Russian Cultural Revolution

A new Russian elite take over London with heritage design
by Katerina Zherebtsova

From Lana Siberie’s SS12 and AW13 collections

Home page Timur Kim, Plastic headscarf/cap, Tapestry print top, taffeta Princess skirt

This article is from Futurespace Issue no1. Find out more now at iTunes.

No discussion on Russian fashion is possible without taking into account the country’s vastness and the virtual boundary that runs through it; an east/west divide that has prompted a flurry of folk-influenced style. Until recently Russian designers were either unknown outside their homeland or, at best, perceived as Muscovite hipsters who designed solely for retired matryoshkas. However the current crop have arrived, armed with a strong sense of design, mentorship at London’s top fashion colleges and a renewed perspective on their heritage. Their designs conjure up an inspired individuality and vision, with entrepreneurial concepts running through that will set a blueprint for time to come. Futurespace Magazine talks to five designers about cultural motifs and how they found inspiration in Russian tradition.

Lana Siberie

Multidisciplinary artist, curator and designer Iulia Filipovscaia is behind knitwear brand Lana Siberie, a label she founded in London, aided expertly by her mother. Her work is influenced by her research in art and her birthplace: a town called Mirny in Saha Yakutia (the eastern part of Siberia). The brand name combines the French pronunciation of Siberia, while ‘lana’ — translation: ‘wool’ in Spanish — also references Filipovscaia’s mother’s maiden name, Svetlana.

‘My mother is my icon and inspiration,’ she says. ‘Knitting when she was a teenager, she combined impeccable style with craftsmanship. Growing up I was probably the most stylish kid on the block… dressed in Ann Demeulemeester, Yohji Yamamoto and Costume National.’ As a result of the mother-and-daughter collaboration, Lana Siberie knitwear has a youthful, quirky spirit rooted in contemporary fashion and is constructed from the highest-quality yarn. The jumpers, dresses and accessories hug the body, allowing for comfort and style.

My mother is my inspiration, knitting when she was a teenager, she combined impeccable style with craftsmanship

Filipovscaia’s vision is an edgier, modern take on the traditional Russian necessity: jumpers. Keeping warm is second nature to her, having been exposed to Siberian winds since birth, but she seeks to revolutionise the idea that knitwear should only be worn in winter. Inspired by the look and feel that wool creates, she designed a crocheted, lighter, capsule collection of knitted eveningwear titled ‘The rise of the reptile Victorians in the age of New Aesthetics’ — a peculiar, edgy moniker that captures the brand’s spirit and her sense of experimentation.

‘Intelligence, art and craftsmanship’ are key characteristics of the label, given that Filipovscaia designs the pieces and all the clothes are hand-knitted by her mother and a select number of village women in Russia. Incorporating this style of timeworn craftsmanship will ensure that the tradition endures and gets passed on from generation to generation.

Simplicity and durability make the Misha Valenki boot an AW13 must-have

Misha Valenki

The brand Misha Valenki takes inspiration from — and seeks to reinvigorate — the traditional notion 
of Russia in any 18th-Century canvas that depicts a wintry landscape. The ubiquitous Russian boot was introduced in the early 18th Century as luxury footwear, but a century later became the must-have accessory for keeping warm and cosy in the harsh climate. After a trip to their homeland, the duo behind Misha Valenki, Veronika Yurchenko and Daria Sokolova, are bringing the Russian staple to Europe.

We called ourselves Misha because 
it translates to ‘bear’ — a subtle tribute to the unofficial
 symbol of our country

Having developed a product that shows how the Russian heritage of felted wool can be used in a contemporary way, Misha Valenki brings style to an age-old tradition. The product is eco-worthy too; says Veronika, with customary Russian irony and good humour, ‘Our Misha are made from 100 per cent wool so are 100 per cent sustainable, so our Russian sheep are still rocking and rolling in the fields.’ Explaining their brand name she says, ‘We called ourselves Misha because it translates as ‘bear’ — a subtle tribute to the unofficial symbol of our country.’

Translating Russian tradition to the European market required a very lengthy development process; finding the right factory took a year of travelling and research. While this was probably the biggest challenge faced by the brand so far, fashion insiders eagerly await Mishka’s footwear debut this aw13, hailed as being testament to innovative thinking, quality production and long-lasting design.

Timur Kim’s pre AW13-14 collection

Timur Kim

Part of an acclaimed set of young London designers but born and raised in St Petersburg, Timur Kim’s style trajectory began when he showed his first collection at the ripe age of 16, at St Petersburg Fashion Week. He then moved to London in 2006 to study Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins, and was later offered a place on the prestigious ma Fashion course under Louise Wilson. He soon won over London’s fashion mafia; winning awards from Pringle (2010 and 2011) and Chloe (2011) and showing at London Fashion Week (as well as Paris, Milan, Moscow). Founded in February 2012, his label debuted its denim and velvet collection at his Somerset House ma show during London Fashion Week. Drawing on a range of inspirations, from Dr Zhivago to modern Hollywood, early 20th century Russia to cowboys, his collections exude sophistication and ease while retaining a sense of humour.

