So This Is It?

Could DSM’s announcement of Gosha Rubchinskiy’s “final delivery” be confirmation that the designer who made Cyrillic text and the country’s skate aesthetic cool is putting an end to his label? Or, is this merely the last drop for the autumn/winter collection?


Gosha AW 2018

By Ray Zhang

In April this year, Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy announced via Instagram that his eponymous label will cease to exist “as you know it”. The brand further elaborated that “there will be no more seasonal collections”. Fans were hopeful: no more seasonal collections does not mean a complete halt—Mr Rubchinskiy could do ‘projects’ in limited runs, which would increase the brand’s desirability. Mr Rubchinskiy also told Hypebeast at the opening of DSM Beijing that he “is a bit tired doing season-to-season collections.” He also said, during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi in May, that “Every idea has a time and what I wanted to express, I expressed it.” An extended sabbatical is not unreasonable.

Still, the announcement is sad because if he should stop, it would be at a time when the discerning street-style consumer is beginning to appreciate his brand more. Those who have no love for the over-hyped nothingness of Supreme and Off-White see Gosha Rubchinskiy as a designer with a true and clear design vision, and a voice that is articulate. This is a designer who wears authenticity like a badge, and not as token salute. It was he who channeled sporty geekiness into fashionable threads way before Gucci’s Tenebaums uncool cool. And he looked no further than his native Russia, not quite the next Korea, but still with enough faraway exception and artistic nous to be compelling.

It could be considered a smart move to not tether your name to street wear, now, for many a passport to fame. But Mr Rubchinskiy isn’t distancing himself from a category that gave him his start. Reportedly, his immediate plan is to grow Paccbet, a casual, skate-centric line he started with his skate pals and some artists. There’s even going to be a skate shop in Moscow—the “coolest” in the city, according to the designer.

If Mr Rubchinskiy is moving towards being Russia’s first global luxury brand, it may be strategically advantageous to take a break to re-position. It was reported that Gosha Rubchinskiy is supported by Comme des Garçons (including production and distribution). The brand’s closure would not have made business sense, but, according to a Business of Fashion report, CDG claimed to be in collaboration with Mr Rubchinskiy, project-based, for the next couple of years or so. They emphasised that they “want to find new a way to make and sell products.”

The fickleness of fashion is notorious. Maybe it’s wise that Gosha Rubchinskiy is getting out while he’s hot.

Photo: Dover Street Market

Questing After The Authentic

Gosha Rubchinsky SS 2017Gosha Rubchinskiy spring/summer 2017. Photos: Gosha Rubchinskiy

By D Y Yun

I understand and I totally relate to Gosha Rubchinskiy’s work. I appreciate the severity of his designs. I am into his brand of (retro) Red aesthetic. His spring/summer 2017, shown in Pitti Uomo last week, was a big pull for me.

Detractors may say that his co-opting of old-school sports clothes is humourless and without wit. I on the other hand, consider it an overdue counterpoint to the OTT visual bent of many Italian men’s wear brands that has been feeding the staggering rise of the fashion peacock.

Mr Rubchinskiy was invited to show at Pitti Uomo as a guest designer. In the city of Florence, home of Gucci, he could have tried to outdo them all by presenting something that would have done the the legacy of the Medicis proud. Instead, he went to put on a show that was a nod “To Paolo Pier”.

Italian Pier Paolo Pasolini was a divisive figure during his lifetime. An author-turned-film-maker communist, Pasolini was especially concerned about those he called “sub-proletariat”—the socially- and economically-disadvantaged working class thought not to able to achieve anything and is a possible hindrance to an egalitarian society.

Franco Citti in AccattoneFranco Citti (right), who died in January this year, played the title character in Pasolini’s Accattone. Photo: Arco Film/Cino del Duca

In his debut 1961 film Accattone, Pasolini, together with the then relatively unknown young poet, Bernardo Bertolucci as assistant, showed the dismal lives of pimps and prostitutes, with thieves thrown in for good measure, so as to underscore the sad predicament of the individuals of the title, a slang term that refers to those who do not do well, and are afflicted by indolence and, as a consequence, cannot stay on a job.

The film does not credit a costume designer, but the gritty realism of rough, young men wanting to look good without being too concerned with the vagaries of fashion has its appeal. To me, it pairs with Mr Rubchinskiy’s fixation with a Russian visual style that came before today’s religion of consumerism. Both reflect beauty at its most earnest, just as those Olympics trainees and participants of the past that the designer loves to evoke, who wore what were given to them without self-consciousness, only ready-to-compete élan.

