Gabba Kids


In response to the rebellion in Ukraine in early February of 2014 the younger generation of the capital find themselves struggling to develop in a society of expectation and hardship. By embracing youth culture and expression through fashion, citizens attempt to rebuild society in the midst of an economic uproar.

Gabber is a style of electronic music and a subgenre of hardcore techno, although arguably a house variant from Detroit, techno music reached Amsterdam in the late 1980s, and it was the producers and DJs from Rotterdam in the early 1990s who evolved it, mixing it with industrial into a harder house variant which is today known as “gabber”. 

The specific sound of Rotterdam was also created as a reaction to the house scene of Amsterdam which was seen as “snobby and pretentious”. Though techno tracks from Frankfurt’s Marc Acardipane were quite similar to the Rotterdam style, it was the popularity of this music in the Netherlands which made Rotterdam the cradle of gabber. The essence of the gabber sound is a distorted bass drum sample, overdriven to the point where it becomes clipped into a distorted square wave and makes a recognisably melodic tone. 

Often the Roland Alpha Juno or the kick from a Roland TR-909 was used to create this sound. Gabber tracks typically include samples and synthesised melodies with the typical tempo ranging from 150 to 190 bpm. Violence, drugs and profanity are common themes in gabber, perceptible through its samples and lyrics, often screamed, pitch shifted or distorted. Through embracing youth culture and expression, the youth are attempting to rebuild society in the midst of an economic uproar. And what typically does disenfranchisement within the youth result in? Subcultures. Think Punk, Hip-hop and Hipsters. In addition, most subcultures burgeon from most and it’s no exception within the Ukraine. 

Ukraine is the centre of a burgeoning ‘rave revolution’ amongst the younger generation, rehashing a 90s rave subculture, known as Gabber. In 2018, we’re now seeing the second coming of Gabber; borne from the 2014 rebellion, the revolution of dignity. Over the last decade we have seen a substantial of upcoming designers emerge from Ukraine in the middle of political and economic havoc. The revolution has brought quirky, modern designs represented by those depressed with conflict, looking for a way of expression in times of such hardship – bringing back the rave subculture.

In modern society; social pressure, economic turmoil and a time of change creates a desire to form expression. The rebellion youth of the capital was known for the generation with ‘nothing to get up for, nor nothing to go to bed for either’. Job losses were at a high. So, as always, a youth subculture formulated to fight back against the repression. So the city of Kiev’s, soon became the hub for the ultimate rave destinations around the world, allowing citizens to embrace expression.

CXEMA is one of the key rave set up groups. In true rave subculture style, the best raves are always illegal – due to the high influx of drug taking at these events. However, in the midst of economical uproar authorities are struggling to control such illegal activity including illegal substances. The appeal to many, to take drugs comes from a sense of displacement and wanting to get away from the economic disparity, giving an instant release of liberation and freedom; however, every come-up has a come-down. The illegal raves allow freedom and rebellion with the exhilarating risk of police seizure in derelict buildings. It’s a new type of expression, developing its own style, unifying the younger generation together amongst turbulent times.

Fashion has always been an intrinsic factor in the development of subcultures. In the Ukraine, fashion has become more accessible than ever with cheap flea markets and vintage clothing on the rise, enabling individuals to upcycle their wardrobe with the recycle of the capital. The markets are becoming well known to the country’s visitors, and is evolving to be the secrets of the Ukrainian youth. They highlight social poverty but also show the material culture of Ukraine youth, encouraging entrepreneurial opportunities. The 90’s trend of rave culture is presenting to become a cycle by embracing everything vintage. This is becoming foreseen and represented as iconic wear for self-expression, worn at key party events especially at festivals followed and embraced by youth around the globe. 

The catwalk is reflecting the rebellious nature and self-expression of the rave scene in current culture. Anton Belinskiy is an up-and-coming Kiev designer and former LVMH Prize finalist. 

Belinskiy represents modern design based on Ukraine’s troublesome politics, using a range of politically oriented references to symbolically outline his views, whilst including recycling fabrics. His late collection in 2017 used fur of a hat worn by cabinet members and featured a chestnut brown puffer coat to impersonate the leather couches in the Ukrainian parliament. Additionally Gosha Rubchinskiy, a designer, filmmaker and designer takes influence from the fall of culture in society to portray and inspire his work. The Russian youth are coming of age and looking back at the counties past, to control their own future. 

Gosha’s S/S 18 collection, represents the carving of the younger generation being the first cohort since the fall of the Soviet Union. The show challenges the real look of Russian beauty, showing real people from the outskirts of society, represented by a range of ‘nerd’ looking ravers, right in context with the burgeoning rave subculture. The model’s overall image are described as “mixed of sportswear with a nightclub-rave feeling”, creating a guaranteed general appeal. Gosha’s united vision encourages creativity with the freedom to travel since the economic change, presented with opportunities their parents didn’t have. Having an open mindset and individual self-expression will open new gateways for Ukrainian youth to thrive in modern society.

There’s never been much room between subculture and what’s happening in the mainstream. With the rising popularity of sportswear as a fashion statement merging with the surging popular festival scene and upcoming ravers and gabbers, we’re evolving into a global community of individuals who are looking for a vital form of expression. 

Ukraine symbolises the younger generation as a whole, trying to develop being the minority in a culture of pressure and hardship.

Photography: Isha Shah

Styling: Sahar Ghorishi

Hair & makeup: Wendy Asumadu