Sashaying Across the Showroom, Moscow-Style

For MTWhile in the West showrooms are thought of as an exhibition space, in Moscow, places like Random Showroom, pictured, double as fashion clubs, catering to a small group of permanent clients.
In the West, a showroom is thought of as an exhibition space where wholesale buyers can check out designers' latest collections and choose those that they want to sell in their own stores.

In Moscow, however, a showroom usually doubles as an exclusive fashion club, where clothing is sold to a small group of permanent clients.

"Our clients are our friends. They call us in advance [to tell us] that they are coming to drink coffee ... and from time to time we sell them things for wholesale prices," said Sergei, owner of a private showroom called 9A Concept, which is closed to the public.

Sergei, who wouldn't give his surname, said the showroom featured Japanese and European brands, as well as domestic designers including Konstantin Gaidai and Masha Kravtsova's collections.

Sales to friends are not so important in terms of profit. "We like the atmosphere and mood. It's fun," Sergei said.

While entrance to Sergei's showroom is by recommendation only, Maria Bergelson has a more open way of operating. Her store, Random Showroom, is located in an old Stalin-era apartment on Chistiye Prudy. Bergelson says she welcomes everyone -- as long as they call in advance. She works with commercial buyers but also caters to individual customers. Her clothes are mostly by Israeli designers, such as Alembika, Jerry Shai, Ahat Ahat and more, and they are sold only at Random Showroom.

"Buying an item in my showroom is about 45 percent cheaper than if you bought it in a regular store. But even if they are more expensive, these things are not available in regular stores," she said.

From September, Random Showroom will present more than 10 new brands, including Ellen Ruben, Neutra, Tes and More Accessories.

The R.A.I. Showroom is in an uninspiring office building in a network of alleys near the Smolenskaya metro station. The showroom sells better-known brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci, and entrance is open to everyone.

Inside, consumers can drink tea and wine and watch models sashay down catwalks on a huge plasma screen while browsing the collections. Eduard, the showroom's owner, who also would not give his surname, said celebrities were permanent clients at R.A.I. "They usually order specific items for themselves," he said.

"You can shop as long as you want; no one will get sick of you. It's not like in a store because there are no salespeople, only fashion fanatics and style experts here," he said. "We have fun finding the right item for you."

R.A.I. Showroom is located at 3 2nd Smolensky Pereulok, Office 102. M. Smolenskaya, noon-9 p.m. (499) 241-0044 www.raifashion.ru

Random Showroom is located at 2 Chistoprudny Boulevard, entrance 2, code 15, floor 3. M. Chistiye Prudy. Opening Monday to Friday from noon to 11 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. Closed on Saturday. Tel: (916) 656-1010, www.randomshowroom.com