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Is Moscow the world's next fashion capital?

Models from the Beso Tura, Alexandr Rogov, and Anastasia Dokuchaeva runway shows from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia. (Photos: Courtesy of MBFW Russia; art: Quinn Lemmers)

When you think of the world’s top fashion capitals, you tend to think of the big four: Paris, Milan, London, and New York — not Moscow. But that perception is changing.

In recent years, the fashion industry has witnessed a new guard of fashionable cities emerge in Eastern Europe and Asia. Places like Tbilisi, Kiev, Berlin, Seoul, Tokyo, and now Moscow have become prime sites for scouting emerging talent and fresh-faced street style stars. But for Moscow in particular, this journey toward becoming the next “fashion capital” has been more than 10 years in the making.

This year, I was invited to attend the 37th season of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia. To my surprise, it was nothing like what I had imagined. I always perceived the Russian fashion scene to be heavy on streetwear (i.e., analogous to their main breakout star, Gosha Rubchinskiy). But instead, the designers were diverse in background and presented collections that were multifaceted and distinct from one another. Some were definitely much stronger than others in terms of design technique, fabric choices, and styling choices, but overall the clothes were varied, ranging from intricate, embroidered gowns to commercial style workwear, as well as gender fluid clothing and, yes, streetwear, too.

At its core, MBFW Russia is focused on fortifying Russian talent, but it is also big on supporting international designers. This season included special international showcases with designers from  Africa and Kazakhstan. In the past, guest designers have been invited from China and Indonesia as well. In fact, such household names as Jeremy Scott and Vivienne Westwood have previously shown in Russia.

To those outside of Moscow, it might seem like Russia’s fashion scene has just begun, and in some respects, it has. It’s important to remember that the Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991, less than 30 years ago. In the early 1900s, Russia didn’t have someone like Coco Chanel, Cristobal Balenciaga, or Christian Dior leading its fashion industry. Many of the designers on the Russian calendar today started their journey not long ago — some in the early 2000s, others just recently.

In fact, 2004 is when Russia’s first fashion week launched. At the time, “we invited just 17 designers,” Alexander Shumsky, president of the Russian Fashion Council, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. He explains that the shows were set up in tents similar to those at New York’s Bryant Park, centered in Moscow’s iconic Red Square, home to St. Basil’s Cathedral and the historic GUM shopping center and near the Kremlin. Now, the shows are held at the Manege in Moscow’s Design Museum.

To Russia’s disadvantage, the country didn’t “have sustainable commercial brands like you have in New York: Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan, Proenza Schouler,” says the RFC president. That is why the Russian Fashion Council is “focused on selecting the best designers” for its fashion week, not necessarily the “most known brands.” In the end, “we’re focused on talent” and aim to “establish Moscow as a fashion capital. Not a shopping capital.”

As a city that is one of the world’s largest, with more than 12 million people, it possesses immense potential for global fashion success. But to say that Moscow is the next fashion capital right now is a bit premature, although it’s certainly one to watch closely. Until then, meet Moscow’s six brightest stars, who will certainly serve as catalysts in the city’s journey to becoming the fashion capital it aspires to be.

Models walk in Alexandr Rogov’s show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia. (Photos: Courtesy of MBFW Russia; art: Quinn Lemmers)

To Russians, Alexandr Rogov is already considered a star. His fashion show clearly reflected his popularity, being the most packed show of the week. I was almost elbowed out at one point. Rogov actually began his career in television but soon transitioned into fashion styling, where his success bloomed. He’s worked with premier publications in Russia such as Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, and Elle. In 2012, Tatler named him one of the most influential Russian stylists. The following year, in 2013, Rogov decided to establish his own eponymous fashion line.

In just a few short years, he cemented himself as a designer to watch. His collection for fall fuses an Eastern European aesthetic, similar to Demna Gvasalia‘s streetwear hit: Vetements with a light femininity. Key items include his silky patchwork dresses, sheer tops, and sweatshirts. His accessories are also worth mentioning: Matrix-style sunglasses, colorful gloves, and sheer embellished socks.

