Meet Kochetkov, the Brand Crushing the ‘Boys’ Club’ of Streetwear in Taiwan

Aly Kochetkov's clothes are a storm of Russian, Canadian and Asian influences taking down the macho culture of streetwear in Taiwan.

 

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So, it’s official: streetwear culture has taken over the world. Whether we’re scrolling through sneakers on HYPEBEAST or realizing everyone around us is wearing near-identical windbreakers, its overwhelming influence is now just part of the norm. However, the matching-sneaker-syndrome we’re privy to in North America and Europe is nothing compared to what’s going down in Asia. For years, men and women in cities like Tokyo, Seoul and Taipei have been consuming streetwear with rapid speed. As a result, the standard for innovation in Asian streetwear is super-high and boisterous. Seemingly endless amounts of streetwear boutiques and brands keep popping up and raising the bar—but there’s a catch. Most of these brands cater almost exclusively to guys. Despite the fact that women are just as hungry for streetwear as men, the streetwear culture in Asia is focused on the dudes. Luckily, Alyona Kochetkov is here to change that.

Born in Russia, raised in Canada and living in Asia since 2014, Aly’s vision is truly global. If that wasn’t enough, she made the move to Tokyo when she was only 19, hungry to pursue a career in fashion while modelling and interning on the side. Once her Japanese visa ran out, she decided to try out Taipei—and that’s what took her from intern to designer. Inspired by the cool gals and designers she met and pissed off about the lack of women’s streetwear around her, Aly decided to start kochetkov: a streetwear brand for women that, according to Aly, should make them feel “like they can do whatever the fuck they want”. When we noticed that level of girl power, we just had to find out more. We decided to talk to Aly about her aesthetic vision, the badass girls around her and why it’s time to bring down the boys’ club of streetwear in Taiwan.

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GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Hey, Aly. How did you get the idea for kochetkov?

Aly Kochetkov: I created kochetkov to spite the fact that I had to buy men’s clothes if I wanted to wear loose-fitting clothes. I really liked men’s streetwear and skater apparel, and as a shitty skater/snowboarder, I ate that stuff up. What I learned from my time working for a Japanese skate-streetwear brand is that there’s little consideration for women—for them, it’s pretty much an extra bonus that we’re buying their t-shirts at all. For the most part, that’s the reality of streetwear fashion business in Asia. But enough is enough, hey? I am a woman and so are my friends. I want to see girls have a good time in street clothes that were made for them. By a lady, for a lady, right?!

How would you describe the line?

kochetkov is essentially an extension of myself. Through the clothes, I wanted to subjectively interpret my own femininity—“i am so fucking lazy AND a smart dresser”. kochetkov garments are loose-fitting, one-size pieces with a tailored edge. This line is a modern concept with slight hints of vintage influence.

Judging by the photography for your first line, your aesthetic is very considered. Tell me about your aesthetic vision.

My aesthetic comes from all the women in my projects. They bring the clothes to life, and I build off of that. I can imagine the more people I meet, the more kochetkov will grow and change. I love crazy ladies and I love putting them all in shoots together. Seeing them reacting to their new clothes together inspires more ideas for future mini series. So far, I’ve been keeping the tone light and playful with an underlying sensual vibe. I do put a lot of thought in it, but I’m still exploring different themes and trying to be as honest as I can with kochetkov.

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How has living in Asia influenced you as a designer?

Well, when I started pursuing work in Tokyo’s fashion industry, I was actually really determined to do anything but start my own brand. I just wanted to work within Tokyo’s underground streetwear culture. I wanted to create good designs while learning about business and techniques while having the security and recognition of working for someone else; someone GREAT. Mostly, I didn’t have the guts to stand behind my own ideas and promote myself. Looking back on that, I think of it as my own failure: that it was absurd to let myself feel that as a woman I wasn’t relevant in this community which incidentally was and still is dominated by men.

However, my experience as a voyeur in Tokyo’s underground fashion scene taught me to let myself get more creative with my own designs. I learned to be confident in using different shapes and textiles, because everyone is just doing their own thing.

What’s the streetwear culture you see around you in Tokyo and Taipei like?

It all starts with the attitude people in Asia vs. people in North America have to dressing themselves every day. In Tokyo, Taipei and especially Seoul, getting dressed is taken more seriously. People take a lot more time to dress themselves according to how they want to represent themselves. What you wear is a much bigger statement about who you are here—and these kinds of people make for great consumers, making the demand for different styles so high. More stores cater to more specific sub-genres in Asian fashion. Small businesses thrive and multiply, making the market super open to anyone looking to buy or sell anything.

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What’s the market like for women’s streetwear in Taipei?

There are very few female designers who produce streetwear brands in Taiwan, making it a total boys’ club of skater-designers—but the majority of consumers for these brands are women! As fashion evolves, we’re seeing more high fashion brands collaborate with streetwear brands and calling it “high street” or something like that. More and more often, we see big streetwear brands taking over catwalks, attracting all types of fashion crowds. This could account for the big boom in the Asian streetwear industry, which means women and men are now equally scrambling to buy the same products. However, Taipei is small, so fresh products are highly valued by women and men equally—but especially women, since we have way less to choose from.

How do you want women to feel wearing your clothes?

Like they can do whatever the fuck they want. Kochetkov garments were designed to be urban playsuits. Women can take advantage of that as they please.

Do you see this line appealing to more of an Asian market, or do you have a global ambition with it?

Since I’m building kochetkov within an Asian market, I guess there are some trends that I incorporated into my brand that make it more appealing in Asia. For example, it’s standard to make garments one-size here, but that isn’t always well-received in Western countries. Either way, my inspiration comes strictly from the badass girls I surround myself with. They tend to be from all over the globe, so I take that foreign influence and vomit it back up through the clothes. So, yeah, I’m aiming to be something for everyone!

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How do you produce the clothes—is it just you making them, or do you have a team?

I produce the samples myself and plan to use Taiwanese fair trade manufacturers when demand grows. For now, it’s all handmade. Currently, I’m opening up my own studio in a noisy, smelly, exciting area of Taipei called Ximen, so it’ll be nice not to sleep with pins around me anymore.

What items do you have in the collection now, and what do you have coming up?

In the summer I released my first collection called START through cargo collective. The collection was about my time spent in Asia and the hot summers spent with my friends doing exactly what we did in the shoot. Bonus: it was shot by super hip photographer Miri Matsufuji. Right now I am working on multiple, smaller series of collections that don’t really follow any sort of seasonal schedule. So you’ll be able to see a lot of different stuff coming from kochetkov. For the next project, expect a 70s working girl kind of thing: pant suits, pant suits, pantsuits. And plants.

Where can people buy what you make?

I’m currently working on my winter project and plan to release it online, so watch out, everybody! I probably shouldn’t say an exact date but definitely before winter is over. For sure.

On your cargo collective, you say these are “MUCH MACHO TIMES” of streetwear. Can you elaborate?

Yeah, I did say that! I’m mostly just sore about the all-male streetwear designer scene, as I mentioned before. These streetwear brands get so big and have such a big female clientele, I just feel annoyed because we live in such modern times, but women are still being dressed by men. So come on, everyone: LET ME DRESS YOU. There are so many amazing local designers who are women, but it’s still not enough. So I’ll try my best.

Thanks, Aly! 

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