In order to be able to relate to and understand the aesthetic of Gosha Rubchinskiy, one may have to look back 25 years when the Soviet Union was in death throes and the birth of something new and promising was on the horizon. Join us as we dive into the brand’s historical past in the complete history of Gosha Rubchinskiy…
Prior to the collapse of the USSR, Western culture was censored as it was deemed harmful to the ultimate goals of the Bolshevik Party. This cultural isolation did not dissuade Russian youth in their exploration of music, film, and other mediums of art streaming into the USSR. As expected of a prohibition, a large black market demand was created for Western goods such as blue jeans and sportswear. Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1985 and made it policy to gradually relax censorship, under reforms called Perestroika (“Restructuring”) and Glasnost (“Openness”). His presidency was riddled with crises and moments indicative of a weakening Union, largely due to a combination of a difficult war in Afghanistan and a significant oil price crash in 1986, culminating in the Soviet collapse in 1991.
Soviet fashion mixed with Western fashion immediately and explosively, creating an aesthetic that is uniquely 90’s Russian. It’s an aesthetic detailing the seepage of capitalism into a communist society, an aesthetic strongly associated with the punk mentality due to its rejection of societal and cultural Soviet norms in favor of foreign ones. It’s an aesthetic that Gosha has managed to modernize and master with his collections.
This is where the uniquely Russian element of Gosha Rubchinskiy meets the Western skate and punk aesthetic in his collections. He calls upon the styles of Russian punks, skinheads, and hooligans in the 90’s and combines them with their American parallels to great success.
This success did not come overnight although that may be convenient to think considering how fast Gosha has become popular. In his interview with Business of Fashion, the Moscow designer reminisces that he initially was not serious about fashion as a business. In 2008, he was more focused on photography. He started designing that summer with one simple goal in mind. He wanted his collection to reflect the energy of the youth that he was photographing at the time. The collection consisted of mostly cheap blanks with embroidery and some denim jackets that were usually in one size and often given away to friends.
In 2009 he was noticed by Anna Dyulgerova and selected to show in an alternative fashion week called Cycles & Seasons. Being a former fashion editor for Vogue and a creative consultant known by many in Moscow, her clout helped Gosha gain attention internationally. He was able to show a 12-piece collection at London Fashion Week in 2010. But upon his return to Moscow, he became depressed due to a lack of proper infrastructure to continue. He lamented the fact that fabric prices and customs rules along with a lack of funds and a team were holding him back. He decided to put his label on hold for the time being and focus on photography.
This hiatus resulted in a book and film called Transfiguration (2011). Filmed in St. Petersburg, it starred Rubchinskiy’s favorite subjects: skaters. Their portraits are often interspersed between those of statues that dot the city. And they are photographed in such ways as if to mimic those statues, suggesting their own endowment of immortality. Gosha would get his chance to portray similar themes through fashion when his next big supposed break came in 2012.
He met Adrian Joffe, President of Comme Des Garcons and CEO of Dover Street Market, through Dyulgerova. Joffe claimed that Gosha’s look evoked the same mystique within him that Russia in general had whenever he visited. He fell in love with the young, post-Soviet mentality that Gosha was trying to portray through his mediums and commissioned a collection specifically for DSM. Rubchinskiy decided to use his own money and produce it in Serbia, the logistics and customs of which nearly bankrupted him. He complained to Joffe of his stresses in working to create a collection in Serbia, which was no better than Moscow in terms of regulations and prices, with his limited experience and resources.
Luckily for Gosha, Joffe did not discard the project but instead offered a partnership. The aspiring designer could focus on the design while Joffe would handle the production, marketing and selling. This became the real turning point in Gosha Rubchinskiy’s career.
Having CDG take the young Russian designer under their wing has exposed him to a vast amount of learning opportunities and steady sales. But staying to true to his desire of radiating the vitality and energy of the youth inspiring his self-described Soviet skate chic aesthetic, Gosha wanted to perform his SS15 at Paris in 2014. Joffe was skeptical but yielded to the request to positive results.
Now Gosha Rubchinskiy adorns celebrities who view his pieces on Western runways, a far cry from the conditions that spawned his work. This level of popularity outside Russia can be difficult to understand for Russians who have seen Gosha’s inspirations daily. Things typically innocuous to most Russians such as Orthodox cathedrals or Bogatyr cigarette cases manifest into seemingly innocuous yet nostalgic clothing and styling. But the reality is that Gosha is able to capture the post-Soviet rawness so unique to only that region in every medium he wishes to express it in. Gosha’s enamored state for the beauty of the new Russian generation and his nationalism regarding his birthplace gift him with such ability. Quite simply, he has managed to create what he has with Gosha Rubchinskiy because of authenticity and originality that stems from true passion. Parallels can be drawn and often are with what Supreme and Kids (1995) did in the 90’s for skaters in NYC. As Joffe has said, the messages Gosha is putting forth seem natural since they all stream toward one vision and come from his reality. This coherency mixed with the rawness yet innate relatability of youthful triumph, rebellion and apathy are what immediately set him apart.
This past June he showed in Florence in the Pitti Uomo tradeshow and debuted a new book and video. One striking piece from the collection was a long-sleeve striped shirt, similar to a Russian sailor’s matryoska, with the words Russian Renaissance written on the chest in Russian Cyrillic. Indeed, that may be the best and most succinct expression to use in order to describe what Gosha has done for Russian art and fashion internationally.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out the first installment of the series: The Complete History of Off-White