ukrainian fashion week: christina bobkova

(images via ufw)

it’s kind of funny to me that most of the time, my favourite designers or collections at the events we cover are also my least favourite to actually write about.  i’m not sure whether that’s because i’m simply impatient that i have to take the time to explain why i like it when feeling it should, of course, already be evident, but maybe it’s something deeper, and there’s a fear that i won’t be able to rationalize, or articulate properly what it is i so appreciate.  all the same, i still try to plug along, though, and you’ve probably guessed by now that we’re coming up on one such example, designer christina bobkova (Кристина Бобкова) whose work at ukrainian fashion week i’ve come to so appreciate over the seasons (see s/s 2011, a/w 2011, s/s 2012) that i’m growing increasingly tongue-tied as the pressure mounts with work cycling along to be consistently more amazing than the last. 

and with that in mind, and although i don’t know if i can quite say it was her best, given just how very, very glorious the spring collection was, i will gleefully trill that her most recent exhibition presented in kiev, for the a/w 2012 season, was stunningly moody and certainly among her very top work.  in prior seasons, we’ve spoken of a possible rick owens influence, and though it has licked in-and-out, never quite as dark and twisty, i saw much more of that designer’s signature thumbprint present today, alongside a little extra serving of gareth pugh-style angst.  but that doesn’t mean—never means—ms. bobkova is simply trading in on the aesthetic of other ateliers; she has her own decided look and feel, a little goth-cum-streetwear, and if for spring she was in a cheerier mood, winter found her amusingly sulky and dark. 

with regards to the collection inspiration, i wasn’t quite able to get a straight answer from my sources, with the ukrainian site jetsetter contending that it was drawn from (trans.) “(t)angle-inspired puzzlesand the complex intertwining of nature and architecture.”  yet on the other hand, the blog be in trend suggested that the designer’s girl for fall was (trans.) “a modern Amazon and ready for any adventure and weather conditions.”  i suppose i could see a little of both, and they need not necessarily be mutually exclusive.  and actually, the puzzle notion is kind of interesting, considering that her look rather mirrored that black-laden punk-ery that we often saw at berlin’s fall shows, and among them, augustin teboul presented a labyrinth-inspired range.  

anyway, for the autumn season, ms. bobkova virtually gave up her beautiful saturated shades that helped pop the spring exhibition, replacing them with black.  lots of black.  that was fine, as it seems not only her staple, but that of many fashion weeks (kiev among them), and anyway, she also likes her blues, and we got a few of those—indigo, navy, and some faded, tie-dyed prussian/cadet blue motif—as well as a splash of umber, a bit of cloudy gray, and even a dash of pillow-ticking print for some real shakedown.  as for the collection’s materials, the ukrainian site story reported that jersey, leather, assorted knitwear, suede, cashmere, wool, chiffon, and cotton were employed for her characteristic juxtapositioning of denser textiles with airy, fluid fabrics that lightly float on the layers. 

the collection’s aesthetic was definitely something between an edgy nouveau-gothic and a rugged workwear/urbanite look, with story going on to note that the range was (trans.) “was dominated by trousers baggy on the hips and tapering at the bottom, long dresses and knee-length skirts. Accessories are made from knitted fabrics in the form of weaving and knots, and attention was drawn to the shoes – rough shoes and boots with crumpled legs.”  they’re right about most of that, although i would like to add that there was a certain slimness of form that pervaded throughout, giving a slightly androgynous cast to the proceedings, with necklines often cut quite high (up to a full- or mock-turtleneck), long sleeves, and low-waisted slender trousers that, pegged as they were at the hem just above the ankle, gave a particularly coltish, boyish appearance to the models, rather like the garments mr. pugh himself would select. 

perhaps the closest ms. bobkova’s girls ever really got to ‘sexy’ or ‘feminine’ was in the modest v-necks that accentuated some of the tops and dresses, and the few billowing, forest goddess dresses that closed out the show (as second from bottom), but even those had a coolness, a detached quality that didn’t make them appear fully womanly, but a little more like monkish robes.  the ukrainian site lady tch reflected that the designer was striving to place her (trans.) “emphasis on simplicity and conciseness of the image,” while stating that the “(t)he highlight of the collection was a square cut.” indeed, i’d agree that most of those day dresses were cast in an almost rectangular shape, while some of the necklines and the occasional colour-blocking followed suit, leading a further obfuscation of the rounded curves of the natural feminine form. 

