Picture an awkward, lanky, obstinate young man with a buzz cut, sullen eyes, and a generally pale demeanour. Dress him in a Gosha Rubchinskiy flag motif tee, track bottoms, mid-ankle socks, white trainers, and anything that looks like it could have been in a ‘70s Olympic match. Place him in the centre of your line of sight, shine an alarmingly raw, dull light on him, and make sure he has some sort of pain or passive anger behind his eyes. There you have it: today’s aesthetic embodied.
Somewhere between the empty coldness that’s left of Kiev, Moscow, or Vilnius in the post-Soviet era and brutalist, concrete council estate blocks in surburban South London, the worlds of fashion and art have come together to find their latest visual. It’s kind of like Slav squat, but more culturally appropriate. It’s actually quite refreshing to see the fashion world take a raw approach to inspiration, and find their aesthetic from a place that his history, pain, and struggle. From Gosha Rubchinskiy, to Vetements, to Supreme, to Palace, to adidas, to any given streetwear or sportswear brand that’s making it in today’s scene, the aesthetic is palpable, cool, and captivating all at the same time. The rise of this post-Soviet, brutalist aesthetic signifies a shift in fashion that embraces a more raw, rough, and real kind of style.
Gosha Rubchinskiy could arguably be credited with pioneering this aesthetic movement, as his Moscow “skate boy looks” redefined contemporary fashion and were able to breed a whole range of admirers and followers. Rubchinskiy’s unmistakable aesthetic doesn’t come through solely through his lookbooks and teasers, but also through his clothes themselves. He was able to make Soviet motifs, from flags to the Cyrillic alphabet, irresistible. Rubchinskiy then created a ripple effect in the industry, where other industry tastemakers are lovingly mimicking his raw Soviet aesthetics. Art kids and hypebeasts alike are now vying to perfect this aesthetic themselves – whether through their Instagrams or through their real lives.
The importance of the post-Soviet movement is that it historically represents a strong, chaotic, dramatic Soviet past, spreading from Eastern Europe all the way over to Asia, and that it has paved the way for some sort of modernity to grow out of the concrete tower blacks and Lenin monuments that once reigned supreme. This range of countries, from Russia, to Ukraine, to Lithuania and beyond, share this very significant history and subsequently, consistent senses of belonging. Today, numerous designers and photographers have caught on to the importance and cultural relevance of post-Soviet life. More recently, many of them have travelled to various Eastern European locations not only to simply get inspired, but also to find Slav muses and shoot campaigns.
While Krakow or Minsk may not be the first cities that come to mind when you think of global fashion and art capitals, the post-Soviet aesthetic has something special and raw to offer to the industry. The beauty of the aesthetic is that there are sensations of invisible catastrophe within the art. It also symbolizes a slow move towards a process of decommunisation, which attempts to break down Soviet standards, regulations, and legacies.
The appreciation of the post-Soviet and brutalist aesthetic has been spreading like wildfire over the last few months, especially with releases of the latest lookbooks and capsules by the likes of Rubchinskiy and Palace. I’m sure it won’t be long before we see who’ll be next next to hop on the brutal bandwagon.
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