'This is part of feminism: yes, I am Tatar, I am a woman'

What is happening with the Tatar costume at the beginning of the 21st century?

The Mardzhani Institute of History (Kazan) and the Street Art Research Institute (St. Petersburg) held the online conference 'Search for the image of the city. Humanities in Urban Art and Environmental Design'. Two performances were devoted to the role of folk costumes in modern urban culture. Realnoe Vremya already published a report by Anna Nistratova, an expert researcher of street art, on Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar everyday outfits. The second presentation was made by Dina Gatina-Shafikova, a researcher at the Department of Ethnological Studies of the Institute of History, “The ethnographic image of Tatar society as a way of reflection in the global space”.

Not sacred, but beautiful

If we reveal the basics of the Tatar costume complex, then initially it spoke about meanings, images that had a sacred meaning for the wearer. Industrial society has simplified the visual component, giving it only an external, representative function, that is, losing its original meaning.

However, modern society, in connection with the globalisation processes, universal unification, has felt the need to reproduce patterns indicating ethnic “otherness”. Modern fashion trends show, on the one hand, universalism, levelling ethnic specifics, on the other hand — local originality. Such trends can also be seen in the Tatar costume, when Tatar becomes fashionable.

Ethnographer Svetlana Vladimirovna Suslova identifies four types of costume development direction: folklore-ethnographic, folklore, national-iconic, and avant-garde. This order can also be applied to the present.

Thus, the creation of replicas is characteristic of folklore-ethnographic and folkloristic trends. For example, the Millihasite association is engaged in this, or master Luiza Faskhutdinova, who embroiders and creates headwear.

I deliberately do not show folk ensembles that use authentic images in their costumes. The Kryashens are actively working in this direction. As for the Kazan Tatars, they mostly wear new clothes.

The national-iconic direction is based on the same forms, but due to the variety and theatrical aesthetics, recognisable elements of the costume complex may have more pronounced forms. An example is the fashion collection of Gulfiya Bilalova created in 2015. I think half of Russia has seen it. She used recognisable details of the costume, but in a modern interpretation.

I would also like to highlight the collection of the Idel brand: they used ornamentalism in a modern costume complex. However, I was surprised that the girl in a sweater with a Tatar pattern was wearing a headdress of the Bashkir kashmau type.

It is interesting to note Burobanu, who, despite that they mainly work with traditional forms, when creating the female headdress — kalfak — used an izyu bib as a basis, which is a direct example of the avant-garde trend.

Kalyapush as a manifest, 3D as a way

Speaking about the avant-garde, I must say that this is both stage/theatrical, festive, and even casual clothing. It is interesting to observe how from year to year the first is present at the contest 'Tatar Kyzy', where there are various costume complexes with Tatar motifs, but in an exaggerated form. The photo shows the recent regional stage in Kazan.

If we turn to the festive functionality of clothing, now young couples often use not only hats, but also a costume complex as an ethnic component. Sometimes some details are more theatrical, others are more detailed. But all of them work exclusively on a whim. For example, they find seamstresses, look for books, turn to theatre masters, recreating, in their opinion, a Tatar costume.

The older and middle generation wear headdresses on holidays. At the same time, women in the theatre may not cover their heads, but at religious events — it is mandatory.

In everyday life, I rarely saw the use of elements of traditional costume. However, yesterday I saw a man in a kalyapush in a store, he said that this is his perception of himself, his roots, he wears it constantly. For women, the “perception” is limited to wearing inexpensive jewelry created by ethnic motives.

It is interesting that today the masters use modern materials when creating them, despite that the traditional form is not observed: a pattern or a base is taken, which is perceived as Tatar.

Gulfiya Bilalova (her 2015 collection mentioned above was mostly sold out, even to other countries) now sews to order, creates whole family looks. She also began to make jewelry from modern materials, but according to traditional forms. Yes, technology develops: the Millihasite association, we can say, has introduced a fashion for new technologies, using a 3D printer, which prints details for pectoral (khasite), collar fastener (yaka chylbypy), nakosnik (chulp).

How has lockdown helped ethno fashion?

Designers working with ethnomotives are a big stream. There are stars with a great desire to create, they face the rules of the market, they begin to understand that their piece goods made by hand are many times more expensive than Chinese ones and therefore can not always withstand competition. In 2016, in Realnoe Vremya, I already raised the topic of Tatar ethnic design, or “Tatar style”, talking about new brands and their work, but now 80 per cent withdrew from the market, replaced by new names.

Most use patterns in their work. Their relevant audience is female. For men, hats are made, as well as kazakins, which for some reason are called “french”. According to Wikipedia, “during the First World War, tunics of arbitrary models were widely used in the army — imitations of English and French models, which received the general name “french” — after the commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Forces in France, Field Marshal John French.”

There are designers who work in the mass market, others sew expensive clothes, exhibit them on fashion platforms, at competitions. For example, this year Burobanu has showed their collection at Volga Fashion Week.

Markets are a great help for designers, the most iconic of which is Pechen Bazary, where all masters are exhibited.

I am also waiting for what the Your yool project is going to present — this is a fashion film about the Tatar spiritual culture, shot according to myths. Having gathered a team within a month, they have already finished their work, the show is expected in July.

In general, it is necessary to understand that despite that sales are directly in stores, almost every master has an account and own groups in the most popular online networks (VKontakte, Instagram, Facebook). Thanks to the development and introduction of modern telecommunications and information technologies into everyday life, the distribution of products through Internet communities and websites is simplified and accelerated. Network sales give the opportunity to expand the audience, which, accordingly, allows Tatars from all over the world to see and buy the thing they like, being on the other side of the planet from the manufacturer. Besides, after the lockdown, the sales market was captured by online stores (WildBerries, OZON, KazanExpress), which are becoming a new sales field for large and small manufacturers.

What are the results? As the Idel brand noted: “The tradition is preserved when it lives in modern things.” It should be understood that ethno fashion is not for all young people, but only a certain group of people, or the so-called ethnoriented part, which declares its identity through everyday images, using clothes with elements of traditional costume or ornament. Activists from these young people create various associations and projects that are primarily designed to preserve traditional culture. All this, of course, is a response to the globalisation processes that level out ethnic and local peculiarities.

(Question: “Why don't Tatar women wear a traditional costume?")

In Russia, no one wears traditional costumes. In this regard, we are not special.

(Question: “Are feminism and the costume complex related?")

This question was asked by the Ak Kalfak organisation, but they avoided it. It seems to me that when traditional markers are used in everyday clothes, it is part of feminism: yes, I am Tatar, I am a woman.

(Question: “Do designers work with fashion historians, with costumes?")

Now many designers have started working with the State Catalogue, however, without a theoretical basis, they can make mistakes. In the Soviet period, it seems to me, the approach was more serious, however, the result among fashion designers did not always turn out to be what we would like. They have begun to take such things more seriously. First, they started studying books, and now they are turning to scientific communities. But the problem is also in closed nature: when I worked at the National Museum, I told designers to come to us. But they answered that they could not get to us, they needed to write a letter that they might not be approved.

By Radif Kashapov