but i don’t mean to imply that anything of this was verging on a negative—indeed, i mean the opposite, and found something a little more gender-neutral to be a rather refreshing shakeup in these days of decided femininity, where so many collections are drowning in stiflingly tight minidresses and vertiginous platform heels.  instead, a mild sportswear note, something more casual, darker, more versatile…feels absolutely right for the upcoming season, and all the more so due to the fact that it was actually promoting a covered look, something that has been (as we’ve frequently discussed) surprisingly lax for an approaching, yannow, cold season.  maybe some of the looks would be a little dark, a little angry for the average girl, but as they were fairly blank canvases, one could do quite a lot with what was on hand here, and that’s part of the charm, too.  although the thing i like best about ms. bobkova is that i rarely—if ever—want to do anything to tweak the looks as she presents them on her runways (see additional images at modotopia & gigamir).

(watch the full collection video here)

lisbon fashion week: maria gambina

(images via hiper fashion)

during my pre-writing bit of research, i came across a daily moda lisboa article that explained designer maria gambina would be presenting her f/w 2012 collection—the one we see here, as it was exhibited at lisbon fashion week—in ukraine.  though that’s just part of the culture/fashion tradeoff most of these events do, it actually seems quite the fitting choice to me, from the designer’s bold use of primary colour (and colour-blocking) to her confident, structured shapes to her oversized, figure-obfuscating cuts to her sometimes quite conceptual aesthetic complete with the oddities that served as headpieces.  in short, this range looked quite a lot like something we’d see out of a kiev or lviv fashion week.  and i mean that in a good way. 

titling her winter collection ‘otherness’, the designer herself explained to daily moda lisboa that (trans.) (i)t is an urban collection with a strong influence from hockey…Otherness is a mix of influences that arise from the experience of otherness.”  well.  i feel that makes things a lot clearer.  don’t you feel like your understanding has suddenly become clearer?  oh no?  mine neither.  but if she’s trying to say—at least in some part—that aside from the hockey motifs, she’s trying to kick in what it feels like to have been one of those ‘creative’ or ‘artsy’ (read: loners)-type kids at school, i guess i can ride with that one.  at least a few of these looks definitely have something in common with this self-professed ‘eccentric’ chick in one of my fashion school classes that spent most of every day loudly proclaiming how ‘different’ from the rest she was.  yeah, so that was money totally well spent.  but oh yes, i digress. 

anyway, with regards to the range motifs and colours, the designer told pt stars online that (trans.) “(t)he prints carry us to the universe of Maurits Cornelis Escher, the attitude is irreverent, influenced by Kate Tempest, and the colours send us to the environment of Elizabeth Fraser, lead singer of the Cocteau Twins.”  so this, i suppose, should make it clear as anything that besides the sportswear bent, there was a decided creative moment bent to the collection, which was perhaps responsible for those looks which at times began to resemble something more like an onstage performance outfit for sxsw or glastonbury than, yannow, weekend attire for most urban girls.  that, and with a dash of balenciaga kicked into the mix.  so in the end, actually quite ‘high fashion’.  but to get back to the point, portugal confidential added that “(t)he collection is primarily black sometimes featuring exaggerated braids or pompom embellishments. In yet another bold expression, Gambina combines royal blue with bright red.”

as for the garments themselves, the blog stylo lisboa wrote that (trans.) “(t)he parade was essentially marked by the introduction of extremely large pieces, when it cames to either shirts, skirts or dresses. There is a substantial widening of all forms of the human body. The ‘Y’ shaped silhouette allows a combination of the extra-large and very short [cuts]…According to the designer this is a collection that is ‘based on a reversal of materials,’” and she went on to explain that, essentially, she cast pieces that might typically be seen as urban and streetwear-esque in materials like wool, while producing her “graphic components with very sharp, technical materials,” in some of the more atypical garments for those textiles (though it wasn’t totally clear to me what, save for maybe some of the stronger active sportwear-style items, given that there weren’t a lot of farm-ready looks on hand here).  strangely enough, we’ve actually heard a very similar idea out of alexandra moura’s lfw show as well. 