From sweeping shirt-dresses to floor-grazing gowns, silk dresses and pieces adorned with elegant wallpaper print, Kim’s clothing treads the line between intuitive and commercial design. Everyday womenswear with a luxe touch, his designs reinvent the image of the modern Russian woman. His recent partnerships, with Pringle of Scotland and Oliver Sweeney, will allow this to seep into the European market, in unique capsule-collection projects.

The prints in my AW13 collection are inspired by the ceilings of the Hermitage [museum] and the Soviet Union Caviar jar pattern

With a ss13 collection that fuses denim with elegant lace in a single print, casually thrown onto luxurious silk fabric, and his aw13 collection featuring a witty juxtaposition of Russian-inspired prints, tipping its hat to pop-art minimalism, Kim keeps the home fires burning. ‘I like to play with prints in a Warhol-like edgy, fun way to create statement pieces,’ he says, ‘and I’m inspired by Russia a lot. The prints in my aw13 collection are inspired by the ceilings of the Hermitage [museum] and the Soviet Union Caviar jar pattern.’ Kim takes the precious black caviar patterned print and turns it into a statement when the showy oversized logo of the jar lid is emblazoned on a white tee and worn with an opulent taffeta skirt. Living and working in east London, Kim regularly hosts Russian designers and creatives in his Dalston studio, making him a favourite among a young Russian elite who commission his prêt-a-porter designs. But watch this space as he’s poised to become hot property throughout the city, and beyond.

Jewellery by EVJ, 'for a traveller, by a traveller’

Eliza Vita Jewellery

Founding jewellery brand evj in London, Elizaveta Yurlasova’s work reflects a life in motion, travelling constantly while drawing influences from her multicultural background. As a child born close to the last stop on the Trans-Siberian railway in the Russian Far East, Yurlasova spent a lot of time in Japan, Korea and China with her entrepreneurial family. She then graduated as a gemologist in New York and later studied management, trade and finance, before working for BP in London. It’s safe to say that, in just 22 years, this globetrotter has had more guises than some would in nine lives.

For her next act Yurlasova cast gold and silver phrases, incorporating them into bracelets and necklaces that appear as if tattooed onto the skin, with sayings such as ‘trulyblessed’, ‘liveyourdreams’ and ‘nevergiveup’. Inspired by her fear of getting permanently inked and her love of typography, she creates bracelets and necklaces that evoke those perfect moments, the ones that so often get lost in our hectic lives. Her collections are ‘for a traveller, by a traveller’, and she is most likely to be found dreaming up new phrases that capture her jet-set life. Travel is a continual inspiration and, as a self-confessed ‘citizen of the world’, she wants her designs to reflect this passion. To that end, London is the city to be in right now. ‘For a young jewellery designer, London is an exciting place for self-expression,’ she says.

It’s impossible to forget grandma’s Soviet-era jewellery box full of surprises. She was a big boss back then, travelling around Russia and abroad

Elizaveta’s adventure began in 2009, having had a long and inspirational lunch with English jeweller Laurence Graff on the Amalfi Coast. She learned how this self-educated, self-made Londoner found an opportunity early in his jewellery career and built his way to success. Why jewellery, we ask her? Yurlasova says, ‘It’s impossible to forget grandma’s Soviet-era jewellery box full of surprises. She was a big boss back then, travelling around Russia and even abroad.’ It makes sense then that capturing ideas, sounds, thoughts and emotions into alchemic permanence would be Yurlasova’s true calling.

Xsenia & Olya, SS13 collection

Xsenia & Olya

Xsenia Runa and Olya Shishkina met at Central Saint Martins while studying fashion degrees. After graduating they both established separate brands; Runa’s label was a regular at Russian Fashion Week from 2002 onwards, and Shishkina ran her atelier, named shi, with her twin sister for ten years.

The decision to join forces to form Xsenia & Olya was spontaneous but as Runa says, ‘It’s a tough climate out there, full of talented designers, and we decided to just go for it together.’ Runa and Shishkina design for glamorous women who want beautiful pieces that are comfortable yet suitable for everyday wear. ‘We like our pieces to liberate the body from corsets yet hug the silhouette with a fluidity that echoes its movements,’ says Runa.

It’s a tough climate out there, full of talented designers, and we decided to just go for it together

Their garments turn and twist around the female form, revealing and concealing in equal measure. The luxe fabrics bring an airy, modern elegance to Xsenia & Olya womenswear, suggesting the limitless possibilities that today’s woman may encounter in any one day. Dancing is encouraged in any Xsenia & Olya design as even their most body-skimming garments are designed to accommodate movement.

Xsenia & Olya recently showed at Vancouver Fashion Week and had a great response. They now seek to push further toward the North American west coast, from Vancouver, through LA, arriving at their ultimate destination: Hollywood. Both designers cite the French-born, classic Hollywood designer Madeleine Vionnet – the queen of the bias-cut – as inspiration. ‘We use a similar draping technique, focusing on the body as a three-dimensional whole, rather than a fractured vision of back, front, top and bottom,’ says Runa. ‘Vivienne Westwood is another female hero, with her courageous designs and interesting cuts that accentuate femininity.’ With these two at the helm it shouldn’t be long before Xsenia & Olya bring femininity back, to the catwalks and beyond.