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Accessorized with Politics: Alexey Sorokin’s Modern Russian Look at New York Fashion Week
Emma McClendon
Russia has always held a paradoxical position on the global stage - neither entirely "Western" nor "non-Western" both culturally and politically. Within fashion, certain elements such as large fur hats have taken on a stereotypical role for designers creating "Russian" themed collections. In recent years, however, there has been a growing interest in Russia's own fashion output, with many Russian organizations working to foster and solidify a modern fashion identity for the nation and its burgeoning designers. In keeping with this initiative, DEPESHA, the self-proclaimed "Russian expatriate culture magazine at the intersection of fashion, art, literature, and modernity" based in New York, has started holding previews of work by Russian designers during the biannual New York fashion weeks. In September 2012, this presentation featured Alexey Sorokin's S/S 2013 collection for his label Homo Consommatus. Although these DEPESHA presentations are intriguing in their own right for their use of New York as a platform to promote Russian fashion, the presentation of Alexey Sorokin's work is particularly interesting. The concept notes for this collection cited futuristic influences of a post-Earth vision of humanity and fashion. But clad in balaclava-like head coverings, the models immediately evoked associations with members of the Russian band Pussy Riot, who gained global attention in February 2012 for a protest they held against Russian president Vladimir Putin while wearing brightly colored balaclavas. Sorokin's head coverings were not part of the look-book for this collection - they were specific to the New York presentation, suggesting their significance in Sorokin's marketing strategy at his debut to the Western fashion world. Taking this event as its focus, this paper will analyze Alexey Sorokin's engagement with contemporary politics to create a modern Russian identity in his work. To do this, the paper will look at the dynamic among Sorokin's aesthetic, concept, and physical presentation. The goal of this will be to present a case study that suggests the multifaceted ways designers are attempting to move away from cliched notions of identity and re-appropriate their national heritage in the 21st century.
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