Kazakhstani designer Roxana Adilbekova founded the fashion label Roxwear in 2017. Here, she speaks to writer Anastasiia Fedorova about how the label captures the identity struggles that come with growing up in a post-Soviet cultural landscape, and picks out five pieces from her collections that help tell its story.
Located in Central Asia, Kazakhstan exists at the intersection of ancient traditions, Soviet heritage, and the new generation’s strive for modernity. Designer Roxana Adilbekova, who founded the fashion label Roxwear in 2017, has a radical vision for the future as the country emerges from its complex past.
Raised in a multicultural family, she’s always been interested in her heritage. Her grandmother, an art historian specializing in Central Asia and applied arts, was a major influence. “I experienced a lot of our culture and history through her stories,” the designer remembers. “I feel that our region has a lot to offer culturally, and I'd love to share it with people from elsewhere. I’ve always wanted to create something to tell this story; fabric just happened to be the canvas I was most comfortable with.”
The past, however, is not Roxwear’s main focus. It’s centered around Kazakhstan’s contemporary culture and the creativity of its youth. Much of the country’s new generation dreams of a “Central Asian-centric world,” and the brand’s use of historic craft technologies and traditional silhouettes brings that dream closer to reality.
Roxwear’s SS21 collection Futurasia offers a Central Asian take on cyberpunk, as one more embodiment of this dream. This fictional world Roxana created for the collection is “filled with spaceships, androids and flying yurts, inspired by the best of what was available on VHS from behind the Iron Curtain.”
The clash of nostalgia and aspiration, and the East and West, has been familiar to Roxana since her childhood. A former Soviet republic, Kazakhstan became independent in 1991, which ushered a turbulent decade of uncertainty – both economic and cultural.
“Our world was in tatters after the USSR fell apart, and then it was flooded with Western culture which started to dominate our own. People were lost, and couldn’t understand their own identity. But lately, I have a lot more hope. Our youth is becoming more creative and brave by the year, launching and developing new projects in various art industries. A lot of these projects seem to be putting us back in touch with our roots,” Roxana says.
The designer is convinced that Central Asian youth can contribute a truly unique vision to the global creative community. “Kazakh youth culture is constantly evolving,” Roxana says. “Our new generation is going through a major change, and it’s interesting to see where our curiosity will take us.”