Unfortunately, and rather unjustly, the side the press chooses to light Russia on is always the controversial, political side, neglecting the cultural legacy that continues to boom, and especially its contribution to fashion, both in the past and present.
Fashion is in fact something very new for Russia. When in the 1950s, Dior opened its first fashion show in Moscow, with the models running through the Kremlin and the Red Square, it was a complete novelty for the puzzled Soviet citizens. The Communist regime had of course closed itself off completely to any kind of luxury, and the coarse brown cotton dresses were the everyday uniform. Vogue Russia after all only opened 15 years ago, after the fall of the USSR and the consequent opening to the West.
“Fashion was something so exotic and so far away from me, just like the Western countries were.” the Editor of Vogue Russia recalls.
Paradoxically, despite those hermetic decades towards fashion, Russia has always served as inspiration for the most talented Haute Couture designers. It goes way back from the Yves Saint Laurent Ballets russes collection, inspired by and dedicated to the famous Serge Diaghilev.
Chanel is also in many ways the fruit of a Franco-Russian success. Coco Chanel’s lover, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, introduced her to the famous perfumer who would create Chanel No5, Ernest Beaux, born and raised in Moscow. And it was none other than the Oxford-educated Prince Félix Yusupov who designed the iconic perfume’s bottle, modeling it on the vodka one.
It is to those ties that Karl Lagerfeld recently paid homage in his 2008 Paris/Moscow collection, with large traditional Russian headdresses, tailored Russian military jackets, and Soviet stars covering the classic Chanel 2.55 bag.
John Galliano went even further in his autumn/winter 2009 collection, displaying a range of Russian inspired fashion, from the folkloric, colorful skirts to the almost diaphanous dresses, inspired by the traditional figure of Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden, omnipresent in Russian fairytales, all worn by Eastern European supermodels, such as Sasha Pivavorova or Vlada Roslyakova.
But Russia’s role as a muse to fashion designers is ending. The Russians themselves are taking matters into their hands, with the extremely talented designer Valentin Yudashkin, whose creations are exhibited at the Carrousel du Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
With emerging designers such as Alexander Terekhov or Anastasia Romantsova, and fashion icons such as Miroslava Duma, Russia continues to add to its legacy to fashion.