My Unique Style File

Moscow Fashion Week

In Clothes, Designers, Personal on May 5, 2011 at 12:18 PM

What does a girl do when she gets a chance to attend not one but two fashion weeks in Moscow? She thinks about how she’s going to miss two final exams and countless hours of sleep, not to mention her fellow Flare interns. But in the end, 12 hours of packing later, she hops on that plane!

Even though I was raised a few hundred kilometres from Moscow, I had never visited the Russian capital. I was excited and apprehensive, expecting oceans of fur, red lips and of course, no shortage of vodka. As I soon discovered, Moscow offers all that and plenty more. I did wonder from time to time why two fashion weeks were being hosted in Moscow at the very same time. Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and Volvo Fashion Week were going head to head. If anyone knew why, they weren’t telling – it is the best-kept secret in Eastern Europe.

The first thing I noticed on my arrival at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is that the hottest accessory of this Spring season is your 4 year-old child seated in the front row next to you, in Dolce and Gabbana loafers and a kid’s camel cape. Intimidating much? No surprise, the child’s parents were dressed even better: luxurious furs and $50,000 watches. That’s Moscow for you. You can understand that at times the oh-so fashionable Muscovites made it hard to concentrate on the runway action.

While attending the shows, I noticed some patterns in the way people dress. First of all, the notion of “trendy” is outweighed by the notion of “expensive luxury.” The notes I took during people-watching included: “10 percent trendy, 90 percent dressed without putting much thought into it”. Yep – Moscow is not Milan or Paris, where Tommy Ton could snap a random person and chances are she would be wearing opaque tights with hot pink heels or a midi-skirt. The only people whose style conjures up Flare’s Liz Cabral or Mosha Lundstrom-Halbert are the fashion editors of Russian Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel, Tatler. They can be seen a mile away, standing out from the crowd. Most notable appearance? One of the junior fashion editors at Harper’s Bazaar Russia, who was wearing a draped blue maxi dress, a shearling Burberry bomber and a neon fuchsia lip. She was the single most fashion-forward person I saw during my stay.

Right now, the fashion industry in Moscow, and Russia as a whole, is certainly not at its peak. Designers get no support from the government and rarely have representation. Russia, like Canada, lacks world-class fashion education institutions and renowned design and art schools like Central St. Martins College of Art and Design in London. Yet despite the obstacles, some designers have broken through. Industry veterans Slava Zaitsev and Valentin Yudashkin are known internationally. Vika Gazinskaya is a young and already accomplished designer whose pictures are often featured on street-style blogs, like Citizen Couture, Jak and Jil, and The Sartorialist. And Alexander Terekhov has become a favourite of the biggest names in Russia’s celebrity culture.

It’s unfortunate, but Russian designers still have very little influence over what becomes a trend the following season. And Moscow fashion weeks just don’t have the same chic as the Paris, Milan, London and New York shows. After Paris and Milan, we know what the majority of the fashion crowd will be wearing next September. Not in Moscow. Many Russian-based designers create fashion statements that are best viewed as art. You can be sure most of the industry attendees at Moscow’s fashion weeks had that classic question in mind: Who the hell is going to wear that?!

Of all that I saw, Slava Zaitsev’s work was my favourite collection, for many reasons. This fashion heavyweight is not afraid to show the world what Russian fashion is made of. You won’t see ultra-trendy items in his collections. What you will see is an exaggerated representation of what Russia is all about: furs on girls who look like a Babushka doll, with dark red lips and high cheekbones. Overall, Zaitzev’s Fall/Winter 2012 collection was the epitome of luxury, with a slight reprise of the 90s: wide shoulders.

One show in particular – Guli – gathered a large number of Russian celebrities, politicians and influential figures and when I googled the brand after the show, I understood why. Gulnara Karimova, a woman behind the brand, is one of the most accomplished political figures in Uzbekistan, a country with strong political and cultural ties to Russia. Harvard-educated Karimova, presently the Permanent Representative of Uzbekistan to the United Nations, is a prominent figure in Moscow’s social scene. Her collection was safe and pretty, with flowy blouses, great harem pants, mermaid dresses and exquisite embellishments. Her work is a perfect example of Eastern and Western cultures coming together and creating a collection that could be worn in everyday life.

Newcomer Alyona Serebrova’s collection was also a hit. She used bright, lightweight fabrics to make her trousers and blouses, and put bright blue tights on the models – a big trend on the runways of Paris and Milan this season. My personal favourite was a pair of electric-blue silk trousers paired with a cape-like jacket. Her collection is wearable – an attribute that’s crucial for those ever-practical Russians.

Some collections were not exactly wearable, but fascinating to see nonetheless. Russian Silhouette is a collective fashion show by up-and-coming young designers who are mostly still fashion and design students. The eccentric looks shown at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week would impress even Lady Gaga. I could easily picture her wearing one designs in particular: a grey bomber jacket with a hood, pointy shoulders and an attached cat mask.

After a week of non-stop fashion, I can say I loved Moscow. It’s hectic, it never sleeps and it’s filled with Russian who enjoy life to the fullest. But I was happy to come back to Toronto, where people are friendly and the environment is not quite so fast-paced. And more importantly, back here to Flare, where we know all the trends.

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