Depending on whose intelligence (or lack thereof) you believe, the climate between Russia and the West is either cooling or warming up. In a week that began with a leaked Trump dossier that puts the President-Elect embarrassingly close to the Kremlin and contains allegations of interference (amongst more salacious details), and has since seen denials, accusations, and warnings of Russian threat.
Amidst growing geopolitical concern and the chilling prospect of a new cold war, Gosha Rubchinskiy diverted the fashion circus' attention to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad as he unveiled the launch of multi-season partnership with adidas Football. Whilst Rubchinskiy was interested in showing an image of a more modern Russian football fan, Lada Komarova is embracing the emotional pull of her native Russia in a more nostalgic way for the release of DELADA Collection 2.
"It is very important to me to share my experiences and memories of growing up in Moscow during the Soviet era," she explains over email. "It was a time of culture, family, academics and art being valued above all else, and that is something that is often forgotten in today's history books. The current tensions combined with the prevalent negative view of Russians today and the generalisations of what it means to be Russian do sometimes bother me, but it drives me to bring some of the good of Russian history and culture to more people."
For autumn/winter 17, Komarova takes us behind the Iron Curtain by inviting us into cramped Soviet apartment blocks and encouraging us to lose ourselves in the great outdoors and optimism of youth. Operating far beyond the politics of propaganda and today's talk of Putin and Trump, DELADA plays with Lada's past, present and future, helping us see her homeland through fresh eyes. It's story telling through sartorial time travelling, a romantic reimagining and repurposing of a Russian history we might not know or fully understand.
The narrative for Collection 2 is weaved around memories of her family's Babushkin Sunduk, the traditional trunk filled with inheritance knick-knacks in every Russian household, ubiquitous during the Soviet era. "I grew up admiring the contents of our Babushkin Sunduk and was often rummaging around in it when my grandma and parents were out," she confesses. Housing treasured family heirlooms, these trunks provided a link from one generation to the next and were packed with everything from dresses to suits and accessories. "Just imagine me as a little girl with hugely oversized shirts slipped over me with an oversized dress underneath, and maybe even a men's jacket or uniform on top. These were amazing playful times and I think the origin of my love for fashion and fashion design and styling." Even those of us who grew up far from the Iron Curtain will be able to recall similar hazy moments of dress-up and discovery, but we will all be a little jealous of Komarova's Babushkin Sunduk.
"The new collection takes me back to this romantic time and recreates the playful assembly of different layers of clothes and styles in a modern way. I want every wearer of this collection to feel that same feeling that I had as a little girl during these times -- a feeling of nostalgia, unlimited happiness and a connection with history that will never be again except in these clothes that remind me and the wearer of these happier less grown up, more playful times."
Commissioned by MACHINE-A's Stavros Karelis, Rei Nadal's latest film and shoot showcases the collection and its multi-material, patchwork stylings. Mirroring these playful dress up inspirations and the handcrafted aesthetic of the cut, pasted and manipulated designs, the film depicts DELADA and MACHINE-A favourites Alex Komarov Reinisch and Sophia Reinisch experimenting and painting within an artist studio setting.
Right from inception, the life of DELADA has been entwined with MACHINE-A. It's a special bond that goes far deeper than your average brand and retailer arrangement. When we last spoke with Lada, she mentioned how her son Alex had first introduced her to the new curiosity shop that is Stavros Karelis' Brewer Street boutique. Following this meeting the pair worked on an exclusive launch of knitwear and the teams at MACHINE-A, DELADA and SHOWstudio have collaborated closely ever since. "At MACHINE-A our main purpose is to champion some of the most promising emerging brands we discover," Karelis explains. "These brands can be found anywhere, from graduate shows to fashion weeks, from social media to word of mouth. We're interested in talent, hard work, efficiency, loyalty, vision and an invitation to an entire world." He saw that in DELADA. "I knew that if this project would have long term stability and commercial success, we would need all the right people involved, my team and partners. From a creative point of view I am extremely lucky to be partners with SHOWstudio and Nick Knight. It cannot get better than this! Also, Rei Nadal, one of the greatest young fashion film directors of our time, is a long term collaborator of SHOWstudio and of course MACHINE-A. Her valuable input to the brand, not just as a film director but someone I learn everyday from, was vital. She completely understands the visual language and message whilst challenging us and spotting new opportunities."
Like Karelis' own grin, Rei Nadal's smile is often the first greeting customers see as they enter MACHINE-A. From selling product on the shopfloor to shooting films, the Sevilla born, London based artist is fluent DELADA'S language and and fully immersed in its world. After seeing one single piece, the creative concept for Collection 2 began to formulate in her mind. "The first piece I saw from the collection was a back-buttoned black blazer and it triggered the concept for the film," Nadal remembers. "Stavros explained that the main idea of the collection was for the wearer to be able to dismantle a classic suit and rearrange it. I based the film on Tristan Tzara's How to make a Dadaist Poem and the Dada Cut-Out Technique. For me, there's a fun connection between childhood and art. The imagination of children can be more powerful than an artist's inspiration. I was interested in having Alex and Sophia do performance art camouflaged as games. It is beautiful to shoot them being together, feels real and not staged like it could be with two strangers." By casting Sophia Reinisch and Alex Komarov Reinisch, there's an obvious sense of family, not just because the Tomorrow Is Another Day signed model is Komarova's son but because it was he who first introduced DELADA to MACHINE-A.
"I hope the film will intrigue viewers and leave them wanting to know more about DELADA and it's evolution," Nadal adds. In just a few seasons the DELADA's development has been impressive. After being introduced as a special collaboration with Machine-A, DELADA has worked closely with Barbara Grispini and D/ark showroom to open its distribution to a small prestigious network of selected retailers for spring/summer 17. From next month it will be available at Milan's Antonioli, DSM New York, Tokyo's LHP and Seoul's Space Mue to name just a few. "It's an amazing feeling to see something that started as a vision in my head actually out on the street being worn by people," Lada muses, "this is just the beginning for DELADA, there is a lot more work to be done."
It's a vision shared by Karelis and his MACHINE-A team. "There is a lot that still needs to be done as we are only on the second season but everyone that is involved is a team player that respects each other's vision and experience. It's a collective process with the ultimate goal to establish DELADA as one of the most exciting brands. However cold relations between Russia and the West turn, DELADA will remind us that beyond politics, posturing and propaganda there's still so much love out there.
Text Steve Salter
Film and photography Rei Nadal
Styling Stavros Karelis