How Gosha Rubchinskiy Turned Cult Streetwear Into Scent

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Perfume BookPhotography by Gosha Rubchinskiy

AnOther sits down with the influential designer to discuss his first fragrance, created in collaboration with Comme des Garçons

Gosha Rubchinskiy's eponymous brand epitomises the current phenomenon for fashion streetwear. Founded eight years ago, the Russian designer explains that the new generation of urban designers he sits alongside now command a similar fandom to that which once surrounded musicians. In the age of iTunes and Spotify, the excitement of a new release no longer surrounds the launch of an album; instead, such cultish frenzy is transferred to clothing drops (Rubchinskiy even has a litany of fan-owned Facebook groups dedicated to buying and selling his sold-out garments). "The kids are thirsty for something," he explains on the top floor of Dover Street Market, which has acted as a sort of incubator for his brand (Comme des Garçons have managing Gosha Rubchinskiy's production, sales and marketing since 2012). "Now, they buy a brick from Supreme! They want something real, something they can touch and collect... in a way, this perfume is the latest single from Gosha."

While most brands wait far longer than eight years to enter the fragrance market (Louis Vuitton, for example, only recently ventured into the field), Rubchinskiy's new launch speaks to the all-encompassing nature of his brand: as well as Russian-logo T-shirts, he is selling a lifestyle, and this is simply its latest evolution. In fact, the Gosha perfume launches alongside a photobook-come-fanzine (aptly titled Perfume Book), which was shot by Rubchinskiy, and inspired by his lifelong love for fragrance imagery. However, growing up in the Soviet Union, actual perfumes were few and far between, usually bearing names like “Vladimir,” “Sasha,” or “Serge” or, in the case of Red Moscow, encased within a bottle shaped like the Kremlin. 

"When I was a teenager I was a fan of Comme des Garçons perfumes because I saw advertisements for Odeur 53 and Odeur 71 and all of these legendary perfumes – but I couldn’t buy them. It was only about five years ago that I smelled them for the first time!” He explains. “Of course, after the Soviet collapsed, everything came to Russia. I remember the first issue of Russian Vogue came out in 1998 and I was crazy to see it for the first time. It had things like Tom Ford's perfume ads, and that's why I wanted to do something special, like a book about the cheesy advertising of perfume, but with a skater boy like Louison. He is like the Vladimir for Gosha!” So, in a brilliantly roundabout way, the Davidoff-like imagery of a young, shaven-headed man splashing himself in the Barcelona sea makes perfect sense: like his garments, it simultaneously pays homage to and subverts his Russian heritage.

But what is remarkable about the Gosha perfume is not just that it has commanded a wave of excitement among young consumers – after all, that was to be expected and, outside of Lynx, there's hardly a great deal of fragrance marketing itself to such a demographic – but that it smells great. Created with the renowned Christian Astuguevieille – who has been the creative director of Comme des Garçons Parfums ever since its inception – it is less like the descriptions Rubchinskiy explains reading on the internet following the perfume's announcement – "everyone was asking what will it smell like? Teenage boys? Sweat?" – and more like a fresh blend of vetiver and patchouli with a chamomile wetness. Yes, it is the self-proclaimed "wheels burning on the hot concrete sidewalk. The smells of rubber and tar colliding to create a scent of youth and freedom" – but it is also surprisingly elegant, soft and fresh and subtle. It's not exclusively for teenage boys. But, as Rubchinskiy says, it is certainly designed with them in mind. "Kids, they want something for them. They always ask me: Gosha do you know what kind of perfume I should wear? I didn't know what to say... sometimes it's just easier to do." 

Gosha Rubchinskiy's perfume and Perfume Book is available exclusively at Dover Street Market London, followed by DSMNY and DSMG at the beginning of November and around the world in January 2017.