‘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

‘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.

Huda Al-Nuaimi’s Ramadan edit is giving us real nautical vibes

Updated 20 May 2018

Huda Al-Nuaimi’s Ramadan edit is giving us real nautical vibes

  • The capsule collection focuses on paisley prints in playful shapes
  • The outfits are ideal for iftar and suhoor gatherings

DUBAI: This Ramadan, Huda Al-Nuaimi, the designer behind the eponymous Emirati contemporary label, has launched a holiday/Ramadan edit, and “summer” is clearly the theme of the day.

Featuring a complimentary color palette of fire engine red, seafoam white and cobalt blue — not to mention the stunning backdrop of the sea in the collection’s look book photographs — the Holiday Collection is all about how rising summer temperatures call “for print and texture to warm up your wardrobe.”

The label notes that the capsule collection focuses on “paisley prints in playful shapes, with bell or flounce sleeves (and) Chikan embroidery (a traditional embroidery style from Lucknow, India) with accentuated shoulders and button details.”

The dresses and abayas are gorgeous. We’re huge fans of the nautical striped dress, which the designer advises to wear with trainers during the day or heels in the evening. We’re also loving the hand-beaded, striped linen abaya-overcoat style outfit, complete with 1990s rendition earrings.
As with any of her collections, women should not be afraid to accessorize.

“I truly believe accessories make an outfit,” Al-Nuaimi — who studied at the London College of Fashion — told Emirates Woman magazine. “It is the piece that takes a look from simple to fun, from day to evening, or from casual to polished. It’s key to get the right balance and know how and when to accessorize.”

Almost every piece in the collection works as a wardrobe staple and can be re-worn again and again, so whatever you decide to invest in will probably come in handy for the rest of the summer season. The blue-and-white printed kaftan and drop shoulder red-and white dress are both particularly handy, even beyond Ramadan. Both flowy, loose dresses are slightly fitted at the waist, boast V-shaped necklines and feature hemlines that end just above the ankle, making them perfect for summer travels and evening iftar gatherings.

Al-Nuaimi is one of the few UAE-born brands to impress international buyers so much that it secured a partnership with a global e-retailer MatchesFashion.com, after the website’s co-founder complimented the designer on her handbag.

She recalls the incident in a conversation with Vogue Arabia, saying: “I was at a MatchesFashion.com event where I met (co-founder) Ruth Chapman, who told me, ‘I love your bag.’ It was my own design and featured embellished pins. She gave me her business card. I gave her a call and she told me that she really liked the concept. That’s when I thought to myself, ‘How can I get them to her?’”
Securing a spot on one if the world’s leading e-retail websites isn’t bad for a brand that was established in 2016.