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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Patriot Games: Presidential Chic

For MTSimachyov's singlet featuring Vladimir Putin has won praise from fashion critics.
Russia is back in fashion, the world's style gurus have declared.

But while international designers are once again embracing folkloric embroidery and the traditional "a la Russe" look, some local designers are drawing inspiration from unexpected sources.

One such designer is Denis Simachyov, who has come up with a new T-shirt featuring President Vladimir Putin's portrait in a floral frame.

The T-shirts are scheduled to go on sale at Le Form boutique in March -- costing almost $200. Although the price might seem steep, previously the same boutique managed to sell almost 200 of Simachyov's retro CCCP Olympic team jackets at $500 each, along with its entire stock of Simachyov's $200 CCCP T-shirts.

Although pro-Kremlin youth organization Moving Together might seem to have beaten Simachyov to the Putin T-shirt trend, its T-shirts have hardly rated a mention in fashion circles while Simachyov's have had industry luminati in raptures.

"I understand that the main important theme for the nation now is Putin, 'tsar and god,'" Simachyov said, explaining that the floral flame is "an expression of people's love."

"It is not my personal attitude [to the president], I am performing here as a mirror of Russian reality. I am a patriot of Russia, but far from politics and expressing only the nation's opinion."

The designer said he had expected the T-shirt would be seen as nothing more than a publicity stunt. "I didn't expect that somebody would like to wear it," he said.

Much to his surprise, several Russian celebrities, including a top model and a fashion magazine founder, have already dared to wear the T-shirts in public. And Simachyov said that when he wore one during his last visit to Paris, the reaction from the public in the most fashionable places made him understand that "it is cool."

Simachyov is planning a commercial show in Paris in July, and his foreign agency is in the process of drumming up some advance hype, creating some mystique and intrigue about the upcoming young Russian designer.

"Fashion for everything Russian is coming back," Simachyov said.

According to a survey by the Artefact public relations agency, local fashion editors rate Simachyov as Russia's No. 2 designer. First place goes to "Nina & Donis" -- Nina Neretina and Donis Pupis, the fashion duet who won a prestigious young designers' contest last year in Hyeres, France.

Nina & Donis' spring-summer 2002 collection at Sedmoi Element features clothes richly decorated with multicolored stripes and poppies, inspired by Russian and Ukrainian folkloric national costumes.

"The Russian theme has always assisted in our work," Pupis said.

Indeed, their 2001 collection "Yura," dedicated to cosmonaut Yury Gagarin, incorporated such Soviet symbols as red stars, and their Smirnoff Fashion Awards prize-winning 1996 collection used traditional old Russian embroideries.

"We are not using Russian motifs to be seen as patriots; we just liked the beauty of Russian national costumes, as well as Arabian ones and others," Pupis said.

"We can be called patriots of Russian culture, but not patriots of the government and we are not proud of its politics."

Pupis said Simachyov's Putin T-shirts were a "good designer's idea," but that wearing them was meant to be more of a joke than a serious attitude.

"I am wearing my T-shirt with Yury Gagarin, because I believe in him," Pupis said.