Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia – A Review

Our friend and model Vlad Turanskiy went for us to Russia Fashion Week a few days ago. For KALTBLUT he did some interviews with some designers. Directly from the catwalk he went backstage to cover MBFWR for you! A Review: “Russkaya Moda” – sounds authentic, but what is it like today? Trashy dead business or outstanding ambassador designs? And how MBFWR survives (does it?) in current tough and hard political situation?

Vlad backstage at Tsezar

Vlad backstage at Tsezar

All this I tried to think over, attending this season’s shows in Moscow and then tuck my visions in this small and totally subjective research. Of course we can’t underestimate the help of my beloved Marlen Stahlthuth and her intern Lola Bernstein, so if you are more into style and trends rather then philosophy visit and find latest news from Russian Fashion Week SS15 right there.

Whole world is talking about Russia’s policies with Ukraine and plenty other stuff but it is less known that there’s also fashion exists in this country. I not gonna talk a lot about The Kremlin’s affaires and mysteries, moreover some could ask how the hell government affect fashion, and I will say – directly. Remember the history. In most tough environment the greatest minds always arise. Like the revolution is needed for progress, sometimes restrictions are required for something big to born. For this article I picked those greatest minds and broke right into their thoughts, hearts and backstages to find out how they see today’s Russian Fashion and what Russkaya Moda will look like in nearest future.

Vlad backstage at Tsezar

Vlad backstage at Tsezar

As every Fashion Week has kind of shitty days (except Paris, Milan, and NY probably) when nothing worth seeing is going on, then Russian MBFW has more than a half of it, where huge money of mistalented fancy housewives are spent by their husbands to make dreams of their loved ones of making clothes become true. Let’s just miss their shows and turn our eyes on the most iconic Russian designers, who probably make the future of fashion now.

Leonid Alexeev

The one and only (at least most famous) Russian men’s clothes designer, was born in St. Petersburg, what to my mind affected his strict, but dreamy designs. Like no other in this country he graduated Central St. Martin’s in London and then had practice in Instituto Eropeo di Design, what apparently affected his designs as well. He used to present his collections annually, but quit MBFW in 2013. What happened? The answer is simple as always. I have accidently met Leonid during last FW in the subway, where asked couple of questions.

leonid alexeev 2Vlad: What are you up to right now?

Leonid Alexeev: Making designs for the army… Yeah, it’s just tiring being in lack of money all the time. Russian Fashion as a Big Social Fun (and not more) doesn’t allow you to earn money actually. You make the shows, spend thousands on it, but then you barely can sell the clothes, even the perfect one. This business is not developed enough here and I don’t know when it will be.

Vlad: Will you attend any shows this season?

LA: Yes. Just the PIROSMANI one. I don’t think any others are worth watching.

Vlad: What do you think of the future of Russian Fashion, do you see any promising talents on the scene?

LA: I am sure it is possible to become a designer, without special education, which is much harder though. I don’t know who is worthy now, I know that I like 1st class design, which is hard to meet not only in Russia, but in the whole world. Just few brands can boast of this. I think people started to percept fashion differently.A lot of designers used to say that style is more important than fashion, so eventually that happened. Not as if fashion is dead, but people just changed its recipes.

Well, Leonid thinks so, and so do I, but for now let’s enjoy his greatest looks from his past seasons.

PIROSMANI by Jenya Malygina.

Another representative of Petersburg intelligence is Jenya Malygina. Her striking duo with her daughter Dasha (who’s one of the best known models in Moscow and walked for Prada, Dior and Saint Laurent back at a time) hits the runway every season. Jenya’s designs are not really common for RFW, and every year she creates something really exciting. I met her at a backstage after PIROSMANI show and shared my impressions with the designer.

jenya malygina interview

Vlad: How long do you do designing and why did you decide this is your thing?

Jenya Malygina: The brand celebrates 15 years already, and how do I starded… by chance.

pirosmani ss 15_3V: The main inspirer is your daughter, where else you get your colors, moods and ideas?

JM: In philosophy

V: Many art related people from St. Petersburg, like your friend Leonid Alexeev, have moved to Moscow. Why don’t you do the same thing?

JM: I’m everywhere.

V: Do you think fashion is dead in Russia?

JM: Are you kidding me? No! Everything is cool here.

V: How does it feel to make a fashion business here?

JM: Business? This is not business, this is art.

V: Does political issues affect fashion?

JM: Politics… fashion… I don’t know. No.

V: How do you see MBFWR in 5 years. Will new talents arise and changes take place or everything will fade away?

JM: Definitely the progress, definitely new talents. Young professionals strike the scene so in 5 years it will be enchanting. Like 5 years ago it was not that interesting as now, so apparently it will be even more interesting in 5 years.

