Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia, initially called Russian Fashion Week, is relatively young. It launched about 15 years ago, and, as we'll explore later, Russian designers seem to have a hard time growing their businesses, so labels come and go. In short: Most of the designers who showed this past week are emerging ones.
We arrived in Moscow with no expectations (really -- we hadn't heard of a single designer on the calendar), but liked what we saw on a number of occasions.
While some of these designers are growing and establishing businesses, others still have a lot to learn -- as most new designers do -- and hopefully the newly created Russian Fashion Council will help with that. But each one had something to latch on to, whether it was a cool set, a fresh approach to minimalism or models dressed up as babies playing with toys on the ground...
Akhmadullina is one of Moscow's most well-known, established local talents. Her collections are conceptual -- each one inspired by a fairytale -- and she's become known for bold, original prints, which she puts on everything from gowns to (more affordable) sweatshirts. She had the week's most fantastical runway -- covered in fake trees and grass -- and her store in Moscow's main shopping area is the kind you want to spend all day in.
Minochkina, who is from Ukraine, studied finance before deciding to follow her dream and pursue fashion, which she did at Central Saint Martin's in London, as well as the Academy of Art in Belgium, where she studied with Margiela's former right-hand man. Her finance background seems to be serving her well, as she's one of Moscow's few emerging talents that is actually growing a solid international business. Her clothes are cute and girly without being too sweet -- the type to take you easily from day to night.
Walk of Shame
Walk of Shame, only three years old, is becoming one of Moscow's biggest success stories. Read more about it here.
We love an unconventional runway stunt and Ria Keburia's was particularly unforgettable: Georgian-born and Paris-based Keburia showed a knack for the surreal, sending models in pajama-like clothing down a runway littered with toys. Every so often, a model would sit down next to a set of toys and play with them for a minute or so. Sometimes, two would play together. It was nostalgic and funny, and the clothes were intriguing: Loose silhouettes that seemed to reference both baby clothes and Japanese tailoring.
Keburia’s runway antics were one-upped perhaps only by Julia Nikolaeva's. Her show started late because assistants were meticulously sticking tiny Post-its along the entire runway. Models walked out with small gadgetry on their heads that looked like reading lamps with fans attached to them. The tiny Post-its came alive during the finale, when two men appeared seemingly out of nowhere with industrial-size wind machines as all the models walked out in a stampede, wind blowing in their hair, to James Blake’s haunting "Retrograde." Somehow the Post-its remaining affixed to the runway. Unlike some other designers, who may execute runway stunts to get attention or appear unconventional, I got the sense that Nikolaeva did it simply because it was a part of her vision. When I asked her about it backstage, she simply said that the collection was about kinetic energy. No further explanation was needed.
Judging by the city's runway shows, sleek minimalism isn't really Moscow's thing, which is why Tegin really stood out. Designer Svetlana Tegin prides herself on using high-end fabrics and an aesthetic she describes as "surrealist chic." At her runway show, the surrealism came out in eery lighting that went up and down, and one of the week's most inventive beauty looks.
Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia has paid for my travel and accommodations to attend and cover the event.