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Gosha Rubchinsky is not the only designer to ever come out of a childhood in the USSR. Meet Olga Vasyukova, whose inspiration ranges from her job as a perishable food transportation coordinator to studying in Florence. Luxury leathers meet clean, worker-style jackets that nod to Russia’s communist past. Red September presents a hybrid, exciting take on modern, rebellious identities.

Launched at Paris Men’s fashion week Fall/Winter 2019, Olga’s first collection, Sons of Anarchy, sets the tone for this new designer’s future. The ex-engineer follows a strict work ethic punctuated by the dates of each seasonal release that echoes her seemingly regimented upbringing. Olga’s designs have a surrealist edge aiming to “make the familiar strange”.

Red September’s sculptural tailoring reflects her fascination with architecture, which she builds into garments. Sons of Anarchy presents another post-Soviet style that reworks conservative work-wear into luxury, rather than imagining a new identity through western sportswear. Olga Vasyukova is one to watch, whose coffee-fuelled delirium led to milk cartons deciding they would become the defining silhouette of her brand.

You were born in USSR (The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). Do you remember any of your childhood growing up under communism?
I was growing up under my parents’ eye, not political theory. At that time, it was difficult to buy things in the shops, they were empty and if something appeared, we could stand in the line for hours. Everyone knew each other. Few people could go abroad. I don’t know, many things that were my normal daily routine may sound strange now. I am grateful for my childhood with all the difficulties and positive moments that formed my character.
Did it have an influence on the name of your brand, Red September?
Every time someone asks me this question, I promise myself to come up with some melodramatic horror story in the future that lies behind the brand name, but now, I have just the pathetically boring reality that my sarcastic sense of humour mixed up with my personal present and my grandmother’s past. The end.
Railway Transport Logistics researcher was your first professional title after studying logistics for five years at Moscow State University of Railway Transport. What inspired you to change paths and study fashion in Italy?
My mother is a scientist; there was no chance for me to stop my studies after just one diploma. After a few years of an engineering career and lots of extra courses and hobbies, I had a strong feeling of wasting my time. I can hardly remember how I even started thinking about design but I clearly remember myself late at night sitting in my pyjamas in front of the computer studying Polimoda’s website. Now I feel that I’m in the right place at the right time doing the right things.

Red September garments, cut with boxy functional pockets and popper fastenings, have a strong work-wear quality that is elevated by luxury materials like Italian leather. The lines between sportswear, work-wear and high fashion seem to be blurring more and more. Was it a conscious choice of yours to be a part of this movement?
No, it’s a coincidence, this is just happening at a very good time. My designs show my engineering background, fashion design education, my own taste and serendipity mixed up in good proportions.
What’s in your headphones when you’re designing – punk, classical, techno, pop?
Kino, Zemfira, The Retuses, Scriptonite, Oxxxymiron, etc. A sick mix of old-school Russian rock, indie folk based on lyrics from the silver age of Russian poetry, rap. I’m pretty sure I forgot something. I may sound like I have a nervous disorder but in the last week before the deadline, silence is the best.
How do you get inspired?
I do not believe in inspiration. Only hard work, perfect time management and a clear deadline can give you a good result.

For Sons of Anarchy, your Fall/Winter 2019 collection, “Red September tells the story not only about freedom and independence, but also about conscious rebellion and meaningful anarchy.” Anarchism, like communism, means equality championing hierarchy and dissolution of the exploitation we experience under capitalism. Anarchist thought is a punk staple and something increasingly adopted by the youth of today. Is your collection directly political or more focused on aesthetic and spirit?
After the collection leaves my working space, everyone explains it for themselves in their own way. I like your point of view, it’s interesting. Let’s say I prefer to move along parallel paths with political movements, politics is too far away from my daily routine. 
In a recent article, you discuss the importance of colour in your collection. I was initially surprised that you don’t even use a swatch of the obvious, cherry red that I associate with the Post-Soviet aesthetic. Was this a choice to move away from stereotypes of what it is to be a young Russian designer?
This brand is not a statement with soviet logos and Lenin portraits; it’s my direct speech. The events I’ve seen with my own eyes, I have put into my own words. I was lucky enough to be a witness of so many changes in the history of my country and it has all formed my vision and way of thinking. It was not my choice, it is simply who I am.
Red September has a more grown-up take on Post-Soviet identity inspired by industry and architecture that manifests in tailoring, compared to other brands. A defining feature of Red September is its unique shoulder design, inspired by milk cartons. Why did you choose milk cartons?
They chose me, I swear. As I remember, the whole table was littered with pictures, photos and collages and a milk carton from one of the photos told me, ‘Use us, ginger girl, use us as much as you want’. I just couldn’t say no. Although it was after many cups of coffee very late at night, so the real situation could be very different.

What do you think about the increasing amount of western mainstream brands using slogans in Russian to emulate the Post-Soviet style that was born with eastern millennials forging their identities? Is this a form of cultural appropriation?
This matter is not on my list of things I need and want to think about. I hope at least they know proper spelling and correct translation.
Sons of Anarchy collection is shot on male models, but in your Instagram feed, I spied some Balenciaga heels, worn by model Alise Marie, styled with Red September jacket and leather trousers. Is Red September a gender-inclusive brand that can be worn by everyone?
Garments are just pieces of fabric or leather stitched together. Some shapes I construct on male mannequin, others on female, so the fitting is the only difference. I do clothes for people, no matter what gender they are.
You’re a young, emerging designer. What are your dreams and hopes for the future? Where do you see yourself and your brand in two or three years?
Hope my people stay with me, my parents will be fine, and I will be as obsessed with my work as I am now.

Bella Spratley
Roman Erofeev
Concept and producer
Maksim Kurik
Vasilisa Gusarova
Hair and make-up
Evgenia Scupenko
 Danya  at NIK Models 

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