Gosha Rubchinskiy is one of Russia's most well-known designersInstagram: rhcr__

At first glance, the current state of world affairs looks decidedly bleak. The upsurge of nationalistic, anti-globalisation, inward-looking rhetoric, espoused by the Trumps, Brexiteers and Le Pens of the world, has given rise to increasingly polarising politics and the creation of an ‘us vs. them’ conflict within society. However, at a time of mounting political tensions in Europe between East and West, a new wave of creativity emerging from the countries of the former Soviet Union, under the banner of ‘Post-Soviet’ fashion, is transcending these divisions and uniting young people around fashion. The most prominent member of this creative collective, Gosha Rubchinskiy, has undoubtedly taken the fashion world by storm over the last few years, producing one of the most sought-after streetwear brands in the whole world. Rubchinskiy’s case is truly unique, not only in his challenging of western cultural hegemony, but also in the message of a ‘New Russian’ identity that he wishes to convey in his clothes. Russia and the Soviet Union have always been regions of great mystery and intrigue for the West, and this new ‘trend’, with its modern take on the historically unfashionable poor taste of 1990s Russia, has become a symbol of a new global community of young people, wishing to do away with the divisions and antiquated stereotypes that some politicians are trying to impose on us.

“‘Post-Soviet’ fashion represents the opening-up to different cultures in a major creative industry, and we should certainly embrace this change with open arms.”

The inspiration behind this trend is the aftermath of the break-up of the USSR in the 1990s, the time when the three main figures of the movement, Gosha Rubchinskiy (Moscow), Demna Gvasalia (Georgia) and Lotta Volkova (Vladivostok) were growing up. The heritage sportswear, oversized jumpers and jeans-tucked-into-socks look all point to the influence of the Russian ‘gopnik’, an Eastern European subculture, comparable to the British ‘chav’. Generally considered trashy, jarring and lowbrow, these designers have taken the fashion sense of an uninspiring time and made it unique and cool. Making bad taste look good and effortlessly infusing streetwear into the upper echelons of high fashion is no small feat, but they’ve managed it and have shaken the fashion industry to its core.

Russians themselves certainly find it strange seeing westerners dress this way, as such a style is widely considered tacky in present-day Russia, due to the negative connotations associated with the ’90s. It is a time not remembered well by Russians, an era of mass cultural and economic upheaval, marked by corruption, crime and growing social inequality. However, it also opened up Russia, formerly a closed-off, insular society under the Soviet regime, to an influx of Western culture, ranging from Hollywood films to McDonalds. A new generation of Russians was born, free from the censorship of Soviet times and looking to forge their own unique identity.

When asked about the ideology behind his work, Rubchinskiy replied “the kids who inspire me are the goal of my work. I do it for them first of all.” In this way, Rubchinskiy acts as a voice for Russia’s youth, placing their popular subcultures, like skateboarding and football, on the world stage and empowering them by doing so. He focuses on two issues: Russia and youth culture. His clothes are covered in references to Russian history and culture. Whether it be through the Soviet hammer and sickle or the Cyrillic script of a traditional orthodox prayer (спаси и сохрани), he uses fashion as a means to understand and reconcile the past. The creation of a ‘New Russia’ identity is clearly a central concern of his, taking inspiration from the past to forge a new future, through embracing the creativity of the current generation.

At the same time, ‘Post-Soviet’ fashion serves to overcome the stigma attached to Russia. The annexation of Crimea, support for the Assad regime in Syria and alleged interference in the US Presidential elections have undoubtedly cast Russia in a negative light. However, in the fashion world the reverse is true. Russia is becoming more attractive, and the fact that trendy kids in Paris and London want to wear Russian flags on their clothes is a testament to the positive image that this trend is helping to create. Rubchinskiy himself adds that:“I feel a connection with Europe, and I think Russia and Europe need to be together,” showing how he wants to use his clothes as a symbol of uniting, rather than dividing Russia and the West.

From Russia to Paris, London and even Birmingham, Gosha Rubchinskiy's pieces are popular with street-stylers Instagram: gosharubchinskiyclothing

Given that most artistic fields, from cinema to fashion, are Western-centric, it’s a refreshing change to see someone openly challenge the Western cultural hegemony. ГОША РУБЧИНСКИЙ (Gosha Rubchinskiy) is arguably the first streetwear brand originating from outside the USA, the UK or Japan to become a genuine commercial and critical success. Eastern Europe has traditionally been viewed as inferior in comparison to its Western counterpart in terms of creativity, so this new movement really does point to the increasing diversification of the fashion industry. Hopefully these young creatives will act as an inspiration for the next aspiring generation of designers to emerge outside of the traditional centres of New York, Paris and London.

Streetwear, and fashion as a whole, is taking shape as a global community of young people. It has become something that the youth of today can identify with, in a similar way that our parents did so with music. Whether or not ‘Post-Soviet’ fashion is simply another trend that will die out in a year or two, it certainly holds more significance than the sight of a few British teenagers wearing tracksuits with Cyrillic letters blazoned on the front might seem to suggest. It represents the opening-up to different cultures in a major creative industry, and we should certainly embrace this change with open arms