Like many of the young designers she champions, Moscow retailer Olga Karput draws on her instincts, not a formal fashion education or well-worn industry paths.
“In 2009, I realized that Moscow needed a concept store,” the founder of KM20 recalls. “We essentially rethought the whole system. If 10 years ago you needed to have luxury brands to open a respected store in Russia, we decided to do that in our way and we focused on foreseeing new, upcoming talents. With some brands, we essentially grew up together, for example, Gosha Rubchinskiy.”
Karput also bet early on Virgil Abloh of Off-White, Heron Preston, Heliot Emil and Samuel Ross of A-Cold-Wall — and quickly became Russia’s ringleader in fashion’s streetwear movement. “In my opinion, luxury streetwear has evolved into true luxury, while the old fashion houses, historically considered true luxury, are now trying to keep up. I like that the concept of the hierarchy has disappeared in the fashion industry,” she enthuses. “A designer no longer needs many years to go through all the steps in a big house or to have some kind of very special fashionable education. Clear rules no longer exist.”
KM20, which takes its name from its original address at Kuznetsky Most 20, expanded fivefold in a nearby building in 2017, allowing Karput to add a cafe and create experiences over four floors. “The main inspiration for merchandising a shop was the principle of unpacked art,” she says. “What we sell is the ultimate works of modern art, so the designers got to customize their own art boxes made of wood to present their work. I believe this is the most modern way of fashion merchandising in the modern world.”
Indicative of her clout, Abloh, Preston and Ross have all made pilgrimages to Moscow to attend KM20 events, and meet the young, cool people who congregate there. “It shows a slice of what is happening in modern fashion and global trends but with a Russian look or soul,” Karput says of her store.