Monday, 16 February 2015

The Staple: Russian Not-so-Standard

I began this post wanting to write about designer T-shirts. Something was brewing in my mind about affordable luxury and buying into a brand that you love (in my case things like Matthew Miller, Acne, Wooyoungmi, APC (obvs) and Comme) without going the whole hog for a coat or a specific 'look'.

I felt like there was a connection between crap high-street T-shirt brands and the way that even top-end fashion houses will do a basic T - basic of course is no reflection of the price, but it's an easy buy-in for most, and while around £50 (yes, and upwards) is expensive for these kind of garments in the high street context, but you get into a brand a fall in love with its aesthetic, manufacturing values and general vibe.

Then I realised (after much mucking about with 'arty' lighting [aka me trying to use a £5.99 argos lamp as a lightbox and failing] and a pile of T-shirts) that I really just wanted to write about Gosha Rubchinskiy.

First a little more preface. I am a T-shirt lover. I have waaaay too many (colour-coded, natch) and a drawer just of white ones. Along with jeans/shirts, nice trainers and a crewneck sweater, I live in Ts, and I try to find interesting ones as much as possible.

As with my weird attempts to dress like a football hooligan from the 1980s, I've no idea where my wanting to dress like a skater boy comes from. I'm not very grungy - obvs. But I do like that California style, the whole Kurt Cobain, baggy jumpers and ripped denim, setting out on your board to do tricks and such. I bet it probably has something to do with me being not very sporty as a kid (aren't all these deep-seated desires rooted in our childhood), but tbh I don't really care - and that means you definitely won't either.

But skate style is something that I've always been drawn towards, which is why Rubchinskiy's aesthetic is so appealing. Working in Russia but showing in Paris, the designer is channeling local skate culture through modern streetwear, simply put. Increasingly interesting in his aesthetic development is this desire to explore a subculture in a country that seems to be careering out of control (cheers Putin, you dick), in many ways paralleling the horrors of late '80s American capitalism, but in a weird, very Russian way.

Look, there's a whole lot more to it than that, but here's what I love about Gosha's pieces. In fact, in pictorial form:

This T-shirt is an acrid yellow, reasonably well-made soft cotton T. Aside from the pretty ridiculous colour, it's a raglan-sleeve. But only from the front. From the back, Rubchinskiy has crafted the entire shoulder of the T with two pieces; one seam stretching from armpit-to-armpit, and one directly vertically from the neck down. The construction does two things: it constantly reminds you that you're wearing something unusual; it gives a sensation of difference, of otherness, and of thought. It also creates a different hang to the garment; it moves from the way you move your back, it's slightly awkward, and isn't entirely comfortable.

This sounds perverse (and possibly pretentious, but I've already used talked about 'otherness', so I might as well steam through) but the way this garment makes you feel means that you're constantly thinking about it as you wear it. Not in a 'how do I look?' way, but a 'what does this mean?' way.

In brief, it challenges the wearer. Much more than you'd expect from a humble t-shirt. With the simple space age graphic, PACCBET (meaning sunrise, or dawn - make of that what you will) on the front, it's one of the oddest Ts I own.

There's something challenging about Rubchinskiy's work, which is possibly why he's supported by the Comme des Garcons/DSM stable; it's conceptual, but not in the way you think. Crucially though - and if you have an inquiring mind - it does make you think. And not many garments do that, right?

Monday, 9 February 2015

The Staple: Well jell of Gazelles

Anyone that knows me knows I am a creature of habit. From my Sunday evening Countryfile and Antiques Roadshow routine to my pretty much unshakeable current wardrobe of crewneck sweatshirts and jeans, I'm not often knocked out of my comfort zone - part of the reason that the Shirt challenge was a bit, ahem, challenging. (That said, I have actually done a few days of shirt-wearing; I'm saving them up for a proper post, promise).

Anyway, I have been rooted in my Vans, Vortex and Converse for, well, pretty much the last decade now. But I've always had dalliances with other footwear. Part of settling into the 30something vibe for me this year was about getting a bit smarter...and I still have to deal with that on the footwear front, despite owning some lovely smart shoes. But for some reason, and this is what I'd like to examine today, for the last six months I've lusted over '90s trainer classics the Adidas Gazelle.

These desires are odd, but when they happen, I'm more than happy to investigate. It's the kind of thing I've probably subconsciously seen in magazines, on shoots, in the street (in fact I think Lou Dalton sent her models down the LCM catwalk in them for SS15); the kind of trigger that you don't realise is building up in your brain until you're in a shoe shop on a day off in December, trying on a pair of trainers because you've decided you definitely need them in your life.

As you will have gathered from reading the blog for any length of time, my approach to a lot of fashion - particularly the stuff I buy - is very driven by my gut reactions. I don't often set out to buy something specific - especially during the sales - and I guess the last few years of working at a magazine has meant that freebies poured through the door and that's always a nice position to be in.

However, with these Gazelles I'm not quite sure what set off the desire. It might be in part a real masculine, Northern thing - Gazelles are of course a key part of the football terrace uniform (along with Stone Island jackets). Maybe I'm trying to cling to some Northernesque roots as I've been down here in LDN for over twelve years. TWELVE YEARS. Christ.

Anyway, maybe it's partly that. Maybe it's a 90s thing - that whole acid house, rave generation, leading into Britpop...they would all have worn Gazelles. If the music's good - the clothes must be right? Look at disco! I remember slopping round Camden in Puma Romas back in my uni days, and Gazelles are just a better Roma, really.

I think it might also be a bit of a reaction to the universal fashion acceptance of Stan Smiths too. I had a pair briefly, but they were so flat and uncomfortable (not to mention now ubiquitous at fashion week), that I got rid of them. There's something very pleasing about Stans' minimal appearance, but a trainer that isn't comfy might as well not be a trainer.

So I picked up a pair of Gazelles from Mr Porter - plumping for the black classics, and they've become my go-to winter shoes, despite being not that grippy, and not that waterproof. They're super-comfy and give a nice, dressed-down feel to my outfits. Which is good for those days when I wear a shirt...maybe I am getting out of my routine? Who knows. Only 2015 will provide the answers.

In the meantime, Gazelles. They're fab.