When attending fashion week in a country whose style scene is as foreign to you as its language, it can be difficult to separate the brands that are legitimate and promising from the ones that, well, aren't. However, we had no trouble identifying womenswear label Walk of Shame as a member of the former category.
In lieu of putting on a runway show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia (the reason we're in Moscow), founder Andrey Artyomov, a former stylist, invited international editors to an intimate press preview — with champagne, of course — where the spring 2015 collection hung on racks. The moment we walked into the room, we knew we were in the presence of something good. From the event's offbeat setting (a room with floor-to-ceiling windows in an unfinished office building), to the tongue-in cheek name, to the graphic design, to the styling of the look book photos — which were blown up and on display — everything came together to create a clear brand identity and strong point of view that resonated instantly.
Oh, and the clothes were great, too: Unique, attention-grabbing and directional, but with a sense of humor, and very wearable. At KM20, which is basically Moscow's Opening Ceremony, we gravitated towards several of the Walk of Shame pieces, which hung alongside brands like Christopher Kane, Simone Rocha and A.W.A.K.E.
Artyomov launched his line with a close friend after 12 years spent rising up the ranks of Moscow's fashion editorial world — he went from an assistant at L'Officiel Russia to becoming its fashion director, and then went on to help launch Russian Tatler, Russian Dazed & Confused (which unfortunately folded due to the financial crisis) and an in house magazine for Tsum, Moscow's biggest luxury department store. Needless to say, he knows his stuff.
Three years later, Walk of Shame is one of Moscow's only international success stories. Outside of the Russian city, the line is sold at top retailers in London, Tokyo and Seoul. Humberto Leon from Opening Ceremony saw the brand's Instagram account and bought into the collection without even seeing it in person. This past July, paparazzi snapped stylish actress Elle Fanning casually wearing one of the brand's dresses in L.A. Russian "It" girls, from Miroslava Duma and Elena Perminova to more locally-revered ones, are also big fans.
Artyomov, who is sweet, modest, smart and fun — he bought us drinks and danced with us at one of Moscow's coolest bars later that night — chalks Walk of Shame's success up to "having a lot of friends around, having good energy around" and his and his staff's experience in the industry. His "Walk of Shame Girls" as they're called also help to spread the brand message. "Our girls have something inside. They’re pretty, they’re funny, they have good sense of humor, they’re sexy, they’re different, they have individuality."
The brand is forging its own path in the industry: It does PR and sales in-house and erects independent pop-up showrooms during the main European fashion weeks. It also staged a runway show a couple of weeks ago in a park in Moscow, separately from this week's Mercedes-Benz event. "We get lots of support from Russian press, except Russian Vogue," says Artyomov (we've heard the local Condé title is not always keen on featuring emerging designers that aren't advertisers).
What's Artyomov's 5-10 year plan for Walk of Shame? "I would like to get $1 million orders and I would like to be in stores all over the world." We'd say he's walking in the right direction, and it's certainly not a shameful one.
Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia has paid for my travel and accommodations to attend and cover the event.