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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Fashion Breaks the Rules




Economic crisis? What economic crisis? The Hotel Rossiya last weekend wrapped up a display of opulence that gathered together more furs, gowns, fancy hairdos and Chanel handbags this side of the fall fashion shows of Paris.


Top European designers such as Fendi, Rochas, Torrente, Erreuno and Claude Montana brought their winter collections to Moscow all last week to compete for awards like the "Golden Mannequin" against up-and-coming Russian designers like Moscow's Inga Filippova, Irina Selitskaya and Tatyana Belyakovskaya, St. Petersburg's Tatyana Parfenova and Tolyatti's Yevgeny Trefilov.


Limos, long legs, mad photographers scrambling up and down the catwalk and Iosif Kobzon became mundane by the end of the Week of High Fashion.


"What I saw here, on the whole - it goes against my own interests to say this - it's what we're used to seeing in Paris," said Janie Samet of Figaro magazine.


Some went even further and suggested it was better than what's on elsewhere. The catwalk models were provided by the Moscow modeling agency Red Stars, and as Peter O'Brien of the House of Rochas put it, "I have never seen such a quantity of long legs as at the casting with 250 Red Star models."


In the fashion world, that's a very large compliment.


The buzz of the season is fur, and the European collections were dominated by fur coats, hats and collars. The predominant colors were neutral and earthy tones, while Russian designers instead opted for flashy, bright colors.


Indeed, the only theme among the Russian designers was the lack of one. Each could have been working on a far-away island isolated from one another and from the rest of the world.


"Russian designers differ from the Europeans," said Russian designer Inga Filippova. "The fashion industry in Paris was formed long ago. They have laws they have to follow."


Russian fashion laws don't exist yet. Anything goes - as long as it is extreme enough to distract one's attention from the current value of the ruble.


"In the rest of the world, the fashion trend is minimalism. ... I was very surprised that in a country that's living through a difficult economic crisis, you are very open to potential fantasy. Our fashion is minimalistic. Your fashion is maximalistic," said Figaro's Samet.


Igor Chapurin won the Golden Mannequin with a collection that combined themes from Russia's aristocratic and proletariat pasts. He created a collection of gowns made from tapestry-like fabrics, and added scarf headpieces that were reminiscent of something a factory worker might wear. As strange as that may sound, he found a way to make it harmonious and elegant.


In addition to Alisa Tolkacheva's black and white zebra patterns with sports-car red spiked heels, and Trefilov's see-through, spider-web evening gowns, there was also a sense of Russian national pride. St. Petersburg designer Parfenova's entire collection was in Soviet red. Valentin Yudashkin's collection "Anna Karenina" was inspired by 19th century Russia, and Irina Krutikova named her collection "My Pushkin."


The out-of-control costumes may provide an escape on the catwalk, but how the over-the-top prices will fare remains to be seen. Journalists repeatedly asked how the downturn had hurt local designers, or why foreign designers would bother to bring their collections to financial-crisis-era Moscow.


Inga Filippova said "of course [the show] will help" her business, but later changed that to, "I hope it will help."


As to why European designers should come to Russia, Carla Fendi from the Fendi House of Fashion offered an answer to that as good as any. "Moscow is a beautiful city," she said. "[People] should find here what they find in the rest of the world." Fendi added that "the economic situation is bad around the world, not just in Russia."