Models walk in Anastasia Dokuchaeva’s show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia. (Photos: Courtesy of MBFW Russia; art: Quinn Lemmers)

Anastasia Dokuchaeva has only two fashion collection under her belt, but she presented one of the strongest collections of the week. Her designs seamlessly mesh maximalist style with streetwear and border on futuristic but still wearable. Key pieces include her graphic geometric coats, logo outerwear, and a white strapless dress with splatters of “blood” similar to Raf Simons’s SS18 collection for Calvin Klein.

Models walk in Artem Shumov’s show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia. (Photos: Courtesy of MBFW Russia; art: Quinn Lemmers)

Artem Shumov is one of Russia’s biggest rising stars. He’s shown in Russia for a few seasons now and was one of six selected to present in London recently. Although Shumov established his brand in St. Petersburg and is currently based in Shanghai, he’s a big fan of Moscow. “I love Moscow more and more,” he says. “It’s changing, it’s freer, it’s more open now for different opportunities.” It also helps that “Moscow is a very beautiful city,” says the designer.

But for this season’s collection, Shumov was inspired by his new home base. His show also had one of the most diverse model casts of the week, featuring South Sudanese model Nile Shadow. Shumov’s designs creatively played with proportions, tailoring, and color.

Models walk in Beso Tura’s show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia. (Photos: Courtesy of MBFW Russia; art: Quinn Lemmers)

Beso Turazashvili of Beso Tura is a Georgian-Russian designer whose collections are inspired by his travels. He previously worked with Stella McCartney in New York and lived in Dubai. He describes his designs as meant for powerful, strong women. According to his website, the Beso Tura woman is self-confident, modern, ambitious, and independent. This season’s collection had hints of Anthony Vaccarello’s vision for Saint Laurent, whose FW18 show featured bright lights coupled with similar short ’80s-style minidresses. But the leather jumpsuits and trench coats were the biggest highlights. Don’t be surprised if you see Bella Hadid rocking one of these looks in the near future. 

Models walk in Rich Mnisi’s show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia. (Photos: Courtesy of MBFW Russia; art: Quinn Lemmers)

Rich Mnisi was part of MBFW Russia’s “Africa Explosion” showcase, which highlighted African designers specially invited to show their collections on the Russian catwalk. Mnisi’s designs were refreshing for the Eastern European fashion scene due to their gender fluidity. Male models wore sheer trousers and svelte feminine suiting, while female models wore vibrant, graphic coats and skirts. Mnisi’s accessories were also on trend, featuring oversized tote bags, colorful earrings, and waist bags.

Models walk in Otocyon’s show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia. (Photos: Courtesy of MBFW Russia; art: Quinn Lemmers)

Surprisingly, one of the best collections at MBFW Russia came from a young designer who didn’t even show on the main fashion calendar. Her name is Lesya Ruakovich, and she is the founder of Otocyon. She was one of more than 20 young designers chosen to present at Futurum Moscow, an all-day free fashion event sponsored by the Russian Fashion Council that takes place on the last day of fashion week.

This season, Futurum Moscow intermixed art with fashion by featuring a special exhibit in partnership with Artis Project, founded by Anastasia Potanina. They enlisted popular, Russian street-artist, Alexey Mednoy to create live artwork on site based on Moscow’s urban landscape. Futurum Moscow was founded in 2017 to provide young designers a platform to showcase their fashion collections without worrying about how to fund them or produce them. This investment in Russia’s youth is strategic. After all, the fate of Russia’s future in fashion lies in the hands of its youth.

Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:

Fashion week in Russia came with many twists — including the gender fluid collection of a South African designer 
What it’s really like working as a black fashion model in Russia
It was a nice time when Trump owned Miss Universe, says decrowned Russian beauty queen-turned- designer 

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