Up-cycling, fashion history, and Stalinist architecture in Riga
Riga Fashion Week started off strong at the decadent and grandiose Latvian Academy of Sciences building, the first skycrapper of the Republic designed in pure Stalinist architecture. Noname Atelier kicked off the event with models strutting through the corridors of the grand old building in a red and white contrasting colour palette. An array of different textures - latex, velvet and satin - paraded to the sound of 80’s pop tunes blasted through the speakers, to perfectly compliment the overall theme.
Despite the cold weather, the streets of the Latvian capital were bustling with tourists and foreigners, curious to discover what the fashion week had to offer this season. For me, one of the most inspiring one was Teodora Mitrovska. Inspired by factory worker uniforms, the designer brought to light the ever, so apparent, issue of factory worker's exploitation in third world countries. Up-cycling old work wear materials with contrasting hard plastics, denim and mesh, she presented the idea of the body becoming like a machine. The ethical message and urban street-style edge of the brand resonated with the Western perspective on clothing and fashion.
Taking a break from the mayhem to learn more about how fashion came to be in this Baltic country, I decided to pay a visit to the Modes Muzejs (the Fashion Museum) where "1918. The Luxury of Freedom" is currently exhibited until April, 21st. Focusing on the year 1918, the time of birth of the independent state of Latvia, the display of clothing from influential fashion houses of that era - Worth, Redfern, Callot Soeurs, Jean Patou, Erté - shed a new light on this particular moment in European history.
I continued my journey into history at Latvian National Museum of Art. As soon as I entered the building, it felt as though I'd stepped into a Wes Anderson movie, where a grand pink marble staircase and velvet red carpet to match welcomed me. The architecture of the building alone is nothing short of a work of art, having been designed by Baltic German architect Wilhelm Neiman in 1905. Themes that were deemed appropriate during the Soviet regime are reflected through many of the pieces on display, and paint a picture as to how society was during this time.
But soon I was back in line with the theme of the week: fashion. Rounding off events in a haze of sequins and denim was BLCV by Bulichev. Models had been told to walk down the runway as if they were 70’s rock stars, some being carted down on a make-shift luggage cart with flared jeans, a colorful use of animal print, and crushed velvet blazers, they fit the rock star profile accordingly. A bespoke handmade denim brand with an ethical footprint, each pair sold contains detailed information as to the organic and selvedge denim used.
Before heading out for the evening, I found wise to warm myself with an organic, vegan soup from Terapija. With plush velvet couches and beautiful botanicals, it’s the perfect place to unwind before experiencing Riga nightlife. A shift towards sustainable dining seemed apparent in Riga with a great selection of vegan and organic restaurants. Fat Pumpkin is located in Riga’s scenic old town, offering a diverse range of vegetarian and vegan dishes with some of them being traditional Latvian dishes, such as the potato pancakes. For those with a sweet tooth, Nirvana can help satisfy any craving with their delicious vegan cakes and treats, not only are all ingredients sourced locally, but everything is made fresh daily.
Whether you want to stay in the cobble-stoned streets of Riga’s old town, or the trendy art nouveau district, you are spoilt for choice. The Wellton Centrum is located right in the heart of the old town amongst the bustling cafes and restaurants, offering a number of luxury spa treatments for those who would like to indulge in some relaxation after a long day of exploring and tis is where I stayed.
Writer: Jessica Teasdale