Jahnkoy is a young whirlwind of a brand that translates to “New Spirit” in Crimean Tartar. The designer Maria Kazakova is a graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York. Her debut collection, part of her graduate MFA work, resulted in a string of successes, such as a collaboration with Puma and Swarovski. It was shortlisted for the prestigious LVMH Prize. The first collection, The Displaced combined sportswear and intricate embroidery in a collection that brought together inspiration from places as different as Africa and Eastern Europe. Somehow, it worked. Kazakova has so far avoided crossing over to cultural appropriation, perhaps because of way she uses the language of her own non-Western culture as an anchoring design force.
Jahnkoy’s Spring 2019 collection is a clear step up from her debut. The design is more nuanced, but also more resolved. Kazakova, who was born and grew up in Siberia, has integrated patterns and motifs from Russian folk art, with traditional Slavic clothing such as sarafan dresses, men’s shirts, and kokoshnik headdresses with cheerleaders’ skirts and pom-poms, Ukranian flower wreaths, and baseball shorts. Puma’s sportswear is still the substrate for Jahnkoy’s elaborate hand-crafted embroidery, weaving, de-construction, and re-construction. Kazakova presented her work at the New York Fashion Week with a bombastic show of bespoke choreography and free-styling. The designer has issued a battle cry for sustainability, recycling, slow fashion, and the celebration of cultural heritage. She speaks out against the ways in which globalisation has swallowed up local cultural wisdom, but at the same time, her work would not exist without it. It’s somewhat of a catch-22. Still, her work is interesting and unique. It is refreshing to see something craft-focused emerge from the Russian fashion tropes of Gosha Rubchinskiy look-a-likes. Maria Kazakova will be one to watch.