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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bringing Ready to Wear to the Racks

They may not be Parisian haute couture, but the clothes created by Russian designer Vladimir Zubets are the best example of Russia's fledgling ready-to-wear industry.

For many Russian women, Zubets' inexpensive fashions are a welcome alternative to unstylish, flimsy productions from state factories and wildly expensive imported clothes.

Zubets, 35, a graduate of Moscow Textile Institute, started out at the clothing manufacturing firm Paninter four years ago designing sportswear, developing patterns and sewing, gradually working his way up to chief fashion designer.

Jackets, skirts and coats designed by Zubets are on sale at a dozen clothing kiosks around the city and at the Paninter store at 27 Lyusinovskaya Ulitsa. With prices ranging from 25,000 rubles ($4.40) for cotton T-shirt to 250,000 rubles for a women's suit, Zubets' clothes are an attractive option for middle class shoppers. His more upscale line manufactured under his own label Eventail is sold at the Paninter-owned boutique in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall.

"He works for the people. Our intelligentsia likes him very much," said Maria Ter-Markarian, 50, a journalist writing about fashion for the Matador magazine and the Russian press attache for Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre. Two years ago Zubets won the grand prize at a contest for young fashion designers she organized with Russian fashion guru Slava Zaitsev.

"He is not one of these peacocks that have turned fashion into a circus, producing nothing but haute couture," Ter-Markarian said. "He doesn't design trendy things that would be in vogue for no longer than a season. His clothes are modish without scaring people off."

When Zubets became Paninter's chief designer, the firm's director, Alexander Panikin, assigned him the task of creating tasteful clothes for the general public that would be of better quality than imports flooding in from Turkey and China.

Zubets said he tried to direct Paninter toward a different strategy than that practiced by large former Soviet clothing factories, now struggling to survive.

"They find out what the best-selling items are on the wholesale markets here, and then just copy the style," Zubets said. "We try to work up to Western standards and want each of our collections to have a clear concept. It shouldn't be a show of random, stolen ideas."

Zubets has produced collections that include elegant jersey suits reminiscent of Chanel or Armani, with pure, simple lines and silhouettes and free of superfluous details. Working mostly in muted tones of gray and brown, and soft shades of pink and blue, Zubets also designs a range of blouses, skirts, sweaters and pants for Paninter and his Eventail line.

"We work for average people but don't treat them as primitive mass consumers," he said. "Our clothes are simple, but there is a European elegance to them."

Zubets, a soft-spoken man dressed in a silver velvet jacket of his own creation, said his success is based on the creative freedom he enjoys at Paninter.

"I've always done whatever I wanted and never let anybody exert pressure on my creative projects," he said.

Opened last October, the Eventail boutique is still struggling to find a client base, Zubets said. He creates about seven new designs for his Eventail collection each month, with a rayon blend suit ranging from $100 to $200, but since the store is difficult to spot from street, customers are still few, he said.

One of two customers Tuesday afternoon, doctor Irina Iosava, 27, wearing a woollen jacket designed by Zubets, said that she discovered the place accidentally when waiting for a concert to start.

"This is the cheapest boutique I ever saw in Moscow and very original designs," she said.

But the Paninter store at Lyusinovskaya Ulitsa was full of customers busy trying on suits, skirts and blouses in the middle of the working day.

"The thing I like about these clothes is that you can combine them with each other," said student Natalya Golovanova, 23, as she stood in line at the dressing room holding two jersey jackets.