Calling it authentic may be banal to some of you, but I do consider the sportsmen-of-yore aesthetic of Mr Rubchinskiy—so oppositional to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo—exactly that. These look like actual sports clothes, only worn on non-sporting grounds. Not for Mr Rubchinsky, those purported athletic wear put out by hip-hop stars that have never played enough sports to know what is truly performance-enhancing.

In keeping with his preference for unsung labels, Mr Rubchinsky chose to work with Italian sports brands that have been overtaken by others whose image have presently been defined by celebrities and social media stars. His pick were Fila, Kappa and Sergio Tacchini. These are brands still with house codes that hark back to an era not swayed by “influencers”, when fashion was not a priority.

NIke Tennis ClassicNikeLab Tennis Classic CS “Nai Ke’’. Photo: Dover Street Market

Gosha Rubchinskiy’s pursuit of what I call sportif ancien connects to my own quest for athletic wear that we rarely see nowadays. It explains my attraction to, for instance, Nikelab’s “Nai Ke” (its name in Chinese) reiteration of its Tennis Classic. Released in collaboration with Dover Street Market London, the shoe has a whiff of what I seek: a touch of non-fashion as seen in the old PE uniforms worn by Chinese-medium institutions before SAP (Special Assistance Plan) schools came into being in 1978.

It’s not only the heel tab’s Chinese characters (a language choice still considered by certain quarters as “cheena” while not negating that the term is derogatory) that’s striking, but also a certain honest plainness that I find appealing. Lest I am mistaken, this is not Normcore; this is trend-resistant. Nike can make the coolest Air Jordans, but it chose to output something so Chinese Middle School of the ’60s. That means something.

In Beijing, where I had spent some time a few years back, I would go to old sporting goods stores to unearth basketball jerseys and track tops that had some semblance to what the Chinese athletes wore when China participated in the Olympics as Republic of China (1932 to 1948), not People’s Republic of China as it does now.

Shopping on Taobao may be where the retail action is, but I enjoy digging in “institutional” stores such as Tianyuan Lisheng (利生体育用品商厦) in Wangfujing, a four-story store that, in pre-market economy days, was probably considered mega. Although more than half of its stocks comprise of those by major Western brands, there are plentiful that will probably fail in the eyes of Boost addicts. Here, amid old-school, if not old-time, sports clothes, I feel I could be the basketball captain I never was. Even if briefly.


That Polka-Dotted Midsole

Reebok Furylite Cloud Pack Stone

By Shu Xie

I’ve always liked Reebok’s Instapump Fury, especially those in the craziest colour-and-print combinations, but each time I try on a pair, I feel I am treading in Titanics. Of course I am contradicting myself since it’s the massiveness and the height that I am drawn to. With each re-imagined version, in particular the Darth-black pair by Factotum and Atmos (sadly, available only in Japan), I convince myself that they’re boat-sized enough for me, but, in the end, they still look, even from up here in my best posture, too much a tanker.

That’s why I’m attracted to the scaled-down sibling, Furylite, since it is just sampan enough for my regular-size feet. The Furylite is not a new shoe, and there’s no denying that its lineage can be traced to what was once considered a monstrosity. But the less-fierce version is no slouch. In fact, to its detriment, the Furylite is considered a “hipster trainer”. But I give no thought to its street cred; I like it because of the Roshe-like body and a padded quarter that is oddly space-age. In this iteration that caught my eye, it is given the ‘pack’ treatment known as Cloud. I am not sure what the designers at Reebok saw, but the print looks like camo-for-the-desert to me. What is unusual is that the shoe is underscored by a polka-dotted midsole. Macho camo and dotty dots—some of us just love odd couples.

Reebok is, perhaps, enjoying a bit of a moment now that Gosha Rubchinskiy, the Russian wunderkind backed by Dover Street Market, has given the decidedly low-tech-looking Reebok Phase One sneaker a makeover. In the wake of so many celebrity collaborations that push Adidas to the noisy, crowded front, sometimes it is just more fun to jog along with those unconcerned with the finishing line.

Reebok Furylite Cloud Pack ‘Stone’, SGD110, is available at Star 360 stores. Photo: Reebok