delada reimagines the unrealised utopias of soviet russia for today
The Moscow-born, London-based unisex label takes us behind the Iron Curtain and into the Moscow Metro System for its LFWM's debut.
Since its debut spring/summer 17 collection, Moscow-born, London based unisex label DELADA has been inspired by its creative director Lada Komarova’s personal memories and the collective history of Soviet Russia. As it made its presentation debut at London Fashion Week Men's for its autumn/winter 19 collection, Komarova took us on a guided tour behind the Iron Curtain. Titled Underground, the collection used Moscow's ornate metro stations as a metaphor for the unrealised communist utopia and the coming-of-age turning point in which the West started to influence Russian culture. The resulting collection -- presented inside the Soho-based curiosity shop of cool that is Machine-A -- was a sartorial shake-up of the senses that blurred realities, blurred truths and blurred styles.
"I want to communicate my memories, my daydreams and my reimagined recollections of growing up in Moscow during the Soviet era," Komarova explained to i-D during an exclusive preview. "This collection looks back to my own coming-of-age period of the 80s and 90s, and my homeland's own coming of age moments too because this was a time in which Soviet Russia was changing because people had much more exposure to the West. Both myself and the country itself were opening their eyes and minds to a new world." From underground music to bootleg fashion, self-published dissident literature to homemade solutions, new cultures, new ideas and new ways of life were being smuggled in to the country. "It was such an exciting time," Komarova added simply.
Operating far beyond the politics of propaganda and today's talk of Putin and Trump, Brexit and Russia, DELADA plays with Komarova's past, present and future, helping us see a different perspective of her homeland through nostalgic eyes. As ever, it's storytelling through sartorial time travelling, a romantic reimagining and repurposing of a Russian history we might not know or fully understand. "We took the Moscow metro systems as a metaphor,” she explained. In addition to helping Russians get from A to B, the Moscow Metro -- opened in 1935 -- was a soft power Soviet propaganda project that showcased opulent architectural designs and art installations. “The system was such a show of power to outsiders but it also brought Russian society together, it democratised everyone," she continued. So, for autumn/winter 19, the underground system is a reminder of an unfulfilled Soviet Paradise -- an everlasting beautiful palace built for the people, by the people -- and for the below-the-surface political and cultural groups that worked beyond society’s strict censorship rules. "These beautiful stations symbolised the manifestation of the “Bright Future Ahead”: a utopia that everyone in Soviet Russia hoped for but was also the place in which people met and exchanged goods on the black market.
Building on the architecture of the metros, Komarova looked to the Kabakovs and the husband-and-wife artist duo's own unfinished utopia for the people. It echoed the same dream of a brighter tomorrow, a promised prosperity that was meant to be but never was. This was the hope so many Soviet people lived with during this time. Alongside these nostalgic recollection of grandiose stations and this sense of being part of something bigger, the collection drew upon memories of the creative director's own modest Moscow life of limited home comforts, repressive Soviet propaganda, limitations on everyday life, and not being allowed to express oneself freely, being forced to fit and fall in line. It's in these clashes between a collective uniformity and DIY individuality in which the collection is most compelling. Both the presentation itself and the Dorothy Sing Zhang-shot editorial imagery capture this duality. In these settings, the cut, pasted and manipulated memories of 80s Soviet Russian wardrobes see Komarova delighting in the duality of formal and casual wear. Before the likes of Raf Simons, Rei Kawakubo and Miuccia Prada countered the dominance of streetwear with their own propositions of what the suit can be in 2019, DELADA has honed its own sartorial statement that fuses formal and casual codes.
Here, for autumn/winter 19, familiar nylons tracksuits collide with transformative tailoring, double sleeved signatures see a sleeve T-shirt with a shirt on top and a contemporary take on the Kosovorotka and asymmetrical shirting. There's a sense of uncertainty and metamorphosis that perfectly encapsulates the mood of now while mirroring what was happening in Lada’s homeland more than three decades ago. "In the 80s and 90s, people from the countryside and suburbs travelled to cities in search of employment and they brought their own flair," she explains. "Casual attire crossed with tailoring, it was such a Moscow trend." It is also a signature of DELADA. The unisex brand is driven by a desire to create something new, when access to outside worlds was limited and Lada’s generation created their own transformative world, a place of constant change.
Although the history may well be unfamiliar to some, with so much sociopolitical uncertainty today, we can all relate to the themes that drive this collections. "I lived in a Communist society when individuality was secondary and community was everything, I then came to the West and it was completely the opposite but now, when I look at the younger generations, community is everything," Komarova explained. "When you think about what's happening in the world, it's a united youth that are powering conversations around creating a better tomorrow." While DELADA follows the fluidity of Lada's Soviet Russia conscious -- reimagining the past, crafting a present and proposing a better future -- there are lessons to be learned and styles to be worn for 2019 and beyond.