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Mar 27, 2012
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Russian catwalk a gloomy affair for autumn/winter

Mar 27, 2012

Julia Nikolaeva Autumn/Winter 2012 collection / Photo: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia
MOSCOW - Moscow trendsetters look set for a gloomy and conservative autumn/winter 2012/13 season if Russian Fashion Week has been any judge of the trends for menswear and womenswear.

Models without jewellery, in pale make-up and with simple hair styles strode the runway last week in long dark skirts and dresses, swathed in thick gray sweaters and coats at catwalk shows for some of Russia's best-known designers.

Designers said the drab colors and austere collections of Fashion Week -- which ended on Sunday -- reflected the mood of a Russian society that has had a winter of discontent, filled with mass demonstrations in the run-up to and after presidential elections won by Vladimir Putin.

The demonstrations, which began after the December 4 parliamentary election and went on until after the March 4 presidential vote, even led Russian "it" girl, Kseniya Sobchak to exchange her usually loud and extravagant outfits for subdued grey, black and white uniforms.

Designer Julia Nikolaeva presented a "homeless" line, with models, dressed in classic dark blue and black jumpers, classic brown trousers or long skirts, clambering out from underneath newspapers and boxes thrown around a runway covered with artificial snow.

Debut designer Maroussia Zaytseva presented a minimalist 1960s dress in cold colours worn by models with wet hair and white eye-brows. Her show was based on a story about a plane's emergency landing, and the models played the survivors emerging from the freezing water as zombies.

"I created the sketches around the time when planes were falling here, ships were sinking, and everything was so awful," the short-haired 17-year-old Zaytseva, dressed in a long black skirt and a black T-shirt under a leather jacket she pulled off one of her models, told journalists after her show.

"At those moments you start realizing that everything is very fragile. But in my story, everyone survived, because I think there has to be hope."

Last summer, a Russian ship named the Bulgaria sank in the Volga River, killing more than 100 people. Two planes crashed around the same time -- one killing more than 40 people in Petrozavodsk in northwest Russia in June, and another killing the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team at the airport near Yaroslavl in western Russia in September.


Even the most extravagant Russian style guru, Slava Zaytsev, Maroussia's grandfather, who celebrated 50 years in fashion last week, chose to switch from his signature bright fluffy dresses, often ornamented in traditional Russian style, to gray business suits and simple silk or velvet evening dresses for women and checked cashmere suits for men this year.

"Classics are always good taste, they are always comfortable, always suitable," Zaytsev said about his collection, inspired by Paul Poiret, the French designer credited with freeing women from corsets at the beginning of the last century.

He called his collection "super-modern, clear, viable, classical, with many prêt-a-porter costumes," which he said he made mostly at the request of his customers.

"I'm not interested in surprising anyone anymore after 50 years in fashion, I just want to make good quality clothes," he said, leaving innovation up to his successors - his son Yegor Zaytsev, granddaughter Maroussia, as well as the many students featured during Fashion Week.

The themes of protector and warrior -- a strong man -- ruled the menswear collections, in an effort to appeal more to the tastes of local men than the wider world.

Leonid Alexeyev gave the one show dedicated entirely to menswear, offering a seven-minute run of tidy looks with black-and-white suits -- many in glossy leather -- topped off with jaunty gray sports hats.

"We (Russian designers of menswear) are slowly opening up the secret of a Russian man's soul - the heavy, complicated soul, but at the same time a vmerery interesting one," Alexeyev told Reuters.

Although the runway trends contradicted street style in Moscow, where more men are out in tight trousers, scarves, colourful sunglasses and refined leather bags, conservatism will inevitably take over the men's world, Alexeyev said.

"Brutality is in demand with local men," he said. "They like to be harsh, they don't like to seem fashionable."

Editing by Lidia Kelly and Paul Casciato

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