Seascape Studies: Caspian Fashion Week

I fall hard for a great concept the moment I encounter one. Caspian Fashion Week sounds like #PostParisFashion heaven: a new international platform for designers from Russia and countries of this ancient sea with all its historic intercultural trade routes. Central Asia meets Iran and the Caucuses. Fasten your seatbelts, betcha we’re off to Astrakhan! The project’s first edition delivered on my mixed expectations. Requisite oil-rich glitz, absurdly patriotic gear, droves of Inditex devotees, and a few noteworthy discoveries with a zeitgeist take on garment style or craft. Here are my top five picks from Caspian Fashion Week to bookmark in your fashion rolodexes.

What saves a collection Morning Watercolors by Anastasia Kovall from basic zara-fate is a certain lightness of vision, a subtle flowing quality to the cuts and folds which I recon is due to the legacy of Baltic sea breezes since Kovall hails from Kaliningrad, westernmost Russian maritime outpost. Facebook.

The neo-retro patchwork of influences and styles in a capsule collection by Natalia Zueva signifies her eclectic background as a professional “Image Maker” & boutique atelier couturier in Rostov-on-Don. (Almost too) expertly tailored to appeal to a wide range of tastes, her clothes nevertheless retain a decisive individuality.

Another Rostov-based designer recently shot to instafame in Russia. Ksenia Kravtsova ventured into “political fashion” with deconstructed Putin prints, iconic landmarks like St. Basil’s Cathedral reimagined as consumption-ready scoops of ice cream, and other of-the-moment fare. An introspective sensibility makes it less tourist trap garb and more in line with streetwear ethos of Artees/LesBenjamins.

Elena Piskulina won me over as the only menswear designer at Caspian Fashion Week. Coming out of Ekaterinburg, the Urals industrial metropolis at the epicenter of Eurasian conquest narratives, her sullen take on urbanwear delivers a number of alternative tailoring ideas. Gray by Piskulina appears less s50-shade-sexy and more like weighty dust of History: own it, honor it, luv it. Instagram.

Last and possibly best-in-show comes a pretty and pretty challenging collection by a St. Petersburg native Liza Odinokikh. Inspired by the silhouettes of the wartime 1930-40s, the designer braved the toxic rah-rah-rah territory wherein WWII Victory remains Russia’s omnipotent cultural doping remedy of choice. However, her assertive deconstruction of camouflage and choice of fragile fabrics speak not of any Triumph but stand as witness to complex memories. Odinokikh reminded me of a wartime dance (!) archive project by another southern Russian artist Inna Lipovets. Poignant, powerful, post-paris 🙂 Instagram.

I look forward to the second edition of Caspian Fashion Week in November!

P.S. Quick note to organizers. Official runway photography could use more garment focus! Please, reserve event spaces, guest faces, and odd angles to social media reporting. Kudos on a great beginning of a grand adventure.

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