31 October 2016

What's Going On With Gosha?

Comme des Garcons' president Adrian Joffe labeled him a “recorder of things”, The Financial Times dubbed him “one of the biggest sensations in menswear” and Complex noted in an interview that “he’s a really dope motherfucker”. As a label, Gosha Rubchinskiy was launched in 2008 in Russia with CDG backing it in 2012 and the Paris Fashion Week debut following a couple years later in 2014. Gosha is stocked in 92 stores worldwide with countless more queuing up to capitalize from his backing of both loyal adolescents who are tripping over themselves and each other to throw their cash at him, and adult men who still act like teenagers. Although the designer is a slave to nostalgia, is the lure of commercialization and its giddy benefits something that could have, or perhaps already does have him seeing dollar signs?

The design process is a solitary one for Gosha, who has retained ownership of his label, with a simple team of three staff at Comme's Paris base. “I prefer to work alone,” he says, “because only I know what I want.” His T-shirts (around £45) and trousers (about £95) are affordable for his troop of devotees and with the hype created by fashion press and retailers, his collections sell out everywhere near-instantaneously. Dover Street Market sold through their entire stock of Gosha last season in two days and the brand’s sales have grown 350% in the last year alone. With hype can come a number of things, ranging from disappointment to overachievement and everything in between. Sales and hype aren't the worst combination in the world but it's not nearly enough to solidify permanence and earn your keep in fashion's history books. Selling out has become a measure of success in its own right with limited quantities and skewed supply and demand tactics acting as the 'roids to buff up aforementioned existing hype.

“In order to make people want something, you need to make scarcity,” insisted Vetements CEO and brother of Demna, Guram Gvasalia. Gosha and Demna have been banded together and hailed by all for their street-focused “ugliness”; Katerina Zolototrubova, Fashion Editor of Russian Vogue, describing the look as “Gopnik" which means “the bad boys from suburbs” in Russian. Conceptionally similar things are happening in the UK with brands like Cottweiller but the subversion of the space between catwalk and streetwear is something that's particularly prominent with this wave of post-Soviet designers.

There's the element of making the uncovetable covetable, whether the Vetements DHL t-shirt that Gosha himself modeled in the show (I know, I go on about Vetements all the time) or Gucci's fur-lined loafers, cause who'd have thought they'd be so hot four years back? It's creating desire for things that people didn't realise that they want but feel like they need to have and the nostalgic element is that cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake in that sense. In a bizarrely ingenious twist of events, the memory of communism and nostalgia of the Soviet Union has been teleported into the realms of capitalism; printed on t-shirts and literally shaved into the heads – in hammer and sickle form – of boys from East London who wish they were from the suburbs of Moscow.

The niche is the glamourisation of the completely unglamorous, so why then has Gosha taken a liken to the path of samey commercialization? Collabs include Superga, Fila, Sergio Tacchini, Kappa and Retrosuperfuture to name a few but most recently, he's lensed the new campaign for high street giant Topman. Gosha never openly claimed to herald scarcity and exclusivity in the same way as Vetements and his pricing is a reflection of that, but there's something about working with one of the most commonplace brands around that makes you as an admirer of his vision, stop in your tracks for a second. That desirability seems to be somewhat tainted when it comes to garments that are purposefully created for the masses. Yes, he didn't design for Topman, he merely shot the campaign and accompanying short film, but at the end of day, his name is still associated with a product that's no doubt going to be styled alongside super skinny blue jeans and horrid knitted bobble hats in the Topman windows come Christmas time.

The sad thing is, it's a far cry from the designer’s Pitti show where Juergen Teller and his hot pink shorts were sat on bleachers alongside menswear's elite, inclusive of Jerry Lorenzo and Guillermo Andrade – not to mention the group of international cool kids who have become part of the furniture when it comes to Gosha. With moves like a fragrance and questionable collabs screaming “I need money”, you can't help but wonder what Gosha's up to and how he's going to move forward and evolve his aesthetic accordingly. For now, the brand's appeal is still there and the post-Soviet allure still speaks a universal language that's easy enough to understand, even if it is communicated with a Russian accent.