All design brands have had their eye on Russia in recent years. The country has a fashion-savvy young population, world-renowned fashion bloggers and people who make big investments in fashion, and this is changing the country's image of being dowdy when it comes to fashion. Contrary to what it may seem based on the laleli market of İstanbul -- famous for catering to Russian tourists -- Russian fashion is getting simpler.
Turkey's business ties with Russia have been strong since the day the Turkish textile industry saw Russia as an export market. Perceptions about Russian fashion have developed in connection with the Laleli market. But there has been a different trend at work in recent years. Because of this, Russia may not look like what we see in Laleli. If we take the Laleli market as our only example, Russian fashion is characterized by exaggeration (even in regular wear), the use of plenty of jewelry, a lumpen air and an ostentation tantamount to dowdiness. However, in Russia, a fashion trend is taking place that features extra refinement, fine crafting of ethnic details and ideas from young designers. Encounters with the collections of designers such as Alena Akhmadulina, Timur Kimi and Bessarion Gabashvili during Russian Fashion Week is proof of different movements in the country.
From Russian novels to Russian fashion
Russian fashion is becoming minimalist and its most salient characteristic is the use of folkloric details. Many Russian designers, including Ulyana Sergeenko and Asiya Bareeva, incorporate in their collections details from the style of dress from the Tsarist period in Russia, when the country's literature was at its peak. This produces an innocence that can be found in the novels, with long skirts, specially woven fabrics, painted fabrics and, of course, brooches, bags, gems and jewelry that are reminiscent of Russian culture of the time. Russian fashion is here for the Anna Kareninas of the modern world.
Influences of British style
Russia's young designers in their 20s are trained at fashion houses like Yves Saint Laurent and Givenchy before returning to their homeland to establish their own brand names. Many of these designers successfully graduated from Britain's famous fashion school, Central Saint Martins. Following their education, they bring their ideas to spaces like the London Fashion Week. Britain's principally minimalist style is saliently visible in the products of the young designers who are educated here. These designers are also familiar with the interdisciplinary fashion mentality of Saint Martins. Thus, their collections make use of many resources including art, philosophy and music, and their promotional shots prove to be quite extraordinary.
Hand workmanship makes accessories unique
One of the distinguishing characteristics of the designers who set the course for new Russian fashion is the use of original accessories, particularly tiny scarves. Ulyana Sergeenko makes striking use of tiny scarves and folkloric hair-clips. On Kristina Kovaleva's blog one can read a description of the intense and meticulous hand labor employed in Sergeenko's work, which is enough to provoke profound respect for the sheer detail. Alexander Arutyunov's tiny handmade and hand-painted scarves, in addition to his bags, are worth seeing, and he is destined to be Russia's Olympia Le-Tan. Asiya Bareeva's handmade floral hand bands are what makes her collections unique.
There is also room for Turkish designers
Mehtap Elaidi, head of the Fashion Designers Association: “Intermediate brands haven't carved themselves space yet. For the time being, the perception of luxury for them consists of international reputation and offering a luxury lifestyle. The increase in the number of young designers in the country has led to beginnings of what we may call luxury. Our target should be to enter that space. Therefore, I see Russia as a market that can be invested in. A fashion perception-management program should be implemented today to promote Turkish fashion designers and brands so that we can reap the benefits of this program in coming years.”
Laleli fashion is still alive, but there is another Russia
Aslı Pekçetin, designer: “I have been doing business with Russia since 2000. I have clients in Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Belarus and Minsk. They demand extremely refined, high-quality and elegant styles instead of the styles which have come to be referred to as the 'Russian type.' Russia's economy has improved a lot in recent years and as a result, people's awareness has increased. Turkish companies still follow the same course they created years ago. I think they seek to maintain their existing customers as they stick to the same style for years: multi-colored, multi-patterned, adorned with stones and jewelry... This is quite normal for these companies as they have still customers who buy them, but there is another Russia. Many Russian bloggers and fashion writers closely follow the fashion world. They attend fashion weeks and exhibitions. They share their observations with other people. Russians show interest in global brands. They don't show any interest in Laleli; they have different lives and dress styles.”