You would think that the fashion industry was "only" in a temporary chaotic state caused by all the mess about the calendars, but maybe that's incorrect.
It would instead be better to say that fashion proceeds first and foremost in a circular path (what goes round comes round…) and it is still doing so, though, at the moment, such circles are maybe more similar to Dante's nightmarish Hellish circles - they are chaotic realms of torture in which an undesirable past is summoned to clash with a mediocre present.
Yesterday's presentations at Pitti in Florence made this circular yet confusing pattern extremely clear: Gianni Versace's illegitimate son Fausto Puglisi came up with a collection that was more or less a rip-off of Versace's Byzantium-inspired A/W 1991-92 designs complete with monumental crosses and embellishments stolen from religious icons and Byzantine mosaics (View this photo).
Moscow born and based Gosha Rubchinskiy didn't do much to dispel the feeling of déjà-vu. So far young and hip Rubchinskiy has played with the fine line between Soviet and Post-Soviet identity (imagine Olympic Mishka the bear from 1980 meets a club kid from the '90s and you get the idea), though for his Pitti presentation he added something else in the mix.
Showcased at the historical Manifattura Tabacchi, a tobacco factory built in Florence in the early '30s, a perfect example of Italian rationalist architecture (frankly, a jinxed location for young designers since its vast space highlights all the flaws of a fashion collection – remember how it marked the beginning of the end for Band of Outsiders…), the presentation was accompanied by a short film, "The Day of My Death" by Renata Litvinova in which Rubchinskiy and his stylist Lotta Volkova are also featured.
The film was dedicated to Pier Paolo Pasolini, a key inspiration for Rubchinskiy's ordinary street heroes (Pasolini's voice could also be heard in the background during the catwalk show), though the clothes on the runway didn't call to mind the Accattone style, but something else.
All the looks were modelled by ordinary people cast through Instagram (the trendy thing to do at the moment) and the collection featured thirty looks with sportswear prevailing. This time, though, rather than opting for Soviet times, Rubchinskiy turned to sportswear labels, some of them Italian, to prove he has shifted his attention from his initial Soviet inspirations to Europe.
Prominent logos on tops and bags celebrated Fila, Kappa, Sergio Tacchini and Levi's, and some of them were accompanied by the designer’s name in Cyrillic. Though they looked fake, they were actually real collaborations (the one with Levi's resulted in denims and corduroy jackets).
Almost as a tribute to Italy, Rubchinskiy added to acrylic shorts and hooded sweaters accessorized with thick chain necklaces, tailored pieces that included cotton-linen pinstripe or double-breasted velvet jackets.
Yet, this supposed combination of Italian and Russian styles and codes, ended up creating a weird memory in the mind of those ones old enough to remember.
Fila, Sergio Tacchini, Levi's – where did we see them in the same combination? Yes, you got it. The '80s, but it wasn't in Italy or on the runway – we saw them indeed on the terraces donned by "casuals", also known as "hooligans into designer-label casualwear" (usually Italian brands...). As the years passed, ecstasy became the mitigating factor characterizing this subculture steeped in terrace violence and fashion, but that is a different story.
Seeing the young models in these labels brought back memories of the fanzine The End, an arbiter of terrace fashion courtesy of anti-Thatcher regime band The Farm. Articles about the story of football fashion often appeared in its pages and the fanzine often underlined the differences between one city and another and the labels favoured by particular football supporters, becoming an important voice speaking about football and fashion street politics.
Every now and then the magazine published poems with lines that went "sportsgear, sportsgear, it's all the rage / Sergio, Lacoste, they take away my wage / Fila, Ellesse, one two three / With expensive tops they'll look at me / Anyone can walk into a shop / With their cheque-book open it'll take them to the top / But just remember who's been had / This fashion craze it's so sad".
The only surprising thing was that Rubchinskiy didn't resurrect Ellesse (that's a shame, as a trip to Perugia would have taken him to the sort of dilapidated buildings Rubchinskiy has a penchant for to discover the history of founder Leonardo Servadio…) and there was no Pod or Kicker shoe revival (but we can work on that for the next season...).
There was actually one faux pas: the designer opted to include Kappa, a brand casuals disliked (or maybe that was a reference to Scottish neds as celebrated in Mogwai's wonderful somber instrumental "Kappa", a brand Mogwai members used to wear with pride), but, as a whole, it was really difficult to resist the temptation to avoid wasting time writing a review of the event and instead copying/adapting an early '80s feature published on The Face about the hippest labels favoured by football fans (Kevin Sampson, you reading this?).
For some tragic twist of fate, the presentation also happened just a few days after English and Russian fans violently clashed in Marseille ahead of a European Championship game, something that may end up strengthening rather than dispelling the connection between fashion and football casuals in this collection.
Yet again the return of this ghost from the past is perfectly timed: The Stone Roses have just played in Manchester and, who knows, maybe Irvine Welsh will sit down to write Marabou Stork Nightmares 2 soon or maybe on the next Vêtements or Rubchinskiy runway we will see T-shirts of bands casuals loved, including Joy Division/New Order, The Stone Roses, The Farm and Happy Mondays? (Mind you, Rubchinskiy stated that people are fed up with street styles, so he's moving onto tailoring, but maybe a "vintage" music shirt under a "tailored" suit will appear here and there...).
Whatever, The Stone Roses' anthem "I Am the Resurrection" comes to mind: fashion is truly "the resurrection", since it has the power of rising over and over again, waking up along the way ghosts you thought were buried forever in an embarrassing collective past.
Shame though, that, rather than creating a new intriguing utopia, fashion is generating exquisite corpses (check out Vsevolod "Sever" Cherepanov - a Russian "alternative" top model who wouldn't look out of place among Scottish neds in a potential follow up to Ken Loach's Sweet Sixteen - in his "Russian Fashion Mafia New World Order" top, or the guy in the front row in a T-shirt spelling "Abbigliamento", the Italian term for "Vêtements", hmmm, a veritable battle of creative geniuses here…). In a way, it looks like we went from Pitti peacocks to Pitti turkeys ("Tacchini" in Italian literally means "turkeys")...
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos