When Russian soldiers annexed Crimea last year, they first showed up in unmarked uniforms.
But lately, the Russian government has become more forthright, with President Putin saying that he was surprised by the ease with which his army took control of the peninsula. Now, the Russian defense ministry, teaming up with designer Leonid Alexeev, has unveiled a new clothing line called "Army of Russia" which is inspired by the "Crimean spring," according to an article by the New East network published in the British Guardian.
"I do not sew army uniforms, but I can help make the army attractive to people. This is my personal form of patriotism," designer Alexeev told the Russian version of Time Out magazine.
"We have developed a line of clothing designed for people who just want to dress well... Any designer wants to do something important in life, not only for themselves but also for their country. I wanted to build a system which would make high-quality and beautiful things that can serve as promotion for the army,” Alexeev went on to say.
At the end of March, some of the male models were photographed wearing black boots, thick coats and balaclava helmets.
Neither designer Alexeev nor state officials seem to make a secret of the fact that the Russian defense ministry was involved in creating the clothing line.
According to the Calvert Journal, the general director of military supply shop Voentorg acknowledged that the "Crimean Spring" had inspired the menswear and that the products were supposed to help people “lead an active lifestyle and share military values — patriotism, camaraderie and mobility.”
Commenting on the photos, design and fashion expert Hazel Clark, who teaches at the New School in New York City, told The Washington Post: "This is a gratuitous political referencing for commercial purposes."
"It capitalizes on the recent trends towards military and camouflage styles, while ostensibly promoting national identity and patriotism. It is less disturbing for its symbolic referencing than for its very overt attempt at a market share," Clark said.
Some of the clothes feature the word "polite," which could be another reference to the annexation of Crimea. According to the Irish Times, Crimean officials use the slogan “Politeness is a power that can open any door," alongside photos of Putin.
The Russian soldiers who allegedly showed up in unmarked uniforms and took over the peninsula were furthermore nicknamed as "polite people" by some, according to the Irish newspaper.