It's no secret that Russia is an important consumer of fashion. The country

ranks high on the list of emerging markets, which means luxury brands

have descended upon Moscow in droves over the last five years. And yet,

despite this focus, notable Russian designers have remained elusive to

an international audience, for reasons beyond the difficulty of their

tongue-tying brand names. We travelled to Moscow last week to report

from Russian Fashion Week (RFW), the country's premiere showcase for

local emerging and established talents, to see what Russian designers

have to offer-and how prepared the world is for them.

Aleksandr Shumsky, RFW's organizer, is sanguine about Russia's

place on the fashion map. Brands such as Chapurin, Alena Akhmadullina

and Denis Simachev show their collections during Paris Fashion Week,

but Shumsky says that Russia has a general lack of designer recognition

outside of the country. Obviously this does not impede the coordinating

of nearly 70 shows at RFW, but just how relevant are these designers?

Lilia Poustovit's moody, Japanese-inspired design sense

already sells at Dover Street Market, L'Eclaireur and Corso Como. Her

looks for spring/summer '09 comprise of dresses totally rendered in

black-and-white, in silhouettes distinguished by their thoughtful

draping, folding and 3D layering in delicate chiffons and cottons. The

fabrics and designs draw in the viewer, revealing unique sewing and

construction techniques. Poustovit kept her collection concise, a

welcomed restraint to the indulgences of other designers who failed to

recognize the value of editing.

Many of the trends on the international runway also turned up at RFW.

Ludmila Norsoyan, for example, built her identity on knitwear, and no

doubt found the refinement of her s/s '09 collection in the global

focus on smart knits from successful players such as Lutz and Patmos.

The androgynous dressing that cropped up on the international catwalk

in the last few seasons was also spotted in the masculine linen suits

seen at Mainaim. The look adopted by many of the designers, however,

was printed dresses in a variety of lengths, several of which tied at

the waist à la Diane von Furstenberg's famous wrap dresses. Katia

Mossina, Masha Kravtsova and Masha Tsigal all sought variation on the

trend to spice up their presentations.

Chari showed its first collection this season, debuting in St.

Petersburg, where Maria Marnova (one half of the team) lives. She

designs sweet dresses in white, dusty pinks and grays with modern

silhouettes that would work in any fashion capital. Meanwhile, her

partner Chris Kramer designs in New York, contributing a hip-hop

inspired group of bomber jackets with crocodile insets for men. The two

former models dated in Tokyo several years back only to reconnect over

clothing design. While the photogenic duo is copy friendly, the line

lacks cohesiveness in its disparate design efforts. A more integrated

message, coupled with Marnova and Kramer's worldly exposure and

high-end tastes could give them a sure shot at the spotlight.


two friends experiment with a business concept, some Russian designers

are experimenting with future fabrics. Take Viva Vox, for example,

whose skirts showed off chevron stripes created from strips of

multi-hued metallics, and jackets made of stiff crushed fabric similar

to the textile seen in Prada's s/s '09 collection. As one of the more

established talents, Viva Vox's experience was evident in some of the

sharply tailored jackets and skirts with 3D features, as well as

inventive details such as fringing at the base of a chic evening coat.

Metallics figured heavily in Chistova & Endourova collection as

well. Considered to be one of RFW's most promising labels, they focused

on mini dresses, set off by contrasting leggings and other sheeny


We were also struck by Masha Sharoeva's super luxe casualwear

of oversized track pants and sporty throw-on dresses in earthy

palettes. She gave a luxury travel twist to otherwise street-style

silhouettes. Cyrille Gassiline picked up on the trend for shapeless

satins and transparent chiffon tees and dresses, seen across

international catwalks. Unfortunately he distracted from the clothing

in the staging of an elaborate mise-en-scène with a video projection

and a wind machine. His talent and profile are apparent, but, while he

has an excellent eye for color (dusty purples, pinks, greens) in the

spirit of a Roksanda Illincic, he needs to push beyond the sophomoric


Arutyunov S.A. was one of the names we were told to look out

for. Upon seeing the glamour gowns with tiered ruffles, bows and

beadings, netted cocktail dresses and cinched waist blouses with

leather pants, it was clear that it had all the over-the-top features

you'd expect from Russia. While it wasn't quite on par with the

refinement of an Elie Saab or Valentino, his show sure did the trick.


spite of all the talent in Russia, there seems to be an element of

kitsch in many of the collections that leaves a somewhat indigenous

aftertaste. This is not the case in menswear designer label Arsenicum

by Dmitry Loginov, who creates minimalist, architectural clothing

tinged with Gothicism. He says he tries not to exaggerate, which is

clear in his stovepipe trousers and polished jackets constructed from

Marzotto Lab fabrics. Of the subtle geometric detailing in his pieces,

Loginov explains his influences as secret societies and masonry, all

expressed in the subtle seaming and pocket compartments. Referred to as

the Hedi Slimane of Russia, Loginov has a planned store opening later

this month, where he'll sell menswear and women's shoes-further

cementing his brand in the marketplace.

So when can we expect to see some of these names at

international boutiques? Shumsky has been forging relationships with

international fashion weeks, exhibiting the cross-pollination by

inviting Custo Barcelona of Spain and Alessandro de Benedetti of Italy

to show this season at RFW (past guests have included Julien Macdonald,

Vivienne Westwood and Zandra Rhodes). Shumsky is optimistic that if he

continues to promote the best of Russian designers success will

spread its way abroad.

Jason Campbell