Not only literature, arts and music but styles of clothing and accessories reflect nation's culture and periods of history. When the woman declared gender equality trousers became a part of female wardrobe. When she recalled her feminity, her skirts became shorter.
Russian fashion history dates back to the time when Peter I introduced European style clothes and conducted some radical domestic reforms. The Russian traditional style however revived after his death, but dress-making salons and studios that made European- style clothes were already functioning. Right up to the 19th century traditional Russua elements in clothes dominated.
Russian girls are generally very attractive, very possesive, emotional and open. Even though Soviet fashion houses produced mass collections of apparel approved by endless committees to meet standards and quality, Russian women sought the possibility to follow modern trends. Russian actresses, singers, and dancers managed to impress the audience at concerts and even international film festivals with exquisite designer clothes.
The first star of the Soviet cinema Lyubov Orlova had the biggest clothes collection in the USSR. Those days a designer dress seen on the movie star was a sensation millions of Russian women tried to copy. Western trends and styles came from TV (also censored) and fashion magazines someone brought from aboard. Despite the unification there were lots of beautifully dressed women – many of them sewed the clothes on their own.
It is now interesting to observe how the fashion in Russia changed from the beginning of the 20th century till today.
Russian women came to the 20th century dressed in elegant hats, tight fit fur trimmed jackets and a fur muff. In 1930th the country had to be rebuilt from ashes of the Civil War. Russian women bore the burden of intensive socialist construction along with men wearing male-like shirts, pullovers and ties.
The victory Day of 1945 Russian men celebrated in before-the-war double-breasted suits and wide-leg pants. Modern perms and raglan sleeves earned great popularity among Russian women those days. In 1950th a plisse skirt and a gold bracelet watch was a must have for a young, stylish woman in the USSR. Man’s fashion trends of that time were turnover shirt collars and wide pants with cuffs. Miniskirts began its fashion history in 1960th and had gradually become shorter and shorter by 1970th. In the middle of 1970th jeans and body shirts flooded the USSR.
In the beginning of 1980th platform-sole shoes, huge sunglasses and safari-style dress worn on a polo-neck or roll-neck sweater was a verge of woman’s elegance. These trends were replaced by banana pants and colorful plastic jewelry close to the middle of 1980th. Stripes and dots pattern dressups were on the top of modern looks in the beginning of 1990th. Stone washed denim skirts and jeans became the cult in middle 1990th . At the turn of the 21th century Russia became aware of Goth subculture and their clothing styles. Modern looks combine all possible trends, styles and items that do not typically go together like high boots and tank tops.
Modern Russian fashion market is in tune with global economic process and catches up with world market. 2009 economic crisis stopped the development of Russian clothes retail market only temporarily. Today the experts of Textiles Intelligence predict its steady annual growth.
So far Russian clothing retail market is being spurred by foreign brands investments. Such world's largest apparel retailers – like C&A Europe, Fast Retailing, Gap, H&M (Hennes & Mauritz), Inditex and Next are dominating in Russia. The largest share of the market is women’s clothes and sportswear. Children’s clothing sector is promising as well.
While foreign companies are expanding into Russia either through franchise agreements or, independently, Russian government is making the attempts to strengthen domestic producers and increase their competitiveness relative to imports and foreign brands. The Strategy for Development of Light Industry of Russia until 2020 has been formed to implement this aim.
SEO of Fashion Consulting Group Anna Lebsak-Kleimans comments on the modern Russian fashion market. “It is it is Europe that dictates fashion, whereas Russia is by far not a trend-setter. While the USA gained the appreciation of the domestic market, Russia has not done it so far. Thus Russian brands have to dump to win the market”, Anna says.
So what are problems Russian fashion designers have to cope with when entering Russian fashion market? Finding a right fabric is challenging as the choice is more limited in Russia that in other fashion capitals like London. Besides, ordering and delivering materials to Russia can be pricy due to high import duties. The retail distribution issue is a problem as well. First there are retail chains such as Zara, Gap and other mostly Western brands, second is a private small Russian boutiques shops, most of which take just small orders for sale. Even though there are lots of shopping centers in Moscow and other Russian cities most lower middle class Russians go to the market to shop for clothing. So a starting designer has a problem to sell his collection. Online stores are not as developed in Russia as in the West as fewer people are ready to pay online. Trust is the issue here.
Another thing is that 'a signature Russian style' is still a very vague definition. Fashion education in Russia is difficult to find. Marketing is pricy. Vika Gazinskaya, a much celebrated young designer, says: “A fashion designer in Russia often does everything himself: management, sales, PR. Lack of resources – financial and human – results in developments far from ideal... And the consumers in Russia do not help either, as they still prefer Western brands.”
A famous a Russian fashion designer Vyacheslav Zaitsev complains that fashion in Russia is not in high demand either like modern art or consumption, even though it has a potential. He says that the State is not interested in fashion business and does not support young talented designers. “No steps to make this sector stable and attractive to investors are made”, adds a designer Igor Chapurin.
However the new generation of Russian designers becomes more known to the global fashion community. Shows and fashion weeks taking place several times a year are the major market platforms for the Russian designers. The major events include: Russian Fashion Week and Volvo Fashion Week Moscow, Aurora fashion week and Defile Na Neve fashion week in Saint-Petersburg. As for Ukrainian fashion, Ukrainian fashion week and Mersedex-Benz Fashion week in Kiev are most popular.
Among Russian fashion designers, Zaitsev and Yudashkin are the most well-known. They started the career long ago and enjoyed their celebrity status dressing Kremlin wives. Here are some young designers that have talent and potential: Katia Mossina, known for her limited edition high-quality collections, made of playful styles; Russian haute couture jewelry designer Alexey Gabilo; Sultanna Frantsuzova, who is known not only in Russia but abroad; Igor Guliaev; Igor Chapurin - his signature style is sequined/metallic fabrics– makes him favorite among Russian celebs; Tasha Strogaya; Kira Plastinina - a name and a brand; Alena Akhmadullina, Vika Gazinskaya; Alexander Terekhov; Dasha Gauser, whose top accents are feminity and intellectual sexuality, and others.
Ukrainian designer Christina Bobkova is selling both in Ukraine and the USA. Ukrainian artist Peter Aksenov debuted n 2011 with his jewelry line Axenoff Jewellery; Svetlana Bevza; Andre Tan; Lilia Pustovit, a president of Ukrainian Fashion Syndicate and one of most successful Ukrainian designers; Viktoria Gres; Lilia Litkovskaya, Ksenia Marchenko and others are the names from Ukraine.
Just a few words on Russian shopping habits that do affect the fashion market. The experts admit that Russian shopper’s spending habits are changing as well. The shift from there is no tomorrow” attitude to more moderate spending is obvious. High-end fashion is still attractive to the customer, but forming middle class is the biggest purchasing power and they think twice before spending money on clothes.
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