‘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.


Jessica Kahawaty gains recognition Down Under

Updated 22 October 2018
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Jessica Kahawaty gains recognition Down Under

DUBAI: Lebanese-Australian model and TV show host Jessica Kahawaty was honored with an award at an Australia Lebanon Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ALCCI) event in Melbourne this week.

The fashion influencer, who is based in Dubai but jets across the world to attend events, made an appearance at the event in a strapless black dress with a flared, tulle skirt completed with a thigh-high slit.
Kahawaty wore her hair in a tight bun and completed the look with dramatic blue eyeliner.
She took to Instagram to celebrate the honor, saying: “So yesterday, I received the highest honor a Lebanese-Australian could receive! Thank you so much to the ALCCI for awarding me with ‘Outstanding Ambassador to Lebanon and Australia. With my move from Australia to the Middle East five years ago, my aim was to bridge my two worlds and encourage intercultural dialogue and understanding. Couldn’t be happier for this recognition.”
The organization seeks to strengthen trade relations between Australia, Lebanon and the Middle East.

Before the gala dinner, she took to Instagram to post an image in which she poses on a Melbourne street in a white mini-dress with frilled accents and a dramatic, a-symmetrical train.
“Outside the International Chamber House after the private conference to honor some members of the Lebanese-Australian community who have made significant contributions in medicine, business, politics, philanthropy and more... can’t wait for the big gala tonight!” she captioned the photo.
While in the country, the former Miss Australia — who came third place in the Miss World 2012 competition — visited her childhood school to talk to the students and shed light on her career.
“It was such a pleasure to visit my old school in Australia, Tangara School for Girls, and speak to the bright, humble and ambitious Year 10 and Year 11 Girls. I had goosebumps being there, remembering how I was when I was 17 and what I wanted to hear. Thank you for listening to me,” she posted alongside a short video of cheering students on Instagram.
Kahawaty studied business, finance and law in Sydney and is a keen supporter of a number of humanitarian causes, including UNICEF and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Last year, fashion house Louis Vuitton selected Kahawaty to work with UNICEF at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan to help children affected by the Syrian crisis, which has seen millions of people displaced.
The multi-talented celebrity also gave a talk at the TEDxSciencesPo event in Paris in April.
The conference, according to a press release, brought together influencers “who work toward breaking the wall between the East and the West” and aims to “provide an essential bridge, to fuse the gap between rising trends of neo-conservatism predominant in the South of France and the cultural diversity that characterizes the Arab world.”