When Russian designer and photographer Gosha Rubchinskiy met Adrian Joffe, president of Comme des Garçons, in 2011 at a dinner in Moscow, he had already made a decision to take a step away from his three-year-old eponymous brand and instead focus more on photography and film. Despite a blowout debut show at a sports stadium in Moscow, an invitation to London Fashion Week, and order requests from international buyers, Rubchinskiy was running into never-ending production issues: the high price of decent fabrics and strict customs policies, to start. Impressed by the designer’s post-Soviet thirst for creative expression, Joffe offered to produce and sell Rubchinskiy’s collection under the Comme des Garçons umbrella in 2012. This past June, Rubchinskiy was a guest designer at Pitti Uomo Spring 2017 alongside Raf Simons and Visvim’s Hiroki Nakamura.
While still street-focused and sports-tinged, the Pitti Uomo collection, with its strong, boxy suiting, was a grown-up evolution for Rubchinskiy, who quickly cultivated masses of fans by paying homage to Eastern bloc subcultures with collections evoking post-Curtain, logo-hungry youths. “Please forget about that,” he writes of his Soviet references over email. Rubchinskiy has no desire to be put into a box. “Each collection is a beginning of something,” he continues. “At the same time, it is a result. I like changes. Let’s see what will be next.”
Although Pitti Uomo marked a departure for Rubchinskiy, he first stepped away from his athletic-infused aesthetic for Fall 2016, which looks towards Russia’s early 1990s punk scene and is n ow available in select Barneys locations nation-wide. At the show, set in an abandoned theatre in Paris, Rubchinskiy sent out Instagram-cast models with haphazardly shaved, dyed, and mohawked hair in graphic t-shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with Cyrillic phrases such as “Save and Survive.” Tucked into oversized jeans and sweatpants held up with suspenders, the message seemed to telegraph the disaffected longing of an entire region. But, according to Rubchinskiy, there is no point in reading into these words.
You can pull out references from each Gosha Rubchinskiy collection, but as his ambiguity suggests, the draw is something more intangible, more desirable than logo sweatshirts. “My collections are about now—the moment, and the people around me—so my feeling is for now,” says the 31-year-old designer of his ephemeral inspiration, which is most clearly documented in his second of three photo books, Youth Hotel. Taken over the course of a year when he was in college, the visual romance, depicting Russia’s next generation—the things they did, the places they hung out—marks Rubchinskiy’s obsession with youth, or as he calls it, “youth religion” as a clear inspiration. Even still, “There is no ideology,” Rubchinsky says, “just love.”
Gosha Rubchinskiy’s Fall 2016 Collection is currently available in select Barneys New York stores nationwide.