NOTES FROM THE UN­DER­GROUND

Fash­ion writer Clara Young goes in search of a fash­ion state­ment wor­thy of the term.

Elle (Canada) - - Special -

Un­less you’re talk­ing about the sub­way, it may seem near non­sen­si­cal to talk about an un­der­ground move­ment th­ese days. The bona-fide sub­cul­tures of yore sprang out of re­bel­lion (the French Re­sis­tance), il­lic­it­ness (raves) and marginal­ity (punk). But what se­crets re­main in the age of In­ter­net glare and the le­gal­iza­tion of for­bid­den plea­sures that we once held dear?

An un­der­ground ca­chet, how­ever, is ex­actly what a hand­ful of Rus­sian de­sign­ers—An­drey Ar­ty­omov, Gosha Rubchin­skiy and Dasha Selyanova— have achieved with their post-Soviet aes­thetic. Their de­signs aren’t trans­gres­sive be­cause of sil­hou­ette or form; it’s their use of hu­mour and irony that sets them apart.

Ar­ty­omov, of the fun luxe cloth­ing line Walk of Shame, started out in Moscow as a stylist for L’Of­fi­ciel Rus­sia. Be­yond his whim­si­cal em­bel­lish­ments and silk slips, it’s his In­tourist T-shirts that hint at the mes­sage be­hind his alt-main­stream vibe. “When the coun­try was closed in Soviet times, we had In­tourist ho­tels,” ex­plains Ar­ty­omov. “Th­ese were the only places in Moscow where peo­ple could buy U.S. dol­lars and where Rus­sian girls could meet in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors.” Ar­ty­omov hints that some of th­ese girls have since tran­si­tioned into wealthy oli­garch wives. “An­drey used the In­tourist logo as an ironic ob­ser­va­tion about Rus­sia,” chimes in his pub­lic- re­la­tions rep, Anna Dyul­gerova. “He’s talk­ing about who to­day’s Rus­sian elite were dur­ing Soviet times and who they are now.”

The peo­ple Rubchin­skiy ref­er­ences in his pieces are the “gop­niks”— those Adidas-wear­ing, shaved-head hood­lums who popped up when the Soviet Union col­lapsed in the ’90s. The key looks in this Moscow-based de­signer’s col­lec­tion are track pants worn tucked into sweat socks and tank tops tucked into gym shorts. Gopnik track suits are a 10-year-old in­side joke among post-Soviet de­sign­ers.

“I can rec­og­nize the gopnik look bet­ter than some­one from Europe,” says Lon­don-based ZDDZ de­signer Dasha Selyanova. “It’s a youngcrim­i­nal vibe—some­one who doesn’t have a job but maybe does drugs, lives with Mom and skates. Gosha has made our past trendy.”

Selyanova’s fo­cus is more mod­ern day. Her de­signs are a sar­to­rial poke in the eye to the in­creas­ingly re­pres­sive political en­vi­ron­ment back home. “Art feeds off sup­pres­sion,” says Selyanova, whose spring line fea­tures prison uni­forms printed with the word “In­se­cu­rity.” “In Rus­sia, we’re scared of the po­lice. It’s a very in­se­cure and un­safe place to be. If you need to get a cer­tain doc­u­ment, you might not get it. If you are do­ing well, they might tell you to shut down your busi­ness. You live in this en­vi­ron­ment in which any­thing can hap­pen. And that makes cre­ative peo­ple rebel against it.”

Un­der­ground fash­ion, if it’s any good, doesn’t stay un­der­ground long. But though we may wear In­tourist T-shirts and they may be­come a huge trend, there is a catch: Most of us have no clue what the in­sider ref­er­ence is. In other words, a trend holds on to some of its un­der­ground­ness by with­hold­ing mean­ing. And this is why Rus­sian de­sign­ers have loads of sub­ter­ranean cred—be­cause of their past and the mount­ing re­pres­sion of the present. h

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