‘Soviet Christian Dior’ vows to keep Russian fashion colorful

A customer stands next to creations of Slava Zaitsev, Russia’s most famous fashion designer, at the fashion house in Moscow in this November 2017 photo. Dubbed the “Soviet Christian Dior” in the 1960s by the French press, the designer achieved global success with bright dresses adorned with the flower patterns found on traditional Russian shawls. (AFP)
Updated 25 January 2018
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‘Soviet Christian Dior’ vows to keep Russian fashion colorful

MOSCOW: At almost 80, Russia’s most famous fashion designer Slava Zaitsev is far from finished fighting “the greyness of everyday life” with the rich colors of designs inspired by his homeland’s folk costumes.
Dubbed the “Soviet Christian Dior” in the 1960s by the French press, the designer achieved global success with bright dresses adorned with the flower patterns found on traditional Russian shawls.
Despite this, Zaitsev wore a simple black suit for an interview with AFP at his 10-story “House of Fashion” in central Moscow.
The designer looked back at his eventful career, from a modest childhood in Ivanovo, a town of 400,000 people to the north east of the capital, to the catwalks of Paris, New York and Tokyo.
“When I was a child, my mother taught me embroidery so I wouldn’t roam the streets without purpose. In the evenings I would pick flowers with girls on Lenin Avenue to draw them and recreate them in embroidery. That’s how I began my adventure in art,” said Zaitsev.
Born into a poor family with a mother who worked as a cleaner, Zaitsev initially was barred from attending a top-flight university because his father, taken captive by the Nazis during World War II, was, like other former prisoners-of-war, labeled an “enemy of the people” by the suspicious regime of Joseph Stalin and sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp.
Zaitsev studied at a vocational college until the age of 18 and then went on to the unglamorous Moscow Textile Institute.
“During my studies, I lived with a family whose children I looked after. The apartment was tiny and I slept on the floor under the table,” he recalled.
In 1962, Zaitsev’s first collection of clothes — a uniform for female workers that featured skirts with the flower patterns of traditional Russian shawls and multicolored boots — was rejected by Soviet authorities.
“The colors were too bright and contrasted with the greyness of Soviet everyday life, where an individual should not differ from the rest of society,” he said.
But the collection nonetheless attracted international attention. In 1963, French magazine Paris Match became the first Western media outlet to describe Zaitsev as a pioneer of Soviet fashion.
Watched closely by the KGB because of his contacts with Western designers and his flamboyant character, Zaitsev was initially refused permission to leave the Soviet Union and his first collections were shown abroad without him.
“I did not understand. What sort of state secret could I pass on to my foreign colleagues? Thank God this era is long gone,” he said.
Zaitsev, who turns 80 in March, remembered his first trips abroad where “everything was different,” including the way people dressed: “no greyness, no sadness and no clichés.”
Zaitsev said he finds happiness “working with people every day” in creating designs for his individual clients, rather than for catwalk shows.
Between 2007 and 2009, he presented a popular television show called “The Verdict of Fashion,” in which stylists dressed participants in the latest street looks.
At 79, he says he only sleeps five hours a night and works with the latest software to create new patterns for his materials.
Zaitsev counts several Russian movie stars, singers and the ex-wife of President Vladimir Putin, Lyudmila, among his clients.
Last November, he presented his spring/summer 2018 collection in Moscow for which he used new textile technology to create materials inspired by the shawls of Pavlovsky Posad, a small town east of Moscow.
The second part of his collection pays homage to the New Look of 1940s Dior, with retro high fashion designs in velvet and silk.
During his career, Zaitsev produced more than 1,000 designs.
“I can dress a whole Red Square parade with my clothes,” he joked.
Asked what fashion advice he would give to the modern woman, the designer said they should “throw their ripped jeans and trainers in the bin” and put on skirts and high heels.


Leena Al-Ghouti wraps up as LFW winds down

Gigi Hadid walking the Burberry show at LFW 2019.(AFP)
Updated 18 February 2019
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Leena Al-Ghouti wraps up as LFW winds down

DUBAI: As Gigi Hadid walked the runway, Dubai-based influencer Leena Al-Ghouti showed up at the Burberry show at London Fashion Week in a chic ensemble.

The fashion influencer donned a black hijab, cat-eye shades and an uber-cool camel colored coat, with an oversized Burberry shawl, as she posed outside the show.

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Burberry earned its place — again — as one of the top shows in London Fashion Week on Sunday, according to Reuters, with a widely ranging catwalk show that honored the British brand’s long tradition but showed it is still ready to mix it up and set trends.

Chief Creative Officer Riccardo Tisci showed in his second collection that he is perfectly comfortable stretching the Burberry look to keep its younger fans happy while easily switching gears to create classic, severely tailored ensembles that ooze chic.

The two sides of the Burberry coin were reflected in the two adjacent rooms where the collection was shown: one a sedate auditorium with comfortable, padded seats; the other a raucous wide-open space ringed by a climbing gym of the type young kids would use.

“I have been thinking a lot about England as a country of contrasts, from the structured to the rebellious and free, and I wanted to celebrate how these elements coexist,” Tisci said.

He said he had four characters in mind when putting the collection together: a girl and a boy, and a lady and a gentleman.

The transition was obvious as models went from street-style clothes — oversize puffer jackets, metallic ornamentation, revealing slip dresses, silver boots, faux fur, big red plastic sneakers — to subtle, timeless outfits in muted fall colors.

There were occasional references to the brand’s earlier incarnation as a purveyor of fine, traditional menswear as a few models were dressed in classic suits and ties, including one double-breasted throwback, Reuters reported.

Tisci made ample and imaginative use of the traditional Burberry trench and check, and paired a number of sexy evening dresses with full-length coats for a look at once provocative and classy.

There were a few eccentric touches, including an outfit set off by a giant scarf that paid homage to “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

For her part. Hadid took to the runway in a sporty, monochromatic ensemble featuring a miniskirt and black corset with dramatic puffed sleeves over a white polo shirt.

Tisci seems to be enjoying his time at Burberry, treasuring tradition but refusing to be overwhelmed by it.