Chains, Caviar, and Witches: A Report From Russian Fashion Week
As we try to make sense of the biggest week in Russian fashion, we guide you through three big trends.
A scene from Russian Fashion Week.
What I wanted out of Russian Fashion Week was the absolute most. I want glitz. I wanted glamour. I wanted 24-karat gold plated in gold and dusted with edible gold. I wanted sushi—maybe served on naked bodies? IDK—and champagne and crazy, intense silhouettes in every possible shade of red. I wasn’t hunting for taste; I wanted countless women dressed in Louboutins whose lips became plumper with every selfie. I wanted sheer, utter spectacle.
There’s definitely sushi, but that’s not all.
Much of Russian Fashion Week thus far has been a mishmash of gauche couture fantasy and wah-wah Rick Owens-y stuff with a few moments of brilliance. Unlike the “big four”—New York, London, Milan, and Paris—Russian Fashion Week mostly takes place in one central location (Putin was there last week!), which makes things convenient for attendees and means things mostly start on time. (New York, take note.) And Mercedes-Benz, who sponsored this trip, provided every attendee with a fantastic assistant who explains everything and helps us find our seats. Very gracious!
Speaking of the attendees: I have never seen people so dedicated to doing it for the ’gram. One man live-streamed himself, stone-faced, watching an entire show. There is a huge step-and-repeat wall to take selfies, a contradiction I can barely fathom. From Russia with likes!
The food in Moscow has the production value of a major Broadway show jammed with flimsy choruses. I begin everyday with one of the world’s most famous breakfasts—literally, champagne and caviar—served at the Metropol Hotel under a glass dome as a harpist plays nihilist standards like “The Girl From Ipanema.” This is the room in which Michael Jackson played the piano, per the hotel website. The Metropol—and really, Moscow itself—has that distinct new jack swing-rococo aesthetic Michael favored in the early and mid-‘90s, which is to say: so coldly opulent it’s terrifying. (Indeed, the song “Stranger In Moscow,” one of the most palatially melancholy songs ever written, was inspired by his trip.) Between shows, I visit the Mercedes-Benz lounge, a clubby nook that serves prosecco that sparkles with holographic glitter (right now, the inside of my body looks like an ice skating costume). Afterwards, women with I Dream of Jeannie ponytails serve me (on the house!) a Never Stop Improving platter, which features bites like a sliver of beef perched on a potato chip and a slurp of caviar, along with a chocolate truffle with an exterior as squishy and slippery as an eel’s bottom (just go with me here).
But what about the clothes, you ask? There are a few truly excellent designers whom I’ll tell you about in the coming days, but so far, there have been three moments that have stood out as, to crib the words of original oligarch hunter Holly Golightly, “top bananas in the shock department”—the kind of spectacles I came to Moscow for.
Carrying a Chain—Menacingly
As a part of Slava Zaitsev’s Fashion Laboratory—a kind of collective for young talent run by the doyen of Russian fashion, referred to as “Red Dior”—two models walking for the brand City Vagabond carried chains of about six inches in length and waved them around in a very “I’ll give you something to talk about!” kind of way.
Later, at Black Star Wear, whose show has been one of the week’s major highlights, a model waved around a chain in a similarly random but still tense manner. When I asked the designers why, they shrugged. “He just felt like it.” It’s time to chain up, people!
Maybe All Fashion Shows Should Feature Samurai (and by “Maybe,” I Mean All)
Yulia Kosyak’s show featured all the deranged, spaced-up versions of Alexander McQueen’s armor silhouettes that I wished for from Russian fashion week. In the middle of the show, a guy in glossy mall-level Rick Owens sang what I can only describe as a Gregorian samurai space chant, and then two hot people emerged under a red light and began fighting with samurai swords.
It was the most awesome fashion show I have ever been to in my life.
Witches Need to Have a Larger Voice in the Fashion Industry Discourse
And on Monday, I saw just the most fabulous witch fashion show, by the designer Yakubowitch. I’ve learned that you can gauge a brand’s hype pre-show by counting the number of sexy police hats in the audience. This show had tons—a few, even, in patent leather, and paired with strapless dresses. An amazing B-roll of a lot of cool witch stuff played—covens, nefarious trees, creepy crows hanging out, moody girls—and then a series of models with white contact lenses and mussed low ponytails streaked out to a techno song with the following chorus: “I want to fuck you / because you’re beautiful.” All the clothing was black, with cute little fur collars, for the witch who is a witch on the streets and in the sheets.
At the end, a woman strode down the runway in a funeral-to-wedding look with a veiled umbrella, channeling the way millions of women feel around the world daily. And you better believe the finale soundtrack was Lana Del Rey doing “Once Upon a Dream”! I’m ready to join the coven!