This year sees the staggering 50th anniversary of James Bond and the release of the 23rd film in the 007 franchise, Skyfall. More often than not, Bond films are sites reserved for gadgets, vodka martinis (shaken not stirred), dastardly villains and the inevitability of Bond getting into the knickers of one or more gorgeous girl who looks predictably fabulous in a bikini. As a result of perpetuated Cold War enmities, the former Soviet Union has been an ideal location for Ian Fleming and Bond’s script writers to give us fictional villains and dramatic contestations over oil and diamonds.
Now that we have reached the twenty first century, with the hope that most tensions and Bond-stereotypes can be put aside (despite the recent controversy surrounding the Syria crisis and Pussy Riot), it’s only right for us to acknowledge Russia’s contemporary cultural and artistic importance. After all this is the country that being in the grip of historical and political turbulence has produced literary and artistic giants: Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Pushkin, Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Peter Carl Fabergé to name a few. There is no better place to start acknowledging Russia’s increasing relevance than in the emerging Russian fashion industry.
The Spring/Summer collections for 2012 at Moscow Fashion Week will be showing from the 18th-22nd of October. Whilst men have dominated the Russian art, music and literature scenes in times gone by, it is incredibly refreshing to see in the list of designers confirmed at Moscow that the number of women exhibiting outweighs the number of men. Not many of these Russian names are instantly recognisable; in fact the only people I could pick out were Louise Gray, Marios Schwab and Giles Deacon, all well-established Brits who have decided to present their work to the Russian market this month. However, I am un-phased by this lack of familiarity. With exciting and exotic brand names like ‘Olga Kiss’, ‘VIVA VOX’ and ‘Chistovaendourova’, who knows what we’ll be treated to?
As it turns out, Moscow is a burning example of style existing and thriving beyond New York, Paris, London and Milan. Deacon says: “We sell well in the whole of Eastern Europe, there are some really sophisticated ladies there.” Having a flick through the designers’ look books and show montages from fashion weeks past, you can see the kind of woman Moscow attracts. The collections are a celebration of femininity, that are simple but not to the bare extent of minimalism. Designers like Liudumila Norsoyan and Bessarion rely on gentle layering that is elegant and not too heavy handed but, I’m sure, practical enough for the freezing cold temperatures that Russians are accustomed to.
Surprising perhaps, is the consistent use of more traditional make up by nearly all of the designers: lips and eyes are accentuated, combined with glossy hair and sophisticated up-dos. There is something almost old-school and classic in the beauty choices for women, and it instantly makes the shows more accessible and less of a challenge to take from the catwalk to everyday life. The shows are, dare I say, less self- indulgent than the big four, they are not trying to prove an artistic point. They truly know how to make a woman look good.
What is also great about Moscow fashion week is that it is a melting pot which consists not only of relatively unknown Russian talent. Eastern European designers hailing from Poland and former Soviet states Belarus and Georgia also come to the city to show their work. Moscow is important for the countries neighbouring it because as a nearby G20 capital, its markets have an increasingly global potential that can never be undervalued. Other nationalities include Farah Khan from Malaysia and Sitka Semesch from Peru who both produce gorgeous collections on the catwalk that do not get nearly enough exposure outside of Russia. All of these designers have delightfully beautiful work to exhibit, with the same aesthetic at their core: with simplicity and elegance comes a great amount of appeal and desirability.
Moscow is inclusive of a range of talent from all over the world. This transnational feel to the whole occasion is exciting, and gives the city a youthful vibe. Somehow, Moscow has more to offer than the big four: it is less set in its ways, less predictable, less old fashioned.