V: You said politics doesn’t affect fashion, so why do you think BESSARION quit?

JM: Hmm… Well…Like I know, but not gonna reveal everything… but this is not politics. Just a small break.

V: What are your collections all about? Do you have any idea that you tru to broadcast?

JM: The idea is as any sensual experience can be transformed into artistic base. The story is as I take any sensual moment, like love, beauty or fear… this is what I actually do from season to season. I take this sensual state and transform it into material world with my artistic techniques.

Pretty different view by Jenya Malygina. Well, hopefully she is right and MBFWR will be even more glamour in 5 years then now, but yet let’s enjoy amazing looks from PIROSMANI last collection “Eclipse”


bessarionBorn at the end of hot summer of 1978 in Tbilisi, Bessarion (who was named after famous Georgian poet Bessarion Gabashvili) has a very unique and outstanding view on fashion. Being 10 years old he enrolled an art school named after Nico Pirosmani, the best school in town, so his career starts. The turning point could be 1997, when Bessarion got first prize at International Avant-garde Fashion Competition, and English artist Andrew Logan invites young designer to set up the exhibition in London.

He moved to Moscow in 1999 and since then gained deserved attention to his collections. Mostly dark and tough his clothes inspired thousands of young artists here in Russia and Bessarion nearly has become an ambassador of Russian fashion, but in 2013 he disappeared, showing most of his collections in Kyiv (according to his Facebook page). As his close friend Jenya says this is not about politics, well we all hope that. Let’s take a look at his last dramatic collection in Moscow and hopefully we’ll see him soon.

075 by Julia Tsezar

julia tsezarRussian Fashion is controversial as we see. Since we talk about its future, the most valuable opinion could be by a young talent. Well, there is one – 075 by Julia Tsezar. I know Julia for a year now and took part at the show, so fortunately I had enough time to ask her about our country, her style, intentions and dreams.

Vlad: How did you began your career?

Julia Tsezar: I’ve graduated 2 years ago. At first I took part in different competitions, like “Russian Silhouette” and everything, and then last season I was invited to CONTRFASHION (the show takes place within MBFW and the idea is showing alternative avant-garde designs)

V: What pushed you to become a designer?

JT: You know how was it? I quit the university actually… I could become a diplomat. I felt like it’s not only me in the wrong place, but also that I take someone else’s place, who could become a great diplomat. So I came up to university officials and said I couldn’t handle it anymore. And it was 4th grade. I quit in the middle of everything, can you imagine? Then I didn’t have thoughts at all, I’ve been floating around and suddenly the idea aroused. I took a look at the requirements to Patron (as she calls her professor Slava Zaitsev, an iconic Soviet designer and the founder of his own Fashion House), and there was the book and sewed item and everything, but I had zero. I used to draw last time at 10 years old attending drawing workshop, so I thought that I would take a gap year to prepare myself, but my friends told me that there was nothing to loose. Really. So I just came there and said – “Vyacheslav Mikhailovich, I know nothing, but I want it to death.” And he took me.

V: So it was a spontaneous decision…

JT: Totally. I got there. He gave me this opportunity. Very cool! He said like –  “Tomorrow is your first day.” And I came. There were girls, some of those graduated Moscow State University of Design and Technology, and I was like nothing. So it was a hell year, very tough.  I had to study everything from the beginning.

V: Question that annoys most designers – what is your inspiration?

JT: I don’t have anything, like others – “… I was inspired by fallen leaves…” Every season some story forms in my head, which we try to tell with clothes, video and stuff. Not always it comes to others minds. You know how it happens here… We think of something, people thing of anything…

V: Tell a little about the stories of 2 previous shows, that happened during CONTRFASHION, and the story of your personal coming up show.

JT: The first story was like a shout out, like my first time. The collection was called “We Want War” and it is connected to the war as obviously seen. But the war, like not that with killing people, but kind of a protest. Then this amazing story with Dr. Martens happened. It was unbelievably cool that I texted strangers from London who never saw me and they said – “Yes. We gonna support you!” It was 100% wow effect! So they’ve sent 20 pairs of shoes here to Moscow, and I used them in the show.

The next story was white, and was about the “vague state”, when you don’t understand where is real reality and where is alternative reality. We all live in social media and it is very difficult to define where your real life is. In religion it is known as Limbo. You are just in a white space, with no food and no senses.

V: The cyber theme was traced there.

JT: Yes, you are freezing in nowhere.

V: What is going to happen this time?

