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Fashion: Russia inspires designers

Russian girls today are showing a real interest in fashion - from design to modeling to retail. Young Russian girls imagine becoming high-end fashion designers, and competition at the top design colleges is fierce. Historically, Russia did not have major fashion houses. Nevertheless, dressmaking has always been on a high level in Russia. Every peasant Russian girl and even aristocratic ladies knew how to sew. This skill helped the aristocrats to survive when they fled Russia after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. Russian women emigres started about 20 Russian Fashion Houses all around France.

Gradually Russian style has started to inspire top couturiers. Serge Diaghileff's "Saisons Russes", shown in Paris early in the 20th century, was intended to display some of the greatest Russian artistic achievements. Paul Poiret presented a collection of Russian-style dresses and coats, and all things Russian became the ulitimate in fashion in France. Coco Chanel immediately followed along with high-collared dresses, Russian-style embroidered blouses and fur-trimmed coats. Later on, Christian Dior and Valentino used Russian motifs as their inspiration. Yves Saint Laurent demonstrated one of his most memorable collections in 1976 - the Ballets Russes, inspired by Russian history, so he said. Russian motifs have repeatedly appeared on catwalks since then. New York Fashion Week usually features several American designers' Russian-style collections. The latest Caractere collection bears the telling name of "Siberia", and a Gucci designer says she borrows ideas from Russian art books. So Russia is always in vogue in the fashion world. And today there are many Russian girl models abroad.

In the former Soviet Union, the services of private dressmakers was also in demand. Those who wanted to dress really fashionably - from Russian girls to actresses to the wives of party officials - ordered their clothes almost exclusively from private dressmakers because of the very limited selection in the shops. Finding a really good dressmaker was not easy. Her reputation for the latest fashion and style had to be regardes as impeccable and recommendations were required.

The first major designer label in the Soviet Union was established in the 1970s by Dom Mody Vyacheslava Zaitseva. Zaitsev brought traditional Russian style to the forefront by dressing his models in clothes made from embroidered quilted jackets and Pavlovoposad shawls. Later Valentin Yudashkin emerged as another name in fashion. His trademark style was the heavy opulence of the pre-revolutionary Russian royal court.

But the real fashion pioneers were the talented Russian women fashion designers - Tatyana Parfyonova, Yelena Makashova, and Viktoria Andreyanova as they skilfully managed to overcome prejudice against Russian fashion. At that time, most Russian girls wanted to wear foreign fashions but were difficult to procure. The situation has changed. With the current easy access to almost all Western labels, Russian women and Russian girls now want individuality and are turning more to local designers.

Fashion industry experts believe that the real vogue for Russian designers is only just beginning and their best times are yet to come. Gradually Russian couture appears, little by little, in the main large outlets. There is a lot of fashion talent in Russia, and Moscow will eventually become on a par with London and Paris in the fashion world.

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