Samopal (Ukrainian: cамопал – ‘self-firing’ or ‘self-burnt’) is a DIY firearm, manufactured in artisanal conditions, often illegally. Also, in Soviet vestimentary terminology ‘samopal’ indicates a copy or bootleg of a fashionable Western brand.
As the Cold War came to an end and the Iron Curtain lifted, the classic Soviet samopal clothing lost its relevance. Legal import from the West began, boutiques of expensive brands opened, and second-hand clothes were shipped in en masse. In fact, an entire post-soviet generation grew up in second-hand, as cheap ‘clothes from Europe’ have long been the only option for most of the youth. Vintage garments, though, are still an essential part of the wardrobe for whom clothes are more than clothes.
In the ’90s, youth fashion was universally dominated by merch and paraphernalia associated with a particular subculture: music or sports (skateboarding, surfing). Often, a ‘neutral’ brand would be appropriated by a subculture, becoming a readymade. If sportswear or workwear is an evolution of the cut, driven by a certain activity, merch, then, is the application of paraphernalia to ready-made basic clothing. Mostly, it is printing or embroidery of images on American-lifestyle cotton garments (tees, long sleeves, hoodies, baseball caps, etc.), which emerged as a sports uniform in colleges and the army, but eventually became widespread: first, in the USA, then worldwide.
In the ’00s, arises streetwear dress-code: a post-subcultural mix of various casual wear options, a way of cultural communication, and a manifestation of identities. The streetwear brand becomes a platform for collaboration with artists, as well as with traditional brands. Fashion bootlegging, homages, and parodies also grow in importance.
The first Kyiv youth brands were established in the mid-’90s. Those were DIY skater brands, merch/distro in the hardcore-punk scene, and screen-printing studios or collectives that started printing and distributing images on basic clothing as a cultural commentary of lifestyle accent. One of the first of those collectives was Kyiv studio La Petite Porcherie — a group of graffiti artists, which later branched off into solo projects of Incertae (Sasha Kiot), Gospodin (Jura Kanevski), Ihor Okuniev, and Volodia Samopal (Vova Vorotniov). For Kyiv, Vorotniov’s ‘samopal’ clothes became a seminal stream of urgent and diverse messages around identity, fashion, counterculture, philosophy and critical theory, corporate mainstream, etc. Following Volodia Samopal, now emerges Samopal International, aimed at introducing the world to unique Kyiv street culture with its larger editions of garments.
With Samopal International, we engage in dadaist play with signs that surround the modern human. We vandalize the recognizable global corporate branding, instilling folklore invariance and carnivalesque rethinking, and build the uniform for the new critical identity.