Social battle #11: Do you think the Post-Soviet fashion trend is ethnically challenging?

Gosha Rubchinskiy is forefronting a fashion trend that no one really saw coming. Post Soviet fashion is, essentially, how the lower classes in post soviet nations dress. Think big coats, layers, cargo trousers/tracksuits and old Nike trainers.

So is there an issue when ‘western fashion-victims’ parade around LFW dressed like impoverished Slovakians?

“What is new, is the way in which designers have began to sell these anti-ideals to the west in order for us to think it’s cool and urban.”

In a word, yes. I believe it is problematic.

The trend is cool, that’s not up for dispute. I love Gosha’s collections but I understand how commodifying the poverty of these Eastern bloc teenagers can be viewed by, well, themselves. For a long time, high-fashion has tried to carve itself authenticity; the kind of authenticity that grime culture and hip-hop culture in the 90’s had. The sort of underground, street movements that gain not just fans, but a real cult following that swear by everything the brand says or does -a way of life. In recent years the likes of Supreme and now Gosha have managed to do this, but at a price. A form of class tourism that commodifies poverty and allows ‘western fashion victims’ such as myself to parade around in these sorts of outfits in order to look ‘cool’. Unlike the hip-hop movement or skateboard culture, this is these people’s realities. They aren’t dressing like this to look cool, it is a hyper masculine, utilitarian, anti-fashion statement that reflects the environment that they have grown up in.

The interesting part of this new trend however, is the fact that is isn’t at all new. For some 20 years now, young men across the Eastern Bloc have been dressing like this. What is new, is the way in which designers have began to sell these anti-ideals to the west in order for us to think it’s cool and urban.

The funny part of this is, I don’t put the blame on the designers. In fact, I don’t think there is anyone to blame. Gosha is a guy who was born at the end of this era, he knows the struggles and has seen what happened after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Him using Russian culture within his collections shows an authenticity that is often lost in heritage, and a need to please luxury consumers of older high-fashion houses.

“What bothers me is the aesthetic that Gosha conveys – it doesn’t tap into an old image despite all the storytelling around it. It’s actually the imagery of poor people you see begging at traffic-lights in Paris, Berlin, Athens or elsewhere.”

It is not really the design of the ranges which bothers me. After all, a lot of brands have played with cultural influences, with more or less moral considerations. The other nuance is that very often, elements which used to be the social norm progressively vanish in the daily life of people. However, the fashion engine sometimes brings back these “norms” to project them into a new collection. After all, why not?

What bothers me is the aesthetic that Gosha conveys – it doesn’t tap into an old image despite all the storytelling around it. It’s actually the imagery of poor people you see begging at traffic-lights in Paris, Berlin, Athens or elsewhere. It’s the imagery of a class of people who struggle to cope with daily life. It’s also the imagery of the repurpose of fast-fashion, the crazy amount of clothes we give each year and that are re-used by people in need.

Making poor people a “commodity” as Bill explained in our last newsletter kind of shocks me, and not in a good way: I see a cupid trend, exploited by very smart guys, who have just moved to Zurich after selling its “Parisian touch” (lol) to the fashion press. It probably proves two things:
– The fashion circus really has a problem in being edgy again
– if the fashion contestation is to get inspired by all the mods (former or current) of the planet, then it’s a very sad fashion…
– … unless the world itself has become so sad that it refuges itself into archaic tribes; waiting for the next Berlin wall to collapse

I also struggle with the next “new normal”. If Vêtements becomes the stuff youngsters want to buy in high school, it’s a bit sad. Nonetheless, some reinsuring trends counterstrike Vêtements: the growing appeal for nomadic lifestyles in fashion, inspired and inspiring with what the world has to reveal and the growing importance of upcycling and conscious fashion, which prove that clothes can be fun and responsible.

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