Russian Fashion Weeks Hobbled by Overlap

It wasn't the classiest beginning to Moscow's two fashion weeks.

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Yulia Kalmanovich

Photo By WWD Staff

MOSCOW — It wasn't the classiest beginning to Moscow's two fashion weeks.

In the fortnight's highest-profile show, by veteran designer Valentin Yudashkin, models had sashayed down the catwalk in Czarist-inspired outfits before an audience of Russian glitterati, including the city's all-powerful mayor, Yury Luzhkov.

But before Yudashkin took a bow, spotlights suddenly illuminated curtains behind the stage. The drapes lifted to reveal an SUV, which an announcer said was a new type by the automaker sponsoring the show. The car was driven onto the catwalk and models draped themselves around it.

Such displays of questionable taste are perhaps one reason why first fashion week in Moscow, and then Russian Fashion Week, which ended Sunday, attracted little attention outside Russia. There were talented designers aplenty, including rising stars Igor Chapurin and Alena Akhmadullina, but foreign buyers and journalists were a rare sight. There were more, though not many, Russian buyers: Few major stores stock homegrown labels.

Foreign luxury brands are enjoying rapid growth in Russia and other emerging markets. Firms from Samsonite to Salvatore Ferragamo touted Russia as a key location at a luxury conference here in November.

Local designers, however, are playing catch-up. Confusion reigns about the two competing fashion weeks (a third event, which lasted three days, also took place). And many young Russian designers are starved for investment, and can only produce one or two copies of each item due to production constraints. What's more, they're lumbered by Russian fashion's reputation as either over-the-top or dreary, as well as by affection among the elite for foreign labels.

It's not surprising, then, that one of Russia's most successful young designers chooses to stay away completely.

"The best way to show the collection is to show it in Milan," Vadim Chernyshov, spokesman for Denis Simachev, told WWD after Yudashkin's show. "Moscow is a bad way to show."

Formerly, there were four main fashion weeks in Russia; the two that remain are keen competitors. Fashion Week in Moscow officials are dismissive of their rival event. Meanwhile, Alexander Shumsky, head of Russian Fashion Week, sniffs that the other gathering is "a low-profile trade fair." Hobbling both fashion weeks, attendees whispered, were their workaday settings. Fashion Week in Moscow was held in an exhibition complex. Russian Fashion Week took place in conference rooms at the World Trade Center.
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