OVER THE PAST few years, Eastern European talents like Demna Gvasalia, the rabble-rousing co-founder of Vetements who became artistic director of Balenciaga, and menswear designer Gosha Rubchinskiy, who has staged his recent shows way off-piste in Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg, have pushed the frontiers of luxury fashion.
It’s ironic that those who grew up behind the Iron Curtain, cut off from western fashion, are now the people redefining it. Then again, the fashion industry loves an outsider—and creativity is often born out of constraint. Under Soviet rule, uniforms were obligatory and western clothes a rarity. “There was no space left for individuality,” said Russian fashion and tech entrepreneur Miroslava Duma.
But now the region is undergoing a bona fide designer boom. Messrs. Gvasalia and Rubchinskiy have paved the way for under-the-radar labels like
names you may have come across on Instagram or e-commerce sites like Matches Fashion and Moda Operandi.
These labels are catnip for retailers—and shoppers—seeking something they haven’t seen before. “I’m constantly looking for emerging designers,” said
fashion director at e-commerce site Shopbop, which stocks Russian designer Vika Gazinskaya, Polish designer
Ms. Maguire said she’s discovered these brands via word-of-mouth, Instagram and paying attention to influencers.
Aesthetically, these designers are diverse. Some mine their heritage and employ traditional craft, while others take their cues from the streets with edgy silhouettes and logos. The one thing they share? “They set their own rules,” said Shopbop’s Ms. Maguire. Many also make wearable clothes with the sort of smart twists that can quickly wake up your wardrobe. Here, a guide to the best Eastern European designers to consider now.
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