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.