For the passengers flying to The Russian Federation, the local airline announced that only one piece of hand luggage was allowed on board. However, if one wants to blend in, that baggage rule should actually be interpreted as only one Vuitton or Goyard carry-on and a duty-free shopping bag, preferably Chanel, Prada or Dior (the bigger the size the better, and we know it does matter). Indeed, while boarding for a journey to Moscow — the country’s capital and largest city — even the most naive observer can’t fail to notice that Russians do love fashion and luxury. There is of course the infamous bling: not only in its clichés or fur extravaganza but also in the array of it-bags on display — and not just any. No. The latest. The one you had not even imagined existed in this shade of green. And yes, we admit it, we were #peagreenwithenvy.
Although, a more refined style is starting to be noticed in the younger generations, who crave more up-and-coming niche designers such as Thom Browne.
Some of the country’s most talented designers have even recently made their way to Paris, such as Gosha Rubchinskiy, Ulyana Sergeenko and the mother and daughter duo from Yanina. Russia has incontestably made itself a very fashionable spot to follow.
For its 32nd season, the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia welcomed over 50 designers, and NOWFASHION was there to discover the best of it.
Backstage ahead of the Viva Vox Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show, Moscow (Ryan Koopmans)
THE FEMININE FACES OF MBFWRUSSIA
Female designers led the pack during the five days at the Central Exhibition Hall “Manege” in the heart of Moscow, only steps away from the Bolshoi Theatre and Saint Basil’s Cathedral.
The first show to open the season at MBFWRussia featured Ksenia Seraya, who, in her first presentation here, did not fail to seduce us with her knitwear collection in all shades of grey, white and red. Ksenia’s stand-out pieces included a horizontal-striped dress and sweater playing with panels of sheer fabrics for an effortlessly elegant yet contemporary look.
“Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia is the biggest event of its kind in Eastern Europe. We expose it as [a] window to all ex-Soviet countries because we have a lot of designers from Ukraine, Georgia (Demna Gvasalia has proven to be the industry darling since the Vetement-mania), Belarus etc.,” said Alexander Shumsky, president of the Russian Fashion Council.
NOWFASHION took a moment backstage ahead of the show to speak with one of the talents, the charming Ukrainian-born designer Yasya Minochkina. Dividing her time between Monte Carlo and Spain, the Central Saint Martins graduate's collection, which featured evening wear, ruffles and bright colors, bore the influence of her two Mediterranean homes. As a businesswoman, she explained all possible markets she could conquer, mentioning Monaco and Dubai among other places, and does not design solely with the Russian woman in mind. “I am thinking about all independent women living in between cities, strong and feminine,” said the designer. “This season I however stepped away from traditional femininity and made my dream girl sexier,” she added. Drawing inspiration from such strong ladies as Frida Kalho, Marlene Dietrich and the sex-driven works of photographers Juno Calypso and Jeff Keens, the evolving designer once again hit the perfect note with her latest collection. Yasya first presented her Ukraine-produced collections in Kiev and most recently started to show in Moscow. “There is a huge market in Russia and it is a very important platform. Presenting at MBFWRussia makes me stronger, as Moscow also holds some of the best shops around to sell my collections.”
Tako Mekvabidze Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show, Moscow (Régis Colin-Berthelier for NOWFASHION)
Other neighboring designers presenting were Georgian designers Aka Nanita and Tako Mekvabidze. The former drew inspiration from antique jewelry and the beauty of Georgian women with her velvet and fine lace numbers while the latter was inspired by both her native country and Roman mythology. “Embroidered grapes on leather and organza are associated to Georgia,” Mekvabidze explained, “[while] the concept of the collection comes from Botticelli’s painting ‘The Birth of Venus,’ the legend depicting the goddess emerging from the sea as an adult woman arriving at the shore.” Book clutches embellished with shells, sheer and fluid garments and tassel earrings highlighted the rich variety of fabrics. She also brought a twist to the more classical elements, such as a tweed skirt given a high slit and the playful fringes. The versatility of the collection could very much appeal to a young yet sophisticated generation of fashionistas.
Alena Akhmadullina (center) backstage with her models after her Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show (Ryan Koopmans)
Talking about fashionistas, Alena Akhmadullina gathered all the Russian celebrities (so we’ve been told) front-row and delivered a standout collection. Drawing from Mongolian and Oriental warrior culture, Alena’s offering included a brilliant mix of classic and sophisticated looks with impeccable attention givento detail and quality of execution. The collection was rich in luxurious fabrics, subtle use of fur and fine embroideries. Asian medieval elements such as fur mules, bouffant sleeves, vegetal leather peplum belts and origamis all added to the understated elegance of the creations. It was fairly easy for the international audience to imagine this show being presented in fashion capitals such as Milan in the future.
Ksenia Knyazeva Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show, Moscow (Régis Colin-Berthelier for NOWFASHION)
In contrast, designer Ksenia Knyazeva took her inspiration from Dry Law times. Femmes fatales went down the runway with cocktails in hands, showcasing the best of art-deco style: fringes, stained glass elements, fireflies and the iris flower — all key-elements of 1920s fashion. Another perfectly executed and winning collection.
Backstage close-up at Ivka's Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show (Ryan Koopmans)
Girl power at MBFWRussia was reinforced with Salle de Mode’s all black and metallic silver looks and Yulia Nikolaeva’s très-Parisienne sleek and feminine finale dresses in shades of peach, red and black. Designer Ivka went with an edgier approach experimenting with volumes: quilted fabrics, bright yellows and houndstooth patterns. Models’ hair & makeup also added a much enjoyable overall avant-garde feel to the show.
