gosha takes a journey through his country’s past
The designer finishes his Russian trilogy of shows on a salute to the power of freedom.
Images courtesy Gosha Rubchinskiy
This article was originally published by i-D UK.
The start of the concluding third of Gosha Rubchinskiy’s Russian Trilogy was announced with a heavy bass note. It rung out, again and again. Keeping perfect time. There was something aggressive about it, something ominous, inescapable, and frantic. Then the models came out, an endless stream, that claustrophobic bass signaled a release of pent up energy, storming through the rooms of the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center in Yekaterinburg. The bass player formed the center point around which the models swirled.
It was the third time Gosha had staged his show in Russia, following on from Kaliningrad, Russia’s Baltic enclave, and the old imperial capital of St. Petersburg. Both cities representing and underlining Russia’s links to Western Europe. Yekaterinburg though, east of the Urals, is decidedly more “Russian”. If the previous two installments have found cause in common bonds between East and West -- in youth culture, rave, and football -- this was less outward-looking, more of Gosha himself feeling his way towards freedom. It was about unity, bonds, shared subcultural uniforms. It was about the things that bring us together and the way we can own and celebrate our histories.
Sure, there was the continuing collaborations between Gosha and Burberry and Adidas, and now offerings made in partnership with Dr Martens and Levi’s, but this was a Russian story. The mix of militaria, subculture, and sportswear Gosha has perfected here was reaching not so much towards the ways these combinations and motifs have found their way to Russia via the West, but to making them feel totally Russian.
The show was, for the first time, livestreamed — for those of us unlucky enough to be stuck at home, or watching during breaks at the men’s shows in Milan. The livestream was a bundle of confusion, a swirling sensory overload. Not content to fix the camera on a traditional catwalk, Gosha split the screen into a dozen feeds, each tracking models as they came and went in a frenetic march across the screens. It was impossible to track a look, follow a narrative, it elevated the show as a focus on feeling and mood and setting, instead of a parade of looks.
The models stormed the museum; marched in front of Russian flags, took over the gift shop, ransacked the canteen. Svoboda (Russian for "freedom") was written in Cyrillic across a print of clouds, and was the most obvious symbolic statement from a collection heavy with symbolic statements. Freedom was one element, but ends and beginnings felt important too. This was a moment for looking back. Gosha riffed on his flag prints of past collections, but also reached out towards the future, new approaches to silhouette and stripping things back a little.
Yekaterinburg is full of ends and beginnings. A perfect place for this concluding chapter. The city where the Romanov dynasty were executed after the Bolsheviks came to power, ending the rule of the monarchy and the beginning of communist government and the USSR. Then staging the show in the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center. Boris, who helped bring down the Soviet system and created the Russian Federation in 1991, a fitting symbolic end. It marks too, the end of Gosha’s Russian Trilogy of shows.
Throughout the show the models started making smaller and smaller laps of the museum, beginning to assemble around the bass player, one model began hammering away at a set of cymbals, another letting low guttural shrieks escape from a sax. The 4/4 beat climaxed to a squall of noise, a model began chanting, which became a scream. The models assembled, forming a choir, singing Goodbye America by Nautilus Pompilius, a influential new wave band who spanned the Soviet/Russian eras. It was a hopeful, poetic end; after the intensity and energy of the show, it was a little moment of quiet beauty.