There are few instances from the last decade that I can recall where a fashion collection has truly gone viral in reality. By “viral” I mean actually spotting multiple instances of one fashion collection on the streets – and by “streets”, I don’t mean Tommy Ton’s street style images shot in the heightened environment of fashion weeks. I mean sightings on yer’ average street, occurring in mathematically improbable numbers. One such example that struck me this week was the perceivable popularity of Gosha Rubchinskiy’s A/W 15-6 “Sport” collection. Or to use the Russian and Chinese characters, which are a central graphic focus of the collection – Спорт or 運動.
Specifically, it’s the t-shirts and hoodies featuring a mash-up of the Russian and Chinese national flag, which then segues into a Tommy Hilfiger logo riff-off that have been selling like hotcakes. Pieces bearing Rubchinskiy’s AW15 headline graphics on Oki-Ni, Goodhood and of course Dover Street Market (Rubchinskiy’s production is supported by Comme des Garçons) are all showing up as Sold Out. At Machine-A in Soho, owner Stavros Karelis was also reporting an insane hunger for the collection, with the t-shirts being the first pieces to sell out. When I popped in for a fringe trim at The Lounge, my hairdresser Mark was also expressing his love of all things Gosha, tipping me off on to sites where one could still get hold of key pieces (I learnt that The End, based in Newcastle upon Tyne of all places, has also bought into the collection). And just in case you think Rubchinskiy’s appeal is contained within trendy areas of London, lo and behold, in my own hood of the humble Seven Sisters, Steve spotted a Gosha-clad lad.
An interest in Rubchinskiy’s work has been bubbling up for a few years now amongst an in-the-know menswear crowd. His ability to articulate his post-Soviet upbringing and Muscovite youth subculture into his clothes has opened a wearable gateway into a society that is largely unknown to the West. A post-Cold War Eastern Bloc fascination if you will. In Rubchinsky’s 運動 Спорт graphics, throwing China into this superpower mix only strengthens the visual message. These are two countries who have both used the arena of sports as a way of demonstrating their prowess on the world stage, which Rubchinskiy then juxtaposes with a play on the Tommy Hilfiger logo. And so in one fell swoop sums up the present state of affairs where two countries with former communist ideologies now openly embrace capitalism.
Is that therefore the reason of appeal of these graphic t-shirts? Is the socio-economic-political significance behind Rubchinskiy’s collections even relevant to feverish buyers? One could also argue that the reasonable price points make these pieces a boon to buy. The buying demographic also segues with other male-centric street wear hoarding waves (Supreme, BBH, Kanye x adidas – anything that causes block long queues). Rubchinskiy’s work deserves deeper analysis, especially when combined with his preoccupation with underground Russian subculture, but the rise of people emblazoned with his Sino-Russo flag? It comes down to that simple but inexplicable reasoning behind most trends: “It’s just cool, innit?”