The Nineties, Gosha Rubchinskiy’s fetish decade, is a vast and rich period to mine, especially if you embrace the whole of Russia and its topsy-turvy history, its prickly rapport with the United States, and its homegrown music culture.
For his third show in his native land, the designer summoned the fashion pack — or at least the few that didn’t have obligations at Milan Men’s Fashion Week — to remote and frigid Yekaterinburg, also known as the unofficial capital of Russian Constructivism and the cradle of late Soviet Rock music.
This was the strongest of his Russian trilogy, fueled by the energy of rock and the archetypes he constructs and dresses. Here were rockers, skinheads, nerds, “gopniki” — Russian chavs — and druzhinniki, Soviet-era civilians who helped the police.
The show, staged at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center, stirred nostalgia for the politician who helped close the door on the U.S.S.R. and open a new chapter as the first head of the Russian Federation. The word plastered above the runway, “Svoboda,” the Russian word for freedom, recalled the promise of that period and broadcast the freewheeling collection Rubchinskiy would send forth. It included new collaborations with Levi’s and Dr. Martens, and continued tie-ups with Adidas and Burberry, the latter being one of the first iconic Western brands to reach Russia after the Iron Curtain fell. “It was very popular here in the Nineties, so much so that Boris Yeltsin can even be seen wearing a Burberry scarf in pictures from the time in the museum where we presented the show,” the designer said in a statement.
The 13 new Burberry items included double patterned shirts, trenchcoats crossbred with car coats, bucket hats, scarves and shoes.
Adidas looks also evoked the Nineties. Sweatshirts with the logo РОССИЯ took inspiration from one David Beckham wore in that decade when he played for Manchester United. As a punk touch, the model’s head was shaved save for an Adidas football logo at the crown.
It was also a period when skinheads emerged in Russia, wearing Dr. Martens, while rockers wore an Oxford-style Rubchinskiy rendered in shiny silver. Bomber jackets, deconstructed 501s and Adidas sneakers telegraphed a rebellious teenager. Shirts with armbands would represent the Soviet civil wardens: Tracksuits and sweaters, the chavs; oversized coats, the nerds, and puffer jackets, soccer pants and long-sleeve T-shirts for sports fans. Yekaterinburg, long a center of heavy manufacturing, is one of the host cities for the FIFA Football World Cup that kicks off in June, with Rubchinskiy’s fashion shows helping to fan the hype.
Once Sunday’s parade was over, the models moved around the Museum of Russian History, each room exhibiting different stages of perestroika. In tandem, a rock concert started, with one of the models shouting into the mic, punk style. The performance ended with all the models singing “Goodbye America,” one of the most important songs of the local rock band Nautilus Pompilius.
Stefano Pilati, who took in the show, descried it as “raw,” pertinent and touching. Rubchinskiy “is really a designer that speaks for his fans, and in this way, he keeps staying outside the conventional formats of fashion clichés,” Pilati told WWD.
The evening continued with a dinner for international press in the company of the daughter of Boris Yeltsin, Tatyana Eltsina, who thanked Rubchinskiy, his team and show for shining a spotlight on Yekaterinburg, where the thermometer read -17 Celsius, or 1 degree Fahrenheit.