Oct 6, 2009
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Russia's appetite for fashion re-emerges in Paris

Oct 6, 2009

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Russian fashionistas, lapping up the designs at Paris fashion week, are hopeful the world's fourth largest luxury buyer is regaining ground with recovery seen at home after taking a hard hit from the financial crisis.

From models to designers to buyers, the mood is optimistic among the Russian fashion pack, who have descended on the French capital for one of the most glamorous weeks of the year -- when designers show off their creations on the catwalk.

"People are no longer thinking that everything is bad ... People want new ideas, new fashion, new money, everything new -- everything good and positive," said Daniil Gorbachenko, creative director of Moscow's prestigious department store Tsum.

There is "more buying," he told Reuters.

Russia's passion for fashion -- from home-grown designers to its hunger for luxury abroad -- took a severe hit as the financial crisis took its toll, forcing sales to plummet and boutiques to board up their windows.

Stores for designers Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney closed down less than 18 months after their openings in Moscow. The glitzy Russian capital, known for its love of excess, buys more than 80 percent of Russia's designer goods.

Analysts predicted this year's profits would be slashed by around a third in Russia's luxury clothes and accessories industry, estimated between $4.5 billion and $9 billion.

"I think Russians still want their luxury and women with their love of fashion sustain that," said one Russian buyer, who only gave her first name Katya. Like others buyers filling the front rows, she declined to talk about sales.

"Things are bad all around the world but there now good signs in Russia, there is an appetite," she added.

Her optimism was echoed by upcoming designer Alena Akhmadullina, who showed off her spring/summer 2010 collection on Tuesday 6 October.

"People did not want to buy before because they did not know what would happen, now it's okay and it seems the sales are okay since autumn," she said via a translator.

Inspired by fairytales and dance, Akhmadullina, whose main market is Russia, presented jumpsuits in fine wool, high-waisted shorts, frilled tops and dresses, worn with cork wedges.

Russian model Natalia Vodianova, who modeled at Stella McCartney's Paris show, said Russian women's affinity for sleek tailoring was boosting her country's demand for luxury.

"Women in Russia love to dress up," she said at a presentation of an underwear line she had designed for high street chain Etam.

Last month as part of Vogue's fashion night, international designers including France's Roland Mouret jetted into Moscow, confident that the Russian capital had got back its groove.

In a sign of recovery, Tsum recently launched an entire floor dedicated to Russian designers, similar to London's Harvey Nichols which has sections for British labels.

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