We had the pleasure to interview the designer behind Red September where we talk the coming of the brand, building collections from scratch and the disappearance of gender in fashion
BY GIUSEPPE CASTRENZE
Can you tell me about your studies and how did you come to found Red September?
Making the incredibly long story of my life's adventures short...First I went to Moscow State University of Railway Engineering, graduated and worked as an engineer in a scientific laboratory in Moscow. Then I started a new beginning, moved to Florence and entered Polimoda International Institute of Fashion Design & Marketing. After 4 years, I graduated from the Fashion Design Course under the tutorage of Patrick De Muynck. I did no internship, but almost immediately accepted a job offer from a Polish mass market giant company and moved to Gdansk. All this time I was updating my instagram account, where I told stories about my fashion studies and posted photos of my student projects and collections. A few months after I moved to Poland, my current business partner DM me on instagram and offered to work together. Soon I left the Polish company and returned to Moscow to start developing the brand. A year and a half later, the brand team consists of 10 people, including me and my business partner. To be continued…
What pushed you towards the world of fashion?
I never considered myself fully a part of the fashion industry. My engineering experience and the time I spent at two universities in two different countries, surrounded by completely different people keeps me in between two worlds. My crossing with fashion world happens 4 times a year during showrooms in Paris and 2 times a year during fashion shows in Moscow. The rest of the time, I'm more like those mice that get prepared Cinderella for the ball and then go back to the closet with sewing machine.
Describe yourself as an artist, designer, illustrator? What are your inspirations?
Before my design course, I had been engaged in geometry, construction and various kinds of drawings in a Railway Engineering University for 5 years. In fashion design, this gave me an almost complete understanding of sewing patterns and the logic of their construction. It could be said that I use reverse engineering - I imagine the final shape of a thing in my head, break it into its component parts and then I work with it in a plane. If I did not have a technical education, I would constantly need to consult a technologist. Now I work almost autonomously - at the initial stage, I rebuild all the silhouettes myself and only then give technical tasks to seamstresses, accompanying them with detailed instructions in steps.
I am an engineer and my first education determines my way of thinking and systematic approach to the work process. I grew up with a feeling of complete freedom, but from the very childhood I was taught to allocate my time correctly, to set priorities and focus on the main thing here and now. Starting with each new project, I mainly focus on collages from photos and my illustrations and then create a small universe in which the entire production team will live for the next few months.
As for inspiration…This concept strongly romanticizes artistic working process and often justifies your own laziness. If there is a goal and a pleasure from work, then only perseverance, hard work, competent time management and a clear deadline lead to the result. The brain itself, processing all visual information, will look for the links with current project. These processes are always active, no matter what I do. If we talk about strong emotions, now I am definitely going through a phase of admiration for my hometown. Moscow is my place of strength.
Can you explain to me why you chose the name Red September for your brand?
Many people associate the name with the theme of the revolution and the Soviet past of my country, mostly because of the color. I do not want to confirm or refute this theory, because in fact any interpretation to which a person comes through the prism of his views have a place to be. The most important thing is that this name was once brought together a large team, which is now moving together in one direction.
For the preview of your collection, presented on Vogue.it, you reasoned on the life of all of us dominated by the internet and on the use by nations to control our creativity. Thoughts? What does creativity represent for you?
The project started with the time when all the news was about Russia just brought in a law to try to disconnect its internet from the rest of the world. Everyone was talking about the introduction of censorship in the Internet. So I began to study all aspects of the issue and asking myself variety of questions. How would our lives change if Russia’s internet were subjected to state control and the country were put behind a virtual iron curtain? Can restrictions and controls bring people together instead of dividing them into factions? Can complete control stimulate creativity? These questions are not only political, but also personal, develops the ability to respond to the need for new approaches and new products.
Your collections start from pure streetwear and then move on to garments with glam fabrics. Tell me about building your collections, starting from the creative to the production phase.
When I start a new project, I never know where it will take me in the end. Each collection at some point goes out of control and begins to live its own life. During the fitting, I can give adjustments to the patternmaker and the dressmaker, discuss shooting of a lookbook or preparing a fashion show, and at the same time pack an order for the client, because everyone else is busy. The work of the entire team is built in one plane - so any member of the team can be integrated into any process. My task is simply not to go crazy, get new experience and stick to the schedule
In one of your interviews I understood that you don't want to associate the brand with Soviet logos and colors. You have also witnessed changes in the history of your country. Can you tell me better?
All my childhood passed in Moscow according to the most usual scenario of a respected Soviet family. My parents worked a lot, I studied a lot, once a year in the summer we went to sea with the whole family. Immediately after school graduation, I went to college. It was a time when I sewed costumes for the school theater, at once I was the editor of the school newspaper. Then I did not even know about the existence of the fashion industry. Memories from childhood are always pleasant, so maybe my memory is already generally glossing over that time. The shops were empty and I remember well the long lines, in which I first queued up with my mother. Then mother was replaced by my father, and then my father was replaced by grandmother. But I was outdoors all day. It seems to be standing in line, we made friends in childhood. Then we began to use VHS tapes and very often we gathered at somebody's home to watch different films, simply because the necessary equipment was not at everyone’s home. There were many restrictions that were perceived by the absolute norm, simply because no one knew what could be otherwise. However, as a child I knew everyone in my yard and now there is a feeling that at that time people were kinder. I think I sound like a grandmother who is nostalgic for her youth. But all these periods of time so strongly influenced the life of each family at that time, formed layers of vivid events in the memory and really formed a very complex way of critical thinking.
Fashion follows social changes. Freedom is a fundamental characteristic. I noticed that your creative process leads to the construction of garments where there is not necessarily a distinction between male and female. It's true? What do you think of genderless?
The time has come when the entire industry is changing, market has welcomed the Millennials who breaks all the luxury codes. We live in the 21st century and the concept of gender in the world is disappearing, and individuality comes to the fore. This trend of blurring borders has been around for a long time and has become the norm rather than something surprising. Individuality is important everywhere, not just in designing. This is why we do not position ourselves as a closed luxury brand, but an emerging genderfluid creative space. And working this way we are involved in creating new philosophy of fashion business, revendicate the fact to be humans before a man or a woman, we post lookbooks and campaigns with non binary models, show gender-fluid collections and share videos that represent our thoughts and principles in a best way. Im not focusing on achieving the long-lasting concept, being able to represent personalities and values of our community here and now. This is the way to our audience feel more confident wearing an emerging brand in which they can identify and express their true selves. And if earlier there were clear norms in society, as to what a man should look like and what a woman should wear, now I work precisely to achieve a level when these norms will disappear. Masculinity or femininity of clothing is given not by the inscription on the tag, but by the person’s self-perception.
How do you like this period of uncertainty for the whole world and in particular for creatives and artists?
In 2020, as it turned out, you can't plan anything. So we gave it up. Now we are preparing to enter the Asian market and focus on developing new technologies and ways of working and presenting projects and collections. These days the entire fashion industry is going through a transitional moment, when all the concepts, norms and principles that have been established for many years stop working and need to be rethought. The focus is changing from financial profit to caring about environment and our future in it. The industry is huge and it’s gonna be a long way for giant companies to adapt to the new realities. So now there is a chance for upcycling and recycling brands to bring new technologies of production eco-friendly materials. This may be the beginning of unexpected and productive collaborations between industries from different fields and the emergence of fundamentally new materials.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
Not to get mental disorders. Well, at least not in the first 5 years of working in the fashion industry.