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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Guide to the Stars

It was just a few hours before the Old New Year was about to begin when I opened the doors of the Russian Empire of Fashion, formally known as the Slava Zaitsev Fashion House, to see the country's top designer show his new Scandinavian fur collection.

Never a fan of high fashion, I attended the event as part of my assignment to write about young models for a glossy magazine. I missed the beginning, but I caught Zaitsev, with his trademark glasses and short haircut, pronouncing the last sentence of his speech: "This is a hymn to women that I sing." It was the usual blah-blah-blah, but Zaitsev can say whatever he wants. Once nicknamed in the West the "red Cardin," he has worked his way up from the bottom.

Zaitsev, 60, once sewed uniforms and felt boots for factory workers during the Soviet times and went on to tailored suits for many Russian show-biz and political celebrities. All along he remained an honest man. A widower, Zaitsev raised on his own his son Yegor, who followed in his footsteps. He always has kind words for all the babushkas who have worked in his empire since the beginning.

It was probably Zaitsev's openness to people that earned him the respect of everybody, even hard-line Duma lawmaker Sergei Baburin whom I spotted in the hall surrounded by his bodyguards. Watching long-legged Russian girls in fur coats, the diehard patriot was probably proud that his country has such women. I was too.

Walking out in the middle of the show I bumped into another famous Sergei, well-known hairdresser Sergei Zverev, a David Bowie look-alike, who was asking the security guard if the show had already started. Despite his last name, which means "wild beast," Zverev is a slim, well-mannered boy who still lives with his mom. His slightly irritating effeminate manner made me want to say something rude.

But then I recalled that it was Zverev who earned Russia first prize at the international hairdressing competition in Seoul during the most difficult days of August 1998. I had seen him on television praying and smiling when the jury announced the results. So I shut my mouth.