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J.Kim and Alena Akhmadullina Are Two Moscow Designers to Watch

Two designers for two different kinds of Cool Girls.
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J.Kim's presentation at Air Moscow. Photo: Eliza Brooke

J.Kim's presentation at Air Moscow. Photo: Eliza Brooke

All this week, Fashionista's Eliza Brooke is hanging out in Moscow, Russia — and by hanging out, we mean zipping around to shows to report semi-live from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia. (Hey, there's a seven-hour time difference.) Catch her daily diary here

For a young designer, presenting new work in a multi-brand shop at which one's collections are already stocked is both cost-effective and affirming to attendees unfamiliar with the brand. Isn't proof of proximity to other, more established names the best way to build legitimacy? Who isn't susceptible to herd mentality?

I'm not cynical enough to believe that capitalizing on our sheep-like tendencies was Jenia Kim's main angle when she debuted her latest collection on Thursday night at Air Moscow (an upscale boutique that also carries labels like Issey Miyake, Walter van Beirendonck and Ann Demeulemeester), but the setting did help contextualize the two-year-old brand, officially known as J.Kim. It also demonstrated the label's most appealing aspect: While slightly oddball, the 24-year-old's designs are ultimately very wearable and, to say that another way, seemingly quite sellable. 

Set in a welcoming palette of black, white, olive and turmeric, the collection took its aesthetic cues from Korean and Indian dress and jewelry. (Kim's family immigrated from Korea; she was born in Uzbekistan and has lived in Moscow for over a decade.) One of the models wore a silk skirt with a length of fabric wrapping over the shoulder that was reminiscent of a sari, and a few dresses with dungaree bibs cut out at the ribcage into voluminous skirts similar to those found in traditional Korean dresses. Meanwhile, a pair of white, pearl-embellished trousers with ruffles bursting forth at the ankle managed to find the middle ground between clownish and tasteful. They'd fit right in on the Man Repeller home page. 

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J.Kim's collection. Photo: Eliza Brooke

J.Kim's collection. Photo: Eliza Brooke

Perhaps the most charming bits in Kim's collection were the tiny "piercings" she created (see above) by looping jewelry or ribbon through grommets, effectively mimicking the look of the delicate earrings that have cropped up on every lobe, tragus and available stretch of cartilage south of New York's 14th Street. While dainty piercings have become so ubiquitous that they've lost all trace of edginess (or originality), the idea felt cheeky and new in fabric form. I say this, by the way, with a couple of little gold hooks and studs punched in my own ears.

While Jenia Kim's collection played well in the store's intimate environment, Thursday's other standout collection benefited from the drama of a full runway show. That would be one from Alena Akhmadullina, who presented her latest work to a packed house earlier that evening. 

Alena Akhmadullina's collection. Photo: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia

Alena Akhmadullina's collection. Photo: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia

In a series of looks that ranged from everyday clothing to street style bait (the good kind) and eveningwear, Akhmadullina piled oceanic motifs onto the clothing, slashing across denim to create current-like patterns, dotting dresses with fish-shaped embellishments and going straight for the jugular with some wave prints, which crested and frothed up onto sheer necklines in a very appealing way. In case there was any doubt about the theme, the designer also placed a full-scale wooden ship in the center of the runway.

When I say Akhmadullina's clothing looks like street style bait, what I'm trying to express is that it's punchy. It comes in colors that catch the eye, like cobalt and pristine pale blue. And while it might take some pluck for a wallflower to carry off, the barrier to entry isn't monstrously high — style-wise, that is. The price, as ever, is another story.