Is there any more of a ubiquitous symbol of irreverent, carefree, rebellious youth than smoking? It's the oldest trick in the book when it comes to adding edge to a fashion image - give the model a cigarette. Responsible? No. Effective? Yes. Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy both loves youth and is adored by youths. His low(ish) price points makes his work vaguely attainable to a younger, cooler consumer. The kind of too-cool-for-school kids who walk in his shows or appear in his photography - many who modelled today were 14 or 15-year-old fanboys who had contacted Rubchinskiy on Instagram. It's appropriate then that for his stint as guest designer at Florentine trade show Pitti Immagine Uomo, Rubchinskiy chose to forgo the imposing Italian grandeur or majestic Renaissance surroundings in favour of a battered former tobacco factory for the setting of his show.
No surprises in terms of the venue, given that Rubchinskiy has previously shown in abandoned gyms and other humble hangouts where you can imagine kids congregating for feral evenings away from supervision. But there were surprises in terms of clothes. Who'd have thought that the designer - a man known more for retro jeans and logo t-shirts - would open with three suits? There was a certain wit to it. After all, Pitti is the home of tailoring - the fair is full of trussed up pocket-square-wielding peacocks in waistcoats. Maybe this was a nod to what Italian's do best. In fact that notion seemed to underpin the whole show. It was most obvious in a sweater that boldly read ‘Europa’ in Cyrillic, but also in the multiple collaborations with adored Italian sportswear brands; Fila, Kappa, Sergio Tacchini. They’ll fly from the shelves if retailers can get their hands on them (such is the demand for Rubchinskiy’s work his team are having to cap order sizes).
For a long time Rubchinskiy has talked about challenging preconceived notions of his birthplace and spotlighting a new Russian generation. Aptly, one striped sweater read Russian Renaissance (again in Cyrillic). But really this was less about Russia and more about a new world order - with those Europe and Italy nods it felt like this was about community. It made one think about the history of men's style. One thought of English Casuals taking inspiration from the tracksuits and t-shirts of Italian football fans. One thought of the breathy voice in former casual Mark Leckey’s 'Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore' listing the brands to know and love; ‘Cerrutti, Sergio Tacchini, Lacoste, Fila, Kappa, Jordache, Fiorucci.’ So many of those appeared today, reworked with Rubchinsky’s graphics.
While those sportswear items will make waves commercially, creatively, it was the tailoring that stood out. It suggests that Rubchinskiy is seeking to diversify his offer, and offer all aspects of a wardrobe, both for the irreverent youth who’s already a committed fan and the wider modern male shopper. The closing look featured a roman numeral tally motif; VI, II, III. When it comes to keeping score, this show was a 10/10.