gosha rubchinskiy tells the truth of youth
From sports halls in Moscow to runways in Paris and galleries in London, Gosha Rubchinskiy’s artistic vision weaves through worlds and touches multiple mediums, but never dilutes or diverts from its authentic purpose.
Dry wears jumper Gucci. Collar stylist's own.
"It's about Moscow now and how they dress there. It's about boys - the boys who come to the parties, the ten boys from Moscow, they're real and we had to bring them to Paris," says Gosha as the distorted sounds of Buttechno echo backstage. Seduced by the sweat, smiles, synth and sheer sex of Moscow's youth for spring/summer 16, Gosha transported us to the dancefloors of his favorite tech-club, NII. With its 1984 logos, remixed Rodchenko and Iron Curtain-stitched sportswear, the collection was undoubtedly lit with nostalgia, but Gosha wasn't looking back. It was just the latest peek inside his reality -- a reality that is intriguing largely because Russia is an unfamiliar entity, but at the same time has a universal coming of age appeal. Ultimately, he depicts an irresistible duality of youth that is both fresh and familiar.
Slowly but surely, from his Evil Empire debut to his explorations of the Nazbol football hooligans of fall/winter 15, Gosha has been filling in the gaps of the post-Soviet underground. Mainstream media coverage of modern Russia largely centers around the excess of oligarchs and supermodels. Placing his lens over his reality, Gosha has opened the world's eye to a Moscovite underbelly we would not have encountered otherwise. And whether consciously or not, through the mediums of fashion, film and photography, his work can be interpreted as a reaction to Russia's shifting socio-economic values. "Last year, during the economic crisis, rent in Moscow became cheaper and young people started to open their own places; new bars and clubs opened. One of these places is NII, a techno place where DIY musicians play -- and they are the owners too. It was and still is, one of the hype places in Moscow," he explains excitedly over a crackling Skype connection.
As a photographer, filmmaker and fashion designer, Gosha is a rare breed -- a multi-disciplinary storyteller who lifts the lid on Russia's underground to build up the picture of disaffected youth. Right from the very beginning, Gosha was interested in his group of friends - skateboarders - and their world. "About ten years ago, skateboarding emerged as one of the main subcultures for Russia's youth and I've looked to it ever since," he says. "I was drawn to this new energy. I started hanging with this group, spent all my time with them. We skated, we partied, took trips to other cities. It was a special time, one in which I took many photos and shot a number of videos. I needed to do something to capture the energy. I needed to share it."
It's a world that has seduced legions of fanboys (and girls), who have bought into Gosha, not merely as a brand, but as a cultural opinion leader, too. From designing for a growing group of friends, his work soon spread through Moscow, St. Petersburg and beyond. Fast forward to today and his designs fly off the shelves in London, New York and Stockholm. "It's crazy when we receive a new drop from Gosha, everything sells so fast," says Stavros Karelis, founder and buying director of MACHINE-A. Right now, the same kids who collect, covet and queue for the likes of Supreme and Palace want Gosha Rubchinskiy. Why? The appeal of Gosha's clothes can be seen as a sort of quasi-exotification of Russia, its otherness and relative unfamiliarity. There's an element of cultural voyeurism, a feeling that we'll never truly witness or understand Gosha's Russia, but we want to be a part of the experience.
The other side of the story, that we can understand, is the teenage experience. From first times to first loves to first fuck-ups, growing up unites us. "I can't be sure because I'm not a teenager, but from my eyes it appears that being a teenager is the same almost everywhere," says Gosha. "It's the same in the US, the UK, China and Russia, because of the internet. You can listen to the same music, wear the same clothes, even go to the same parties."
Over the lifetime of his various projects, his group of boys have shape-shifted, morphed and matured before his eyes and lens. "It's interesting to see how people grow and what they do," he says. "Some have become musicians, others artists, and if their work is interesting, I want to work with them. At times I feel like a teacher - it's interesting. But ultimately, I'm always learning from them." Gosha has become the pied piper of the Russian underground and people are approaching him, following his lead. They might begin life as subjects, but through friendship and creative collaboration, they're often drawn deeper into his all-encompassing world. "I made DIY fanzines with one of the early skaters, Pavel, and now he's producing techno and works on our soundtracks," he says. "Some of us have grown up together and some are new. Some are ten years old. In the last show especially, we looked to the new generation, but they're all inspiring."
From hearing pleas to collaborate to searching for the perfect cast, Gosha has learned to harness the power of social media. The boys in this shoot were all found online. "I don't enjoy using agencies. I like to do the work," he says. "As ever with Lotta [Volkova, who styled this story], we wanted to show interesting characters, so I started looking for boys, searching Instagram and exploring friends of friends." One boy was so desperate to be part of Gosha's world that he travelled on the train for two days from Siberia to Moscow. "I didn't know where he was based, but he was beautiful. I just messaged him and he was up for it. It was perfect. Other boys came from different cities. I always like to use someone special. On one of the final days, we went to a bar and found Mak. He was the last we shot. He came the next morning but he hadn't slept. He's a musician and he'd spent all night in his home-studio, recording."
The result is a shoot that picks up where the narrative of spring/summer 16 left off and his next project promises to delve deeper still. Over the last two seasons, whenever Lotta has been over for shoots she has stayed in the aptly named, Youth Hotel. "It was built for the Moscow Olympics, it's very cool, so beautiful," explains Gosha. "After shoots we go to bars and then go back to the hotel because it's cheap, quiet and we can do after-parties inside. I've taken a few pictures in and around the rooms and we're planning on releasing a book in October." What will tomorrow bring? Not even Gosha knows, but where he goes, we'll follow.
Text Steve Salter
Photography Gosha Rubchinskiy
Styling Lotta Volkova
Models Sever and Dry at Lumpen Moscow. Mak Blue.