Viva Vox Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show, Moscow (Ryan Koopmans)
Last but certainly not least, Viva Vox’s statement furry coats were on all editors’ radars. Warm outwear could not be more fabulous as they came hooded and in snowy white, bright yellow or chocolate brown. The bombers and coats featured rich luxurious prints along with printed fluid dresses.
Backstage close-up at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia (Ryan Koopmans)
RUSSIA’S NEW GUARD
Moscow fashion week showcases the full spectrum of Russian fashion, “only original fashion designers with strong identity,” as Alexander Shumsky explained. “Russian fashion has great traditions and heritage, so we want to expose this too. We have some technical criteria provided by Russian Fashion but the final decision depends on the creative side and the quality of production. Russian fashion is still in a startup position, so we can easily pass by the technical requirements to focus on the creative part,” he added.
Sorry I'm Not Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show, Moscow (Régis Colin-Berthelier for NOWFASHION)
A few newcomers indeed joined the lineup this season at MBFWRussia. After presenting in Kiev in the past, the Vipers sisters Katya & Vera picked Moscow to unveil their latest collection. So did the label Sorry, I’m Not with its provocative yet playful creations. The show opened with an all-black controversial burka with a strategically placed sheer panel unveiling what should not usually be unveiled. That was however not the only showstopper look. A blue-striped oversized shirt with a sheer mid-section, a transparent vinyl trench on a tan and toned male model (of course), along with another sheer bodysuit for men with jellyfish glitter embroideries, made quite an impression. (Not looks you would imagine wandering around the Red Square, clearly.) That’s what Sorry, I’m Not was all about: being young and having fun with fashion and who you are.
Along with designer Dasha Gauser, the thought of both these designers having the potential to showcase their universe at something like NYFW’s VFiles show came to our mind. Wearing laboratory protection glasses and latex gloves, Dasha’s looks were all about Mendeleev’s periodic table of the elements, from the prints of the button-up or one/off shoulder dresses to the coats and socks. It had an undeniable fresh vibe and energy, which perfectly translated the shows “successful chemistry.”
Dasha Gauser Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show, Moscow (Régis Colin-Berthelier for NOWFASHION)
The excitement for Saint Tokyo was quite a happening – all the cool kids from Moscow gathered for Yury Pitenin’s show. “MBFWRussia has become a major platform for me. My collections can now be seen online, my designs worn by the likes of Lady Gaga, and all this happened to me because of the great push of the fashion week,” said the young designer about his third season. It is, however, no easy task for any young talent to make it through. “Designers do not have the possibility to buy fabrics of domestic production, as the Russian textile production is very limited. We have to import fabrics and this greatly affects the price of the finished product, especially now as the euro exchange rate is unstable,” added Yury when asked about the challenges he’s facing. “Russian designs are becoming more and more fashionable. In the past, Russian consumers would prefer to buy foreign brands while now the market is seriously reoriented towards us,” he said.
Alexander Shumsky also shares the same observation: “The industry is low now but the market is demanding Made in Russia fashion." The fashion week in Moscow is more than a glamorous and popular event, and Shumsky’s initiatives are helping the industry to move forward. “We do a lot of support for local designers, helping them to develop its business. Fashion week gives a lot of promotion and it gives the access to retail too. The Russian Fashion Council has a few programs to support emerging talents in different ways: we give grants, we produce young designers contests and we make deals with manufacturers. Fashion week is just a top of the iceberg. We have a lot of challenges on the market now because of the crisis. But sanctions open new opportunities for local designers. The weak rouble makes all imports twice more expensive but local producers can keep the prices under control. So local brands are able to sell more now and some do that,” he noted.
Aside from newcomer Ksenia Knyazeva’s clandestine bar mise en scène, Dimaneu, Russia’s Project Runway 2011 winner, was the only standout in terms of show-factor. The designer celebrated the cold and magnificence of his home province of Siberia in true theatrical drama. Plexiglas headpieces and earrings were cool accessories we would have loved to play dress-up with before they occasionally and accidentally dropped on the catwalk, breaking like precious ice stalactites. This however did not stop him from winning the Italy Calls Russia contest, whose mission is to discover Russian designers and offer them the opportunity to collaborate with Italian partners such as production facilities. “In Dimaeu’s collection, I mostly enjoyed the attempt to combine Russian origins and traditions with something new, fresh and innovative … I believe that a productive partnership is ahead of us,” said Filippo Ceroni, CEO of the Italian manufacturing company Grazia Bagnaresi.
Viva Vox Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show, Moscow (Ryan Koopmans)
“There is a good mix of established and emerging talents here in Russia. The most important thing is to find the balance between heritage and hipster vibe,” declared Shumsky when asked about the variety of brands. And while young designers have successfully taken full advantage of the platform represented by Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia with their fresh visions, the headline designer that was once called the red-Dior, Slava Zaitsev, stuck to what he does best: showcasing the heritage of traditional Russian couture. Indeed, his “Golden Age” collection unveiled rich boyar’s caftans, Moroccan leather suits, Russian fairytale gowns richly embroidered and embellished with sequins. And, of course, what would be Russian fashion without some fur?
Russian designers are moving forward with their designs and brand strategies. Yasya Minochkina, for example, is seeking to move to Paris and hopefully also present her collection in the French capital in 5 years time, while Tako Mekvabidze confesses that she is “glad to assimilate various markets and gain fame,” adding,“MBFWRussia is a great opportunity and I would love to take offers from other countries to become more popular.”
Both the designers and the fashion week organizers have the ambition, and as we often hear: “When there is a will, there is a way!”
From Moscow, with love,