This season marks a turning point in the world of menswear with perhaps the most eagerly anticipated Pitti to date. Several high profile designers have abandoned Paris in favour of Florence, amongst them Raf Simons and Gosha Rubchinskiy. Curiously enough Gosha is often touted as the new Raf, not because of any real similarity in aesthetic but rather because they’re both the darlings of menswear. Two designers who are so far ahead of the game their designs often seem out of step with everyone else but time always proves them to be deeply influential.
Rubchinskiy’s show is by all accounts his biggest. From what I can see he’s also showing three collaborations with retro sportswear brands, Kappa, Fila and Sergio Tacchini (other collaborations for the season include Retrosuperfuture sunglasses and Superga trainers). It seems that the designer collaboration isn’t over after all. The show was pretty much how I expected it: classic model casting by Gosha included boys who look like teenage gymnasts from the early 90’s replete with flat tops and mullets. The sportswear collaborations, due to subtle Rubchinskiy branding, looked no different than these items normally do. Rubchinskiy’s shows rely heavily on styling, so to see a model in a Kappa tracksuit with bug-eye sunglasses and a heavy silver necklace looks to me like a 90’s football yob, not the cutting edge of contemporary menswear.
Rubchinskiy fetishises his Russian heritage, which to us is interesting and new, but when he does something that we can interpret through our own cultural memory it doesn’t work so well. Sportswear is the key trend in menswear at the minute but that doesn’t mean you can just send a Kappa tracksuit or a Fila sweatshirt down the runway. These items rely on branding, branding that doesn’t belong to Gosha. Every sportswear brand has its own distinct connotations in the UK and that’s by all accounts lost on Rubchinskiy.
There’s also something a bit Zoolander about the fetishising of what some people call “refugee chic” the idea that mismatched sportswear and “weird looking” European models look like refugees. I don’t believe for a second that this is Rubchinskiy’s intention but it is easy to see how it can be perceived in this way. I still fully appreciate Rubchinskiy, I am just slightly disappointed by what he presented here in his most eagerly anticipated collection yet. It’s safe to say that Raf won’t be losing any sleep over this collection.