Dior before the New Look, Yamamoto before Paris, Manolo Blahnik before Carrie Bradshaw. Fashion history is built on grand before-and-after moments that change everything in a designer’s career or global sense of style. The creativity and hard work that lead up to the breakthrough often gets overlooked. Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia featured several designers on the precipice of international success. It is exciting to witness their rising star.
Artem Shumov and Yuri Pitenin are highly recognized names on the Moscow fashion circuit, despite having arrived from St. Petersburg. They craft clothes unaffected by the ubiquitous trends, yet with implied global ambitions. The eponymous Artem Shumov brand and the Saint Tokyo line by Pitenin feel remarkably fresh in capturing the zeitgeist of contemporary Russia (and beyond). Along with the bad boy du jour Gosha Rubchinskyi, they yield collections with strong, memorable narratives that generate cult following.
Video: Saint Tokyo F/W 2017-18
Russia, with its tumulus history and rich cultural heritage, is an unexplored treasure trove of inspiration for any fashion designer. Shumov referenced an extraordinary moment in Russian history, when on the cusp of the October Revolution in 1917 the ordinary workers, service members and youth were caught in the middle of the national conflict.
Video: Artem Shumov F/W 2017-18
Shumov masterfully translates the angst into wearable, modern looks in a daring choice of fabrics, shapes, and colors. Some silhouettes might appear somewhat familiar to an eye trained on Russian cultural symbols: overcoats, sport suits, and factory protective wear. Every detail was re-envisioned with a global audience in mind. Despite being young, Shumov, over the past several seasons, has single-handedly pushed the Russian menswear industry forward, hopefully paving the way for others.
According to Euromonitor Intertnational, menswear in Russia accounted for 25% of total apparel value sales in 2016, with significant growth in the forecast. Made in Russia menswear would nicely fit the Kremlin’s directive for import substitution; it appears that a few Russian designers are starting to recognize immense market opportunity for domestic menswear consumption. Founded just two years ago, Lumier Garson by designer Jean Rudoff is already making quality strides on the runway. Rudoff’s latest collection carried a certain raw energy that attracted the eye to the craftsmanship as well as proportions. Fit is something that many Russian designers continue to struggle with and they would benefit from paying closer attention to how Rudoff excels in that department. The infusion of smart sportswear elements ensures that Lumier Garson is strongly positioned to find international buyers.
Breaking the mold, some women designers are also entering the menswear game in Russia. The launches of Nikolay Legenda by Olga Kapitonova and Dokuchaeva by Anastasia Dokuchaeva this season at MBFW Russia has further secured Moscow as the Eastern European go-to place for menswear. Unapologetic and Instagram-ready clothes are the hallmarks of both brands. Although being respective debut runway shows, both brands could benefit from refining their vision, voice, and storytelling through clothes to make stronger cases for why buyers and customers should invest in them long-term.
Video: Dokuchaeva F/W 2017-18
Stylist Alexandr Rogov is a household name in Russia with a popular TV show and a mobile styling school. It was inevitable he’d try himself as a designer. His debut runway show did not disappoint; the experience rivaled any exclusive Moscow nightclub, where face control graduated to style control. The shock value of some looks was well-timed to make this was one of the most dynamic shows of the week.
Video: Alexandr Rogov F/W 2017-18
What does it take to gain acceptance as a designer? Rogov is less concerned with the status, and more is with keeping up with momentum. Thanks to tremendous social media following, the collection sold out immediately. With some creative perseverance Rogov could join a small club of successful defectors from styling to designing, which already includes Nicola Formichetti, Brandon Maxwell, and Nina Tiari.
Every so often there are instances in fashion industry when a particular set of designers intentionally or inadvertently comes together to form a collective force that transforms our sense of style the way Manolo Blahnik, Stewart Weitzman, and Jimmy Choo elevated footwear into a contemporary art form, or how the famous Antwerp Six or Japanese New Wave designers became fashion ambassadors of their nations on the global stage. It appears that Russia’s growing cadre of young style visionaries is about to capture their centerstage moment. Next season the world will be watching.