Nina Albu brings conceptual streetwear to Russia

If you go through most fashion publications you will find an article about how difficult it is to get into fashion. Now imagine reading one of these articles and being based in a city doesn’t have a fashion industry that contributes largely to the economy like London or New York. Fashion designer Alina Chaykina is from a small city in Russia where the fashion scene seems nonexistent.

Alin has always been interested in design and did not let the lack of opportunities within her city stop her from creating her vision. Her fashion brand Nina Albu is a street style clothing brand where all items are handmade. The brand encourages body positivity and refuses to aline with mass market standard sizing.

As soon as I saw the visuals for Nina Albu I was interested to find out the designer behind the brand. The emerging brand takes inspiration from several different sources to create a unique street identity. The clothes include tailored cuts and bold fabrics to create statement pieces that can easily be worn. The most recent work from the brand is an 80’s and 90’s inspired lookbook directed by Chiara Mannarino.  I’ve asked Alina about being a creative in Russia and the editorial.

Did you always want to go into fashion/ become a designer?

Yes, but in the middle school I had some thoughts to enter medical university but I refused this idea.

What made you go into design? 

I was into designing cloth since I was a kid, I’ve always liked to dress up too. The most interesting part of any game was to create a design concept, for instance, I was tailoring dresses for dolls.

Has your city and where you’ve grown up influenced your work?

I can’t tell for sure now, I think I will be able to understand that later. My city is small and has no fashion at all, it inculcated psychological complexes in myself, I couldn’t be original because it is not common to show off and dress up over there, but that pushed myself to fight this environment and after I left the city I started to overcome myself. So I wanted to run away and that influenced my work.

What is the fashion scene like in Russia? 

There are only a few independent designers in Russia and they are not popular. Sport streetwear is much popular comparing to conceptual independent designers. Hoodies, T-shirts, sneakers that what is sold here the best. Of course, such items are popular everywhere but overall foreign conceptual modern brand is not well understood here.

Are there a lot of opportunities in fashion in Russia?

No. All the local industry infrastructure like fashion shows, shoots, organization etc. are quite weak compared with the West. It’s more correct to say that fashion market is not fully constructed and functioning well here. Young Russian designers strive to create it now. It’s easier for starters to move to another country as they are less likely to earn money here. But anyway it depends on the market niche you pick, if your brand is not conceptual you should be doing good as people prefer quite simple and basic cloth.

What designers/ artists have influenced you?

I can’t single out them, almost everything I see is absorbed somehow. It’s more correct to say that the whole era of the 80s and 90s influenced me.

How does Russian style differ to British and London fashion? 

I do not know what Russian style is, to be honest. My personal observations are that British people are bolder and prefer rebellious styles. Russians like plain and just good-looking clothing.

What do you think is missing in fashion at the moment and what change do you want to make with your brand?

It seems to me that most designers try to make conceptual clothing isolated from a human. Leading fashion houses maintain the fine balance between conceptual and practical clothing, while young designers are inventing the wheel. For me, personally pretentious and flashy designs became boring as the whole industry is saturated with such pieces. Yes, it used to be interesting and I was striving to create something similar too but now I think that you have to want to wear designs, otherwise it is just an art. Consequently, as a brand now I try to create a new collection which you want to wear and is both interesting.

What was the inspiration behind the shoot?  

We discussed with Chiara and the team that our collections is inspired by movie series of the 80s and 90s, so we I think it’s right to say the inspiration is the same.

What do you want people to feel when they look at this campaign? 

I wanted to encapsulate the idea of different love into this campaign. We all try to find out what love is and we do it differently, and of course, I wanted them to feel the spirit of the 90s.

Who did you collaborate with for the shoot? 

If you mean the campaign shoot I collaborated only with models who are mostly my friends. If you mean the London shoot its Chiara’s team.

What’s next for your brand?

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The next step is a new collection. It will contain 10 pieces which will be more feminine and they will differ from the previous one in terms of mood, it will have more colors.


Production by Chiara Mannarino

Art direction/Styling by Chiara Mannarino @chiarahmannarino

Videography by Francesca Battaglia @ffrancescabattaglia

Set design by Laura Little @lauralittlebell

Make-up by Caterina Mannarino @caterinamannarino_mua

Hair by Carlyn Griscti @carlyngriscti

Modeling by Estelle Rosenthal , Ana Teran , Caitlin Walsh

@estelle_rosenthal, @caitlinkoko, @anapteran

Assisted by Alice Wilson @alrwilson


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