Russian design takes Europe's catwalks by storm

The invasion from the east is latest front for the nation's booming £30bn fashion industry

Paul Bignell
Monday 23 July 2012 01:14 BST

It's the style that came in from the cold. After years of slumbering in the couture stakes, Russia is marching on the catwalks of the world with a vanguard of young designers, stylists, journalists, bloggers and models. The nation whose previous contribution to the life à la mode was the Red Army greatcoat is finally creating a buzz in fashion circles.

A recent show by Russia's leading designer, the former model Ulyana Sergeenko, was a sell-out in Paris. Mrs Sergeenko, 32, who has been named Russian trendsetter of the year, is the most high-profile figure of the fashion pack.

Analysts say the new wave is a direct consequence of the end of communism, which allowed big fashion labels such as Versace and Dolce & Gabbana to establish a foothold in Moscow.

"There was 70 years of nothing at all in our country, and then, when people got huge money from oil, there was huge interest in fashion," the fashion writer Miroslava Duma said.

As the market grew and tastes developed, so Russian designers became bolder in their ideas. "We were a closed country for a long time, so for a while it was like a kid going into a candy shop," Anya Ziourova, the fashion director of Tatler Russia, told The New York Times recently. "We wanted all of it at once. It is only now, in the past five years, that taste has been evolving into something more sophisticated, something that might attract people beyond Russia."

Interest in Russian style will get a boost this autumn with the release of a new film of Anna Karenina starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law.

Fashion analysts say the new wave will also benefit from the fact the home market is growing as disposable income increases rapidly, especially among the Russian middle classes. The country's fashion industry is expected to turn over £30bn this year, which would put annual growth at around 10 per cent. One of the country's most successful firms is the Melon Fashion Group from St Petersburg. With a modest 13 shops in 2002, it now has 552 outlets in more than 90 cities.

Names to watch in the new fashion superpower

The Designer: Ulyana Sergeenko, 32

The wife of a Russian insurance billionaire who started her own Moscow-based fashion label. Her haute couture debut in Paris earlier this month was the talk of the fashion world.

The Model: Irina Shayk, 26

The girlfriend of the Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and currently the country's most famous model. Shayk, whose father died when she was just 14, came from humble beginnings but now works for brands such as Armani, Guess, Lacoste and Missoni.

The Stylist: Anya Ziourova

Owing to the dearth of Russian role models Ziourova was first inspired by images in Italian Vogue and began her career as a fashion assistant for American Vogue. Has worked with the likes of Monica Bellucci, Katy Perry and Eva Herzigova.

The Fashion Journalist: Miroslava Duma, 26

The daughter of a Russian senator, Vasily Duma, and the former editor of Harper's Bazaar Russia, Duma has become the founder and editor of the influential digital fashion news trend journal Buro 24/7. The site already has 12,000 visitors per day, and an English version is in the pipeline.

The Publication: Russian Vogue

Launched during an economic crisis in 1998, Vogue has become Russia's leading fashion magazine, with a circulation of more than 150,000. Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer are among the names that have graced its cover. In a recent cover shoot the Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine posed naked with his then-girlfriend, the Russian model Anne Vyalitsyna.

The Fashion House: CEO Mikhail Urzhumtsev, 42

Melon Fashion Group is one of Russia's most successful fashion retailers with more than 3,000 employees and a network of more than 550 shops. Its sales have increased by 521 per cent since 2006. The company traces its history back to 1926 when a sewing school for girls was converted into a manufacturer of women's clothing.

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