anyway, the l’oréal professional blog went on to point out that many of the jackets and dresses were fronted with heavy black and gray yarn braiding up the center front, while propagandista social added that (trans.) “(t)he focus is also on the footwear: applications of metal decorated the shoes, and gave structure to the rubber-tipped heels” (you can see a good side view of the shoes here).  in the end, i liked some of the sartorial risks the designer took, her futuristic warrior-esque inflections, and even a few complete looks, like the red-necked blue sweater paired with the asymmetrically-padded black-and-white skirt (at top) managed to come off really well (and, as i suggested above, kind of like a more hardcore balenciaga).  but at other moments, i wonder that she didn’t get a bit too edgy, with pieces like the giant gray textured braid-thing going a bit beyond comprehension and into the just unfortunate territory.  but on the plus side, i do imagine those heels could be quite the hit. 

(check out the collection video here)

riga fashion week: zanete auzina

(images via style pages)

we’ve checked out the work of latvian designer zanete auzina a couple of times in the past (see f/w 2010 & s/s 2011), but i’ll be frank and admit that i haven’t really gotten a read on what she’s ‘about’ as yet.  to be sure, she’s an avant-y designer, and one who definitely cuts a piece for a refined woman (as opposed to a girl), but although we’ve seen her getting utilitarian or cloudy/ethereal in the past, she’s pulled another switch on us.  with her f/w 2012 range, as presented at riga fashion week, she issued up a collection that was filled with the kind of swirling, organic lines that for me echoed the work of iris van herpen when she’s in a woodsy mood.  well, that, mashed up with classic womenswear work-ready suits. yes, really.  and it looked good. 

now, one of the downsides of riga fashion week is that quite often the press surrounding the event is rather quiet, and we’ve got to do most of the work ourselves (and how it makes me so mad!  i was looking at a harper’s bazaar the other day and it was filled with images of socialites and mainstream collections from some seasons ago finally getting into the shops, and i thought…is this where fashion really is?  lingering on rich people i don’t even know and regurgitating the same design houses again and again? where’s the newness, the innovation?  where is the coverage of weeks such as this one?  but yes, i digress).  anyway, according to the latvian site anii, we were looking at (trans.) “(s)omething of a femme fatale,” and i suppose i’d agree.  she has a mysterious and darker, edgier side, but she’s not fully into the sharp seductress thing, either. 

meanwhile, the latvian site delfi woman contended that we were seeing (trans.) “products based on color, texture and shape synthesis. [the collection] provides the necessary elements  of fantasy and practical use of unification for the artist.”  now, i didn’t like totally get that one either, but her stated inspiration in the past has been a bit vague and highly conceptual, and i suppose i’d say that with this collection the designer was trying to incorporate a fantasy world within the context of the everyday, a way for her girls to escape to someplace mythical and mystical even as they’re sitting in their cubicles, on the bus, at a meeting, doing the mundane.  her palette was punchy and rich, with the requisite black supplemented by aubergine, rust, light umber, sapphire, and deep shade of mossy green.  

ms. auzina also worked with the kind of urbane luxury materials we’d expect from a range like this, with the site creative latvia reporting that leather, faux fur, real fur, chiffon, knitwear, and tulle went into the making.  a closer look at the pieces revealed a lot of texture play (i’d love to have a full textile list, as some appeared quite exotic), and added a subtle element of eroticism to the show.  her girl is strong, she can stand on her own and fight her own battles in the forest, but she has an allure that comes from her confidence and maybe that faint scent of oneness nature that cropped up throughout the collection (creative latvia free-associated terms like ‘hunter’, ‘elf’, and ‘pixie’ when captioning their images).  another intriguing element of the show, i’d say, was the careful draping and tailoring, with just enough slouch and asymmetry to mask, yet slowly caress the underlying shape. 

in the end, i liked the collection very well because one could do a lot with these pieces.  the styling on the catwalk was impressive on its own, but many of the separates would integrate well into a wardrobe, with unexpected pops of colour on blazers and basic menswear-style shirts.  i also think that her target age group could be pretty diverse, thanks to cuts that were at once sophisticated and yet not too stodgy (nor too saucy).  additionally, it was kind of refreshing to see so many pants in a season (winter, no less) that has been defined by the emphasis on the bare leg, with micro-minis sliding ever further up for more sex, and less comfort.  ms. auzina skillfully managed to blend the best of both worlds.  and i hope to see more of this exceptional craft in the near future (see some additional images at kasjauns).

(watch a short collection video here)