JT: This time we began with shooting a movie. We had an idea of making a fashion-horror. But we instantly realized that fake intestine costs $300 we understood that the idea is technically hard to be done. Afterall we shifted to the idea of 5 parts at the end of each the main characted dies, but more abstractedly (without expensive gadgets). He dies for art. Actually we have completed the 1st part, but later on we haven’t had found the theater (wich was required for further scenes), and somehow it got out of control, so we gave up with that movie idea. But this is where the idea of red originates. The core is – our life has its end. We all will die. Everybody understands that. For instance if you come to the hospital and the doctor tells you got fatal “superdisease” you are like “oh no! I will die shortly!” and start to fuss. But the deal is you will die anyway, but everybody sits and do nothing with their lives, so the idea is, that it doesn’t matter when. You may die today, tomorrow or after being diagnosted. You have to move forward, and you have to do what you want to do.

V: The death as an engine of progress, right?

JT: Absolutely

V: All of your collections are wired to protest or trash. Could you say that Russian Fashion is a trash?

JT: Hmm, you mean trash as something good?

tsezar ss 14 back (kira daliah)V: No, I mean it from the bad sight. Like I get it as your collections are contrasted to all that what is going on the runway (and in life) in Russian environment.

JT: You know what the problem is? This is actually the problem of our country. Everything could be solved with money. If you have money you can do anything you want to. You have your shows, sceneries; you can invite anyone to the show. But not commonly if you have money, you got enough intelligence to employ somebody to design your brand, so you could just work your face. So usually it happens that you have money, but not enough talent, but money are so big, that it seems that talent bursts out of you. Young and really talented are cool, but don’t have money and nobody supports them. The only solution is to associate with other designers, which is complicated. So yes, all in all this is total trash in Russia. Saying trash I mean complete outrage. Everything works by communications. If you don’t have friends in the business then goodbye. The thing is to get acquainted with right people you have to be the same as them.

V: There is an opinion, that all great minds are born in the environment of restrictions. Can you say that policies of our country (apparently restrictive) affect fashion anyhow?

JT: In this case I think it don’t. Look, we virtually have a King-father who just doesn’t give a damn. Everything works as he commanded. You can attend meetings, you may not. I went to meetings couple of times, but what good? And I went there not to claim that I did, but because I really think that some actions are wrong. In the end it goes how he decides. Fashion and government are two totally separate areas. We hardly know each other. By the way, when we have counted the budget of the collection and realized it was over $10 000, considering that everything is “free”. My friends agreed to walk for free, and then we’ve found the partner with the yarn, so I made my sweaters. This is free and that is free, but $10 000 anyway. So we started to write letters of sponsorship to all political parties we remember. And anyone who says how they support youth, never answered. Especially that they have special e-mail addresses for such requests. They could at least reply – “Thank you, we are not currently interested.” Nothing. They just ignored us.

V: Yes, especially that this is not big money for them.

JT: Exactly. This is nothing. They spend billions and don’t have $10 000 for us. If I had more money I could do more looks, buy more expensive fabrics. I had to ask everybody for the discount, explaining that I buy it for the show. Like sell this for me not for $10 but for $7,5 for meter. What the f**k?! How does it sound like? I’ve been to Marangoni last summer. Their graduates get fabrics for free. They make prints on it, supporting youth, art and creation. Here you do everything by youself. No money – kiss goodbye.

tsezar fw 14-15

V: Do you think fashion has its future in Russia? If so, how this future looks like, and the main question – would you like to develop your brand here?

JT: Listen, I definitely would like to develop myself here, but it seems that my country doesn’t want this. I face the reality here every day. Like one of the fanciest store in town says that I’m cool and thy would love to sell me and pick 20 looks (so it’s more than 40 items) and I have to make it today, then give them tomorrow, and when it is sold I probably will get something from this. But if it is not sold I have to work for nothing? I don’t mind, I just don’t have extra money. Then I have to decide either to sell among friends and get small profit, or to give it to the retailer and get nothing. Either, or.

V: Tell me please a bit of your plans.

JT: We are going to visit most of European design festivals, while The King-father allows us to travel. Try to show my collections there and see what happens. Because trying it here… what’s the point? I don’t have money to make my own show next year. Moreover it’s tough with advertising here. My friends asked TV channels to cover my show and they were like – “Will you give your clothes as a gift to us?” And I was like – “No.” Why should I give my clothes, which is done with love, nerves and passion to people who do literally nothing for me? And all in all… (Here Julia makes the gesture with her hands, pretending she’s a plane. Which means it’s time to fly away).

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week takes place twice a year in most countries, and in every of each it is different. Russian one has its distinctive features, and I tried to find out what designers think of it. Those are their opinions, and what is yours?

Text and interviews by Vlad Turanskiy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

one × 4 =