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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The High Cost of Haute Couture

July is turning out to be a French-filled month in Moscow. With Bastille Day just around the corner, the opening of a festival of French films, the Rimbaud exhibit at the Lenin Library, and a new Jacques Dessange salon on Tverskaya, all things French are very much in vogue in the capital. But the crowning event in the celebration of the culture and elegance of France is the "Haute Couture in Moscow" fashion extravaganza at the Metropol Hotel. "This is intended to bring a true vision of Paris to Moscow," said Paul Zeiler, the president of the French Committee on Elegance which, along with the Moscow modeling agency Zodiac M and the Media Star production firm, was responsible for staging the four-day haute couture event. The price of a true vision of Paris, it seems, is a high one: Tickets for a single show, including a small fourchette dinner, were going for $440 apiece. Six of the most prestigious fashion houses of France were represented in the first 1 1/2-hour show Wednesday night. Anne Marie Beretta, Carven, Lecoanet Hemant, Per Spook, Torrente and Balenciaga designs were all featured -- names familiar to anyone in the international couture set, but probably meaningless to most Russians. "People should understand that to see live haute couture is a privilege, even for Parisians," said Nikolai Kostyn, Zodiac M's general director. "The price of tickets is not much more than what you would pay in Europe." The show was notable for its sophisticated presentation and elegance. There was an appealing lack of contrivance about the fashions, and the models were professional and graceful. "This is the first time in Russia that this kind of event has been put on. Most fashion shows have been second-class," Kostyn said. "Russia's new rich know only about Versace and Cardin and think the more expensive the better." Wednesday's fashions were both expensive and good. Anne Marie Beretta's collection kicked off the evening with a sporty, almost casual collection remarkable for its unusual pairing of textures in the form of stiff, transparent voiles and heavy, unraveling linen sweaters. Carven produced some dandified pinstriped jackets with cloche skirts, while Balenciaga's designs, true to their classical nature, were tame, perfectly cut and very feminine. Per Spook did not disappoint with his signature "matelot" dress -- white with navy stripes and the fullest skirt imaginable. Very, very classic outfits in shocking greens and oranges were also included. Lecoanet Hemant provided cocktail dresses in fabrics to suit even more extravagant tastes. And Torrente elevated linen to the most exclusive ranks of fashion with beige gowns with bejeweled straps. The presentation culminated in the exhibition of the designers' star evening dresses and wedding gowns, beautifully designed and generously cut. Whether or not the Russian market is ready for this is another matter. And the tickets, according to a spokesperson from the RIA Novosty agency, which was helping to publicize the event, were not exactly selling like hot cakes. Zeiler noted that the organizers were looking for a future market in Russia, but stressed that the show was purely a cultural manifestation. "It is neither too late nor too early to come to Russia," he maintained. "Of course, such a show is targeted to an ?lite audience -- that is the nature of haute couture -- but by means of television, it will reach a wider public. I come as an ambassador of French culture."