Russian Fashion Week might have been a fun experience, but we didn't fly halfway around the world just to drink vodka and eat hamburgers. Like any fashion week, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia featured a combination of the country's successful, commercial designers alongside up-and-coming talents, some of which were among the most exciting collections we've seen all season.
It was hard, but we narrowed them down to six brands that stood out as the coolest in Moscow. With the current economic crisis and political instability in Russia, many designers found inspiration in war motifs. The country's famously cold weather also influenced things, as many of the standouts included outerwear.
Read on to find out more about the brands we want to get our hands on ASAP — which, fingers crossed, find a way to be sold stateside sometime in the near future.
Yasya Minochkina, a Central Saint Martins grad, is already building a global audience for her brand; she counts Natalie Joos and Irina Shayk among her fans. But as a Ukrainian designer, it's still important for her to show in Moscow, even though it meant packing up her collection the day she showed in Kiev to be in the Russian capital just one day later.
Minochkina grew up around artists, so she regularly finds inspiration in the art world. For fall, these varied from Andy Warhol’s Factory to the Sergei Diaghilev ballet, rendered in silhouettes pulled from the '70s and '80s. She also plays with color — this collection's pinks and blues were grounded by black. "I like to play with fabrics," she says of her line. "On the dresses, you can see a 3D effect, but it's very soft."
She also styled the line with sneakers from Pharrell's collaboration with Adidas. "I like sneakers very much," Minochkina explains. "I want to show that my girl next season can be both classy and sporty, comfortable."
St. Petersburg-based designer Yriy Pitenin launched Saint-Tokyo in 2012, but presented for the first time in Moscow this fashion week. "In Moscow, the concentration of the fashion industry is much higher [than in St. Petersburg]," Pitenin explains.
The collection was about a warrior woman, from the war paint-esque makeup to the military-style coats and uniform button detailing on dresses. "The main inspiration for this line is the war feeling in Russia now, but making it feminine and beautiful," Pitenin says. "I found inspiration from African warrior motifs, modern military, and some pieces inspired by Samurai culture."
Of course, it wasn't all about warfare; many of the pieces in the collection featured the word "Hope," which reflects the optimism Pitenin has for his own line.
Liza Odinokikh launched her eponymous brand in 2012, but this marks the first season she presented in Moscow rather than her native St. Petersburg. "It's really good because you can talk to people, they can touch it, see it," Odinokikh says. "It's bigger than St. Petersburg, there's a lot more fashion journalists."
Her presentation space was marked by camo and marsala colors, mirroring the collection. The star piece was a faux fur camo coat, which just about everyone who entered the space jostled to try on, but her military-inspired coat was also a standout. "It's a mix of the romantic style and military style, and we made a special print with roses, a symbol of romanticism," she says of the fall collection. "The inspiration was the silhouettes of the '40s during the World War, and we tried to make it girlish and very feminine. We use natural fabrics, like wool, silk, cotton, and the colors are very warm — marsala, pink."
Outlaw Moscow, designed by Dilyara Minrakhmanova and Maxim Bashkaev, was found by Mercedes Benz Fashion Week on Instagram and chosen to show in the exhibition space. The brand has only been around since last November, but you would never guess that by looking at the well-made and street style-ready outerwear for both men and women, inspired by the works of Russian artist Nicholas Roerich.
"We are inspired by Russian art and we try to put it in a modern way, and we also have our own philosophy, which we call the philosophy of freedom," Bashkaev says of the line. The name, Outlaw, is a part of the philosophy as well. "That's how we call the people who dress like this — not in the way that you are an outlaw physically, it's more like that's how you feel," Bashkaev explains. "It's also a description of the environment in which the brand has been built, it's a description of the situation in the country now as well."
J. Kim is the line of Jenia Kim, the daughter of Korean emigrants from Uzbekistan. Kim is inspired by Korean culture, which she wants to be as prominent and influential in the fashion world as other Asian countries, like Japan or China.
The details on her collection are all handmade, and are carried over from collection to collection; an origami-inspired embroidery motif from spring also appears on her fall clothes. She takes silhouettes from traditional Korean wardrobes and translates them in a modern way, using fabric as the common thread. "This is traditional material for Korean costumes," Kim says of a piece with detailing reflecting a Korean dance. "It's about happiness, positive emotions."
Four seasons old, Cap America Studio is the brainchild of former artist Olga Shurigina. Shurigina is inspired by the intersection of art and technology, incorporating new fabrics and techniques into her collections. For fall, this meant mixing electric colors with black and gray, using folding techniques to mimic the look of fabrics carved in stone to create pieces that could be layered together many different ways.
Shurigina is often asked about the brand name, an interesting choice for a Russian designer. "Cap America, it's about freedom, about functional style, because functional style was created in America — mixing couture with very cheap pieces, it's very American and I love this," she explains. "It's also about space — you know, Russia and America were the first to space — so Cap America, it's a little bit about humor."
It is not, however, a reference to superhero Captain America, who regularly goes by the nickname Cap. "Yes, but it's not the same!" she says laughing when I ask about the similarity. "Maybe in the future I will do something about this; I've thought about it."
Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia has paid for my travel and accommodations to attend and cover the event.