Leave no box unchecked: luxury, sportswear, monochrome, camouflage, gown, fur. Over the last decade, Viva Vox has built a strong enough brand following to guarantee stay-afloat sales amid ruble crisis. But that’s not what makes its creative director Oleg Ovsiev the most intriguing Russian designer today. The fall-winter 2016 collection presented at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Moscow proves Ovsiev is a brilliant strategist hardwired to geopolitical and cultural zeitgeist. While many Russian designers continue to mine folklore and propaganda for elusive style gold, he opted to source inspiration in one of the most dramatic rise-and-fall sagas in fashion history: the life and times of Romeo Gigli.
The Italian couturier shot to fame in the late 1980s with voluminous shawl necklines, bandeau bonded tops and flower bud silhouettes; all are duly cited and exquisitely upgraded herein. Gigli was hyped to join the ranks of Dior and Balenciaga as the next iconic game-changer for the industry. Instead, severe mismanagement and ill tempers brought the house down. Each invitation to the last show in 1991 was delivered with a single white flower, a symbol of mourning. Ever since, the designer has been unable to relaunch his career. You know what else crushed into oblivion in 1991? The Soviet Union. This is where Ovsiev’s stylistic allusion becomes a meta-reference, almost too dangerous to entertain in the current political and economic climate in Russia. So let’s circle back to the garments.
The patterned sensibility of floral and camouflage prints is a good fit for Paris. The stoicism in the cuts and pleats would not be out of place in Milan. The streetwear styling and graffiti gradient would make London proud. There is a decidedly fresh European aesthetic coursing through the lifelines of Viva Vox. You could namedrop Dries-Miuccia-Stella and still walk away with something different. This is very good and pretty and wearable and exciting stuff, pick you adjective. Yet make no mistake. It’s also a cautionary tale wrapped in hindsight warnings inside a heads-up cocoon of subtle gestures. By honoring the fleeting nature of fashion notoriety and imperial ambition, Ovsiev effectively becomes the one to watch.
Alexey Timbul exclusively for DEPESHA