Comment - Issue 151 - Magazine | Monocle

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Dressing to impress

Anna Nemtsova on Putin Team Russia, a new fashion line sanctioned by the state – and endorsed by the president himself.

Fans of the Russian president like to say, “Russia is Putin.” Now one of them has turned that mantra into a brand. Putin Team Russia is the clothing label for the modern apparatchik: sleek, black polo shirts that wouldn’t look out of place at a Moscow rally or an oligarch’s barbecue.

The collection, given the name “Time of the First”, was showcased in the Russia pavilion at the Dubai World Expo in October. It was created by Dmitry Shishkin, a 34-year-old designer and businessman from the Ural Federal District, though Vladimir Putin has reportedly personally approved the project’s tracksuit tops, baseball caps and other items.

Having made his fortune producing clothes for state-controlled corporations such as Gazprom, Rosneft and Rosatom, Shishkin approached the Russian Ministry of Economic Development with a proposal to create a sportswear line inspired by the country’s greatest sportsman of all. It was an offer that it could hardly refuse.

The name Putin Team is taken from a movement founded by nhl player Alexander Ovechkin, the president’s friend and captain of the Washington Capitals. Since founding the movement, via a social media post in 2017, it has grown to include many of Russia’s brightest young things: Olympians, popstars, even chess players. 

Like Ovechkin, Shishkin promotes the Putin Team Russia clothing line as a patriotic enterprise. He owns a textile factory in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg, where the clothes are sewn. He makes much of the fact that the fabrics and materials that the brand uses are mostly sourced in Russia.

In an online advert, a young, attractive couple pose and pout in a selection of trendy sportswear that wouldn’t look out of place in New York or London. Baseball caps, long-sleeve T-shirts, windbreakers and sweatshirts are all branded with three words: Putin Team Russia.

As is the way in modern Russia, matters of taste are ultimately decided by government edict. The national quality-control agency, Roskachestvo, evaluated the quality of Putin Team Russia sportswear, awarding it top marks for style and panache. Since then, the clothes have been featured in reports on national television and one state channel, Rossiya 24, made a point of noting that the Kremlin had approved the clothing line. On Christmas Eve, Putin Team Russia opened a boutique in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

Shishkin isn’t the only businessman to smell potential success wafting off brand Putin. A few years ago, perfumer Vladislav Rikunov created a fragrance called Leaders Number One. It is advertised as having a “warm, woody scent” and sells in 100ml bottles, encased in black boxes adorned with Putin’s profile.

Given the present conflation of celebrity and politics around the world, it’s unsurprising that Putin – who is, after all, the most famous man in Russia and styles himself as the personification of the nation – should inspire a clothing collection.

Eye to eye

The Ukrainian crisis has pushed into the global spotlight the nation’s foreign minister. Dmytro Kuleba is a youthful 40 years old and, while he may have the weight of his nation’s future on his shoulders, he also always has a dapper jacket on his back, a colourful pocket square, good ties and great glasses. There’s something a bit retro about them. Kuleba cool is what it is.

His focus on good spectacles also places him among an interesting history of eastern European politicos with covetable eyewear – although Kuleba is a good guy, many of the other men in this line-up are rather dubious. How about Polish meanster General Jaruzelski, who led his nation from 1981 to 1989? While he can be condemned for many things, the specs were flawless – think big, think sun-reactive. East Germany’s final leader Erich Honecker, meanwhile, seemed to have more chunky framed numbers at his disposal than your local opticians.

For further inspiration, have a look at the face furniture belonging to former Russian leader Leonid Brezhnev, from wire-framed to sunnies for the seaside and glasses bigger than patio doors, he had this aspect of life sorted. On balance, though, we’ll stick with Kuleba’s vision of the future.

This story first appeared in our free newsletter, The Monocle Weekend Edition. Subscribe at


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