.

Yes, there are things beside skateboarders that inspire Rubchinsky. He shares some of his favorite musicians, travel destinations and artists to watch out of Moscow.

Who are some other people you’re really into in Russia right now–artists, designers, musicians?

Denis Simachev, designer of men’s clothing; Alyona Akhmadulina, who designs women’s clothing, and a young designer, Vika Gazinskaya who also works on women’s clothing. In music, I still love a group that I listened to as a child, Aquarium. There are a lot of emerging musicians, but they often try to imitate what they hear abroad and I don’t care for that because it lacks a true Russian spirit. As far as contemporary art goes, there are a lot of talented artists out there now.

I can name two names: Arsenii Zhilyaev and Anna Titova. Arsenii works on sculpture and installation art; Anna does sculpture and photography.

Do you know these artists personally?

Well, in Moscow there aren’t so many people working in art, so we all kind of know each other.

What do you like to do for recreation outside of designing clothes?

I’ve been doing photography since I was in school. I take pictures of my friends and the stuff that goes on around me. This year, we’re finishing up a small book of my photography from the past five years.

Where’s your favorite place to travel?

I like to travel, especially around Russia. I like historical places where they’ve preserved old churches (see page 128). I haven’t had much opportunity to travel abroad. Last year I was in Paris, this year in London. I’d like to do more traveling, but I just haven’t had the opportunity. I may try to plan a trip to the States in the near future—we’ll have to see.

Language professor and Russian culture scholar Colleen McQuillen answers questions for us on current Russian life and culture.

Give us an overview of what Russian life is like today.

Russian life today is hard to pin down because it varies a lot by location. In major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, and even in lesser-known provincial cities, the economic situation is relatively good, which enables a lively cosmopolitan cultural scene. In more remote areas (and keep in mind, Russia covers 11 time zones), life can seem untouched by the march of time: villages more closely resemble historical preserves than modern centers. I believe that most young Russians are optimistic about their country’s future, even though democratic political practices and freedom of speech have been severely compromised in the past five years. Russia has always been an ambitious country that knows how to think big, and those are qualities that make it fascinating to watch.

What would you say is the most dramatic change in the cultural landscape compared to when it was under Soviet control?

Before the fall of the USSR in 1991, Soviet Russia experienced a period of liberalization under Mikhail Gorbachev. He launched the policy of ‘glasnost,’ or openness, which had wide cultural repercussions. In addition to the Soviet state acknowledging earlier political errors, the policy allowed an unprecedented level of artistic and journalistic freedom. Unfortunately, during Vladimir Putin’s presidency (2000-2008) freedom of speech was curtailed by the government takeover of major media outlets. Russia’s current president, Dmitry Medvedev, has not changed this course. Thankfully, the arts have not suffered such a rollback: visual artists, designers, musicians and writers are actively experimenting and creating an avant-garde counterculture vibe, the likes of which Russia hasn’t seen since the 1910s.

And what about political and economic changes?

If we compare today’s Russia with Gorbachev-era Soviet Russia, the most striking difference would be in the consumer economy. In the late 1980s there was a deficit in consumer goods ranging from food to clothing, and imported goods were very hard to find. Today in Russia’s large cities, consumers have a wide choice about what to buy and where to buy it, and there is a class of young professionals who have disposable income and can therefore afford to buy non-essentials.

Where do you see Moscow’s future as an international art and design city?

In the 1910s and 1920s the artistic and literary avant-garde was based in Moscow. Many people are surprised to learn that the arts scene thrived for nearly a decade after the October Revolution of 1917. Figures like Vladimir Mayakovsky, Aleksandr Rodchenko and El Lissitsky forged a new aesthetic that reflected the revolutionary spirit of breaking with the past and developing of a new order based on modern principles of speed and dynamism. It was the first time in Russian cultural history that Russia was not looking to the West as an artistic model.

I feel a similar creative energy coming out of Moscow today. Young artists are searching for uniquely Russian looks and sounds, and for innovative modes of expression. As long as the political situation stays stable and the economy keeps improving, I see Moscow continuing its reemergence as a center for avant-garde art and as a place of synthesis for international cultural trends.

For this issue, McQuillen not only provided contextual background and a present-day overview on life in Russia, but she also acted as a translator for the interview with Russian-speaking Gosha Rubchinsky.

By Kristin Lamprecht
Photos: Egor Sofronov


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