Despite the growing tension between the U.S. and Russia, editors trekked all the way to Kaliningrad—a Russian exclave separated from the mainland and nestled between Poland and Lithuania—today to see Gosha Rubchinskiy stage his Fall 2017 menswear show, which marks the beginning of a collaboration between the 30-year-old Russian designer and Adidas. The collaboration is set to last for the three seasons leading up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which will be sponsored by the sportswear giant.
It was a strong showing, with double-breasted suits paired with sporty Adidas jackets; hoodies with “football” written in Cyrillic; sweaters baring patterns inspired by Russian abstract painter Kasimir Malevich; and a crop of newsboy caps designed by Stephen Jones. The models were all street-cast in Russia, and while there was no music, each one walked out to an audio recording of them saying their name, their age, and their wishes in Russian.
Rubchinskiy’s choice to forgo Paris Fashion Week—an announcement he made last year—and stage a show in his homeland was a notable one. For the record, he was born in Moscow, but told Business of Fashion he wanted to show in Kaliningrad because of its location in the middle of Europe. “I want to prove that you can show international ideas, but in a small Russian city,” he said. “I want to show the end of globalism. It’s more interesting to see what is happening in small cities. It’s more interesting to see what’s happening in Kaliningrad than New York.”
It’s interesting, sure—but also commendable. You’ll recall that Rubchinskiy made his debut in Russia in 2008; it was an offering that was deeply political, featuring soviet-inspired images and Russian nationalist symbols throughout. Secondly, designers like him and the Georgian-born Demna Gvasalia have undoubtedly put Eastern-born fashion designers and Russian youth culture on the radar. For Rubchinskiy to show in his home country—one that’s wrought with political strife, and feels, at least from a western perspective, more militaristic than culturally sound—is one of true authenticity, a departure from, say, Chanel’s controversial Cuban excursion or Louis Vuitton’s sunny Rio de Janeiro romp.
But back to his Adidas collaboration: Adidas is a German brand. And, as of 1945, Kaliningrad was once a part of Germany. (It was formerly known as Königsberg.) Rubchinskiy is no stranger to sportswear collaborations, either—last season saw him rework Fila logos at his offering in Florence at Pitti Uomo, and he’s also worked with Sergio Tacchini, a tennis clothing designer, and Kappa, an Italian sportswear label. The collaboration made up just one-third of his collection. Adrian Joffe, CEO of Comme des Garçons, which owns Rubchinskiy's eponymous label, told BoF that distribution of it will be restricted to only 120 stockists, one of which includes Dover Street Market. “We wanted to keep it special. We do all the distribution. Adidas are not allowed to distribute it—no football shops,” he said.
At a time when there are fashion collaborations and one-offs en masse (designer collaborations were, in fact, one of our biggest takeaways of 2016), these kinds of things can feel like like easy, disingenuous money-makers. But Rubchinskiy’s collaboration has a pureness to it—it is both profoundly personal and celebratory of his roots. And that’s all we can really ask for these days.