Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia proved an eclectic affair: from futuristic to nostalgic to camp, the country’s young designers showed why Moscow is a city to watch
Earlier this month, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia saw Moscow play host to an extensive roster of shows in the opulent settings of Manege, a former riding academy just off the Red Square, and the historic Museum of Moscow. This season marked the launch of a new Global Talent Initiative by the Russian Fashion Council, offering nine emerging international designers the chance to show for free – a sign of MBFWR’s ongoing expansion – while Futurum, a one-day showcase of young designers, continues to play an important role in fostering and backing new talent. A/W19 was an eclectic affair, with collections running the gamut from the futuristic to the nostalgic to the eye-poppingly camp. Here, we bring you five of our favourites to keep an eye on in the coming seasons.
Since its launch in 2015, Moscow brand OTOCYON, founded by designer Lesya Rusakovich, has garnered a reputation for elegant and expressive womenswear, defined by “architectural lines and smooth abstract forms”. The A/W19 collection saw a soft, neutral palette of dove greys, creamy peaches, camel and ecru, interspersed with stark black, offset against clean, minimal tailoring. Playful detailing abounded, courtesy of asymmetric fringing on sharply cut trouser suits, theatrical rouching on sheer turtle-necks, geometric braiding on structured woolen overcoats, and many a puffed sleeve. Rusakovich’s collection, titled Body, aimed to evoke “the overall beauty and harmony of the human form”. Here, she was inspired by the work of American photographer Spencer Tunick, who “creates pictures of naked bodies, where gender and sexuality are not important – only line, shape and colour”. The result conjured a sleek, utilitarian brand of femininity fitting for a label that declares itself proudly “women for women”.
2. Alexander Arutyonov
Georgian designer Alexander Arutyunov has been called Russia’s answer to Jeremy Scott and it’s easy to see why. His A/W19 collection was a bold and joyful affair combining chic tailoring with a futuristic sense of fun – and a lot of statement leather. The designer drew inspiration from the newly renovated Cosmos Pavilion At Moscow's Vdnkh Exhibition Centre – a vast vaulted structure in glass and steel – playing with proportion, form and material to imaginative effect. Arutyunov’s “cosmic woman” sported a variety of jumpsuits (from slinky playsuits to utilitarian satin all-in-ones), asymmetric jackets and elaborately frilled gowns, accessoried with leather cowboy hats and gold Saturn-shaped earrings. The overall effect was an eclectic solar system that felt both frivolous and sophisticated.
3. Roma Uvarov
Designer Roma Uvarov delivered a delightfully kitsch homage to the Soviet era, centred around the kitchen. The A/W19 offering was inspired by an array of photographs, found in a flea market, that depicted Soviet families feasting – and these featured throughout the collection, displayed across monochrome jackets and dresses. The entire affair was decidedly culinary: a colourful patchwork of traditional waterproof tablecloths (“kleenka”) lined the runway, making their way into a number of the looks in the form of gaudy earrings, hats and skirts; cutlery hung from necklaces and belts; plates adorned handbags; a jacket bore see-through panels filled with pasta; and one look was based on a Soviet salt packet. Tailoring meanwhile drew frequently on traditional military wear, spanning cotton trench dresses and boilersuits, while knitwear – in 1950s hues – leather, and plastic were served in equal abundance. In both concept and realisation, the collection was one of the week’s most eccentric, entertaining and nostalgic endeavours.
Showing as part of Futurum Moscow, menswear label Alkhanashvili – from Russian designer, Luiza Alkhanashvili – stood out with a collection that playfully subverted classic staples to contemporary effect. Military-style overcoats and collarless shirts were given a sensual twist courtesy of flesh-baring cut-out panels, while cropped, boxy suit jackets, paired with high-waisted trousers or shorts, evoked the New Wave era – as did the assortment of geometric and animal prints dotted throughout. The colour palette, meanwhile – navy, khaki and grey teamed with fiery oranges and dusky blues – drew on the work of Edvard Munch. This mishmash of references was entirely deliberate, the designer told us backstage. “I’ve called this the ‘Ugly’ collection as it’s a reflection on ugliness and a challenge to our perception of it. The deconstruction, the asymmetry, the prints, the Munch colours all play into this.” Far from aesthetically displeasing, Ugly was a fresh and coherent offering, confirming Alkhanashvili’s place as a talent to look out for.
Helmed by twin brothers Ilya and Nikita Khovanskii and founded in 2017, Hovanskie is swiftly establishing itself as one of Moscow’s most popular young brands. Its A/W19 collection was a celebration of all things camp, channeling the 00s with fanciful abandon. Office wear was given an ironic spin through the pairing of vast shouldered jackets and uniform-like bottoms with sheer mesh long sleeves bearing garish prints, or high-sheen bikini tops. Dresses were rendered in frilly pastel tulle or gloss effect fabrics. “The return of camp to fashion seems to us to be associated with society’s desire to be protected from modern information abundance,” the brothers told AnOther. “We like its vulgarity, naivety, and mannerism, how it turns our current obsession with aesthetics inside out.”