How do you go from studying economics to opening a photography magazine and then turning it into a sort of fashion brand? Discover the story of Stas Falkov, the founder of Kruzhok. Although garments are at the core of the brand, Falkov explains that the project is not just a fashion label but a community with a strong team whose interests range from electronic music to experimental research, to upcycling and sports or architecture. After discovering his work during the latest Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia, where he presented a dark and post-apocalyptic collection influenced by the current political turmoil, we get to know him better.
Kruzhok started as a photography magazine but it evolved into a fashion brand. What sparked the first idea of a publication? What did you want to achieve with the magazine?
I just dreamed about my magazine, like the ‘ideal’ for me. I made publications with my works and that of my fellows whose art was close to my views and perceptions.
I don’t know how many issues you published before turning Kruzhok into a clothing brand. Could you tell us a bit about the magazine’s lifespan and why did you decide to shift from a photography magazine to a fashion brand?
Firstly, there was an idea of merch that turned into the first collection. And then, we discovered that we could put together different things to make collections with our own language that contains not only garments but sound and visual pieces as well.
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To me, your latest presentation at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia was one of the best and most remarkable. The atmosphere was dark, the music was noisy and the clothes put us into a post-apocalyptic mood. The collection, titled Spets, is influenced by political turmoil and environmental catastrophes, among others. Do you always start a collection by taking a look at your surroundings, the world, and the news?
Thanks! You describe it with the right words. This project comes from different conceptual references and ideas. The camouflage that fishermen and hunters originally used to disguise in the wild is contrasted with everyday clothes that we usually choose to broadcast our social status. In addition, the global instability of the political climate of recent years, the aggravation of relations on military issues with the Western block, climatic disasters of this last summer (floods, forest fires) affect social moods and designate the need for transformation. All these things are the main provisions. I think Spets is the first project inspired by our actual surroundings and social atmosphere.
The diversity in the models corresponded to social labels: an elder woman in a wheelchair represents incapacitated citizens, the young guy with a mohawk represents the youth and countercultural communities, another one with a balaclava scattering leaflets represents the most rebellious and politically-implicated members of the youth, etc. Do you feel like this is representative of Russian society, or did you want to make it more universal?
Well, our offbeat models of different age are associated with the variability of the social spectrum, and this is a universal image. But, of course, we see all these prototypes in everyday life in Russia.
The model selection was clearly diverse and inclusive, but there is a storytelling behind it that goes beyond trends and tokenism. How do you see the current beauty canons and their transformation through social media now that many more people have a voice and a platform to express themselves and be heard?
We’re really happy to have had this working experience with actors from Vasya Berezin’s Binary Theatre company. I believe that current beauty cannons are a response to people’s need for something new, and as a result, we see that their focus changes. Alternative models could fill fashion with new social meanings. And it seems that people have learnt how to see new kinds of beauty, which probably has deeper roots.
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As a young designer, you’re preoccupied with current issues such as sustainability. I see you made a project about upcycling, where you used pieces by Nike, Asics, Puma, Kappa or The North Face to create new garments. Where did you source those materials from and how does this project fit in your overall work? Do you use upcycled materials in your seasonal collections too?
Yes, I think we started the dialogue about upcycling in Russia before it became a popular topic here. Our friends from different second-hand stores shared their clothing with us and supported our idea. We sometimes use upcycled materials and elements in seasonal collections. For example, in our Intercosmos collection, there is a spacesuit pocket on our hoodies.
The fashion industry is going greener as it’s also one of the most polluting and resource-consuming in the world. What are some of the things that you’re doing to be more sustainable?
Our movie about upcycling was our main statement to the audience and to draw attention to sustainability and giving things a second life/usage. It was also the spark of other projects, like the collaboration with our mates’ furniture brand Loft Designe, where we reworked armchairs and sofas made in the USSR/GDR and gave them a new life. In addition to that, we have an ‘upcycle-atelier’ called Laska where we investigate the principles and techniques of upcycling in manufacturing clothes.
Russian fashion (or Eastern European fashion in general) trickled down to Western media and mainstream culture with the comeback of 1990s sportswear aesthetics – aka ‘athleisure’. Illegal raves and the post-Soviet world were two of the main influences, and Gosha Rubchinskiy and Demna Gvasalia were two of the main figures resurfacing it. Do you think Western media/culture/people still perceive Russian fashion as ‘just’ sportswear? How do you expect to break these preconceptions/moulds with Kruzhok?
I think Russian fashion is still associated with ‘90s post-soviet aesthetics. We want to show people that there are many other different ideas to refer to in your art, like space, architecture, sport, technologies. Thus, they become the main objects of our research. What’s more, it’s really interesting for us to care about the functionality of our garments.
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But Kruzhok is not only about fashion. I see you also have a radio station and a SoundCloud account. How important is music to you and your work, and what relationship do you draw between the music you listen to and the fashion you design?
Yes, Kruzhok is not only a clothing brand – it’s a community. We have a great team and everyone has their strengths. One of our members is an electronic musician and composer, Cotton Pills, who is responsible for the audio content. He also writes all the soundtracks for our collections and fashion shows. Music and fashion perfectly live together. I think it’s important in the 21st century to combine different forms of art because it creates new levels of perception. And we always want to mention the Russian electronic music scene, which is very young, but there are plenty of talented artists.
I’d like to know a bit more about your future. Where do you see yourself and Kruzhok in, let’s say, five years from now?
It’s hard to predict our future movements, but we’re going to broaden the common horizons of how fashion brands could function by developing absolutely different projects. We wanna make more offline events, collaborate with new partners and establish new international communications.
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