Puma's collaborator Outlaw Moscow on post-Soviet fashion and Asian influences: "Russian brands aren't only in the style of Gosha Rubchinskiy"
Puma x Outlaw Moscow
Walking into Puma's freshly minted concept store at Jakarta's Senayan City mall, the serene dispositions of the diminutive Minrakhmanova and unassuming Bashkaev are palpable, despite having a long night ahead of them. We're all in Indonesia for the opening of Puma's aforementioned retail point and the launch of their fall 2018 collaboration collection — an occassion that involves the pair staging a runway show for the brand, on top of the preceding media rigmarole. This calm demeanor they've entered with hardly telling of the maverick spirit we'd soon glean, though their name — Outlaw Moscow, under which they design clothing and produce short films — was a sizeable clue. Oft times abbreviated as Outlaw, and christened for this very reason.
Minrakhmanova and Bashkaev were never schooled in fashion or film, but have made these mediums their bread and butter since 2014. They're eager to speak out about social issues in Russia both verbally and creatively in their work, and at ease when doing so. They're aware that the general notion of Russian designers have at this point, kind of fallen under the giant aesthetic umbrella that is Gosha Rubchinskiy's post-Soviet streetwise sensibilities (at no fault of the latter), but are raring to shed new light. Simply put, they're quite the unstoppable force that has Puma — and now us — onboard.
But ambitions, hopes and dreams aside, Minrakhmanova and Bashkaev like most 20-somethings, are impartial to a good party once the day's work is done and dusted. Before the night's celebrations to mark the occassion, they tell us about their desire for diversity to be respected (a driver of the Puma collab) and, what's it like at one of their secret parties.
Minrakhmanova (left) and Bashkaev (right).
You've previously said that the word 'Outlaw' in your brand name is significant of going against mass culture. How so?
Maksim Bashkaev (MB): We do not mass produce our non-collaboration collections — we keep it small. In terms of brand philosophy, we try to highlight some of these problems that exist in our country. We come from Russia where the propoganda can be delivered through major media outlets. They also do not speak about certain matters like the gay community or minorities. Through our brand, we try to highlight some of these problems. With Puma for instance, our collection is structured around the idea of diversity. I think sometimes Russia is perceived as a place that's pretty much isolated, and we wanted to show that it's actually not; that a Russian brand can be very open to the rest of the world.
Dilyara Minrakhmanova (DM): Yes, for all our collections, we try to collaborate with different artists, in different ways, and in different countries.
Could you tell me more about these problems, and how they come through in the clothing?
Maksim: We recently did a collab with Greenpeace for their campaign for clean air in Russian cities. For Puma, we wanted to focus on having respect for people of different origins, that's why we shot it in South Africa. Also, we wanted to show that Russian brands can be Russian but yet, international at the same time.
Dilyara: Yes, that Russian brands aren't only in the style of Gosha Rubchinskiy, for example.
Maksim: That it's not only that post-Soviet aesthetic which would make people think of Russia.
"I think sometimes Russia is perceived as a place that's pretty much isolated, and we wanted to show that it's actually not."
I too agree that a lot of people tend to think of Gosha when Russian designers are brought up. Through the Puma collaboration, how do you hope people will see Russian fashion in a different light?
Dilyara: We mixed different floral prints from books...
Maksim: And in terms of the shoes, some are more industrial looking, while others have ethnic florals on them from 19th century Austria for instance.
Dilyara: Yeah, it looks Asian almost.
Maksim: For the Puma x Outlaw Moscow Trailfox sneakers, the colour-blocking is like the avant-garde art that was popular in Russia 100 years ago. In this sense, we wanted to take a very different design approach to our heritage.
Tell us about how the Puma partnership come about.
Dilyara: They came to Moscow and met different designers, and chose us! It was two years ago that we started working on the collection. It's a long partnership (laughs). We then went to their headquarters in Germany to finalise everything. The communication was not easy, but they were very professional!
How did you find balance between introducing your identity and culture in the collection, while retaining that of Puma's?
Maksim: We had no limits; we were given complete freedom. Puma gave us a base to work off — some soles and some styles of garments — which became the framework. Within that, we were absolutely free to do whatever we wanted to. We never had any stops.
For the sneakers, tell us a bit about why you chose those specific silhouettes.
Dilyara: We wanted something simple, and we usually wear Puma's Trailfoxes.
Maksim: But also, we wanted to create a Trailfox that would be unusual. It's something more industrial yet retro, but then you have the Avid Zip boot which is very Asian in style. This is because we think Russia is partly Asian, so you'll see such influences. We kind of took something from each field.
We understand that your educational background was never in fashion or film. Do you think this has given you a different perspective to each medium?
Maksim: Absolutely! I think what we're doing is really because we don't have the education in these fields. No one taught us. We learnt it ourselves and maybe our approach is not the way it should be, but that's also why we call ourselves 'Outlaw'. We dare to do things people don't. We just go ahead and try, and apparently people like it as our films have won several awards. Our vision works and our approach works.
Dilyara: It's our own unique way.
"We had no limits; we were given complete freedom."
What did you guys study in school?
Dilyara: Political science and Mandarin. I can speak a little (laughs)! I studied at Xiamen university for a year on exchange. I miss China actually.
Maksim: The same for me — we met in Beijing actually, and then I moved to France and finished business school there.
We've heard about Outlaw Moscow's secret parties and we're curious. What kind of parties do you throw?
Maksim: It's usually a very big event and we do one once every three to six months. We try to have it at unusual locations, and it's a proper party that goes on till early morning. The last was an Outlaw x Puma party and we had 1800 people there — it was huge. We screen films, have special cocktails, installations, and bring in DJs and live performances.
What kind of music can one expect at your parties?
Dilyara: Rap, house, techno, electronic...
Maksim: It's a mix. Even ethnic music.
Dilyara: The last party we had two sections — one for rap and the other for electronic music.
What's one song you're into at the moment?
Maksim: The Jay-Z and Beyoncé song. Apes**t. I think it's very cool; the video was shot inside the Louvre in Paris, with the Madonna painting.
Dilyara: I'm into a Russian rap song called Dom Perignon. Which of course means what it means, but in Russian, 'dom' also means house. It's like a play on words. It's by a young rapper, OFFMi, who perfomed at our last party live.
What are the youth in Russia wearing today?
Maksim: I think it's very mixed. There's a lot of layers, a lot of sneakers, and it's very Berlin style.
Dilyara: Sometimes it's more dark and, there's a lot of branding.
Could you describe what you mean by Berlin style?
Maksim: It's like, kinda grunge. A bit dirty.
Dilyara: It looks like you've been partying for a week (laughs).
Maksim: So Moscow and Berlin is quite similar in that sense of style. You'll have the crazy hair... so we ourselves are a lot more simple in dressing! We express everything in our collections. We have so much going in terms of work so we don't want to project from ourselves usually.
More about Outlaw Moscow's Puma fall 2018 collection. Available at the Puma MBS Select Store, Seek, LeftFoot and Robinsons The Heeren.