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Soviet trends in the global fashion industry

By Natalia Popova


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Nostalgic trends, originally created by designers in the USSR, are becoming increasingly popular in the global fashion industry. These soviet-style looks, while popular in the mass-market, are not always well received. A political scandal arose in Ukraine and Lithuania, for example, after Adidas released a collection of sportswear featuring USSR symbols.

Adidas eventually withdrew their soviet-inspired sportswear products from the complaining countries after the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance referred to the collection as “a violation of moral norms”. In Lithuania, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed displeasure in particular with garments in the collection featuring the USSR coat of arms, accusing the brand of “malicious nostalgia for the empire”. The sportswear manufacturer, however, continued to sell the soviet collection online in its’ home market, Germany.

The particular garments that outraged the Lithuanian diplomats are featured in the collection Adidas dedicated to the Football World Cup which will be held in Russia from June 14 to July 15. Design of the pieces were inspired by sportswear styles in the USSR at the end of the 1980s.

Alongside the World Cup collection, Adidas launched retro sneakers with the word “Moskva” featured on them. The vintage 350 design with multi-colored stripes became available for purchase on May 19. In addition, the German brand presented a pair of goalie gloves dedicated to the 55th anniversary of soviet goalkeeper, Lev Yashin, receiving the Ballon d'Or award. The gloves, designed in black and orange colors, feature the Yashin’s initials, jersey number and Balloon D’Or 1963 inscriptions.

Adidas is not the only brand capitalizing on Soviet styles; Umbro recently launched a capsule collection inspired by the brand’s original design for the 1966 USSR football uniform. That year, Umbro designed uniforms for all 16 teams playing in the World Cup held in the UK. However the USSR team refused to collaborate with the British manufacturer, and they were never worn.

Now, 52 years later, Umbro’s “Unforgotten” capsule collection reveals how the USSR uniform would have looked like in 1966. The design of the new collection was inspired by post-soviet aesthetics featuring typical fonts, as well as designs from the likes of Gosha Rubchinskiy and Demna Gvasalia. Umbro will also release a separate capsule dedicated again to Yashin, with pieces all in black - a theme inspired by his nickname, “Black Spider”.

Soviet style has been inspiring the global fashion industry for years

Western consumers do not seem to be bothered by this soviet style trend with its inspiration apparent in the global fashion industry for a number of years now, largely popularized by Gosha Rubchinskiy. In the past the designer collaborated with Adidas to create a collection featuring sweatpants tucked into socks and sweatshirts printed with phrases, “Ready for Labour and Defense” and “Sport”.

Slogans and phrases printed in Cyrillic are no longer exotic in the fashion industry. For instance, an American designer Heron Preston released hoodies written in Cyrillic, that translates to “Style”, worn by rapper Kanye West and his daughter.

The appreciation of the Soviet aesthetics is also actively promoted by the co-founder of the French brand Vetements, Demna Gvasalia. In 2015, the Sukhumi-born designer became head of the Balenciaga house. Many of his designs pull inspiration from the late Soviet era.

Interestingly, this trend is also followed by some of the designers from Poland, Baltic countries and the Ukraine. For example, the Polish designer Gosya Bachinska has recently presented her “Yalta” collection that commemorated the meeting between Anti-Hitler Coalition leaders during the Second World War. The collection featured blouses with brooches resembling the medals leaders from the coalition received.

Ukrainian designer Yulia Yefimchuk also drew inspiration from Soviet history in similar collections presenting militarist designs with inscriptions in Latin characters saying “Communism”, “Socialism”, “Propaganda” as well as Soviet mottos in Russian.

Estonian designer Marit Ilison designs coats made from woollen Soviet blankets, while Lithuanian modeller Egle Ziemite created her autumn-winter 2018 collection “D’efect” pulling inspiration in the photos of her mother that dated back to 1970s – the Soviet era.

Finally, American retailer Urban Outfitters featured a line of hoodies and vests printed with the word “Equality” written in Cyrillic. The mass-market reach of Urban Outfitters extends the Soviet trend to a global scale.

This article was originally written for FashionUnited.ru. Translated and edited by Kelly Press.

Photo: Umbro, Adidas

Heron Preston
Urban Outfitters
World Cup
Yulia Yefimchuk