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?

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