by Maria Lazareva
From April 1 until April 6 2010, Russian Fashion Week, the biggest fashion event in Eastern Europe, is celebrating its 20th season. On the podiums of Russian Fashion Week (RFW), talented debutants, masters of Russian design as well as visiting foreign designers will present key tendencies for Fall-Winter 2010-2011, making the Russian capital the most experimental fashion destination for six days. This year, NOT JUST A LABEL’s founder Stefan Siegel will be among the speakers at the “Brit Camp” at Russian Fashion Week. The aim of the educational programme Practicum: British Fashion, jointly organised by British Council and “Mestnaya Moda”, is to showcase and introduce the most successful British projects and expertise to the emerging Russian fashion experts.

Moscow’s RFW represents a different side of Russian history, one concerned with innovation and modern individualism rather than rigid tradition and authoritarianism. For this reason, Russian design has long since received international recognition. Igor Chapurin, head of the Chapurin fashion house, became a favourite amongst celebrities after winning several prestigious European awards: such as the young designers contest in Paris, organised by the Nina Ricci company; the Harper’s Bazaar Russia magazine award; and the ultimate prize of the Russian Haute Couture association, the Gold Mannequin. Designing the first line of the Italian Fashion House Galitzine upon a personal invitation from Princess Irene Galitzine was a pivotal point for young designer, who now exhibits high-end in Paris. Chapurin has often said that he likes “to make sweet young things for sweet young things”. Successfully, the likes of Cheryl Cole, Chloe Sevigny and Nicole Richie have been seen wearing his designs.

Another unique example in the history of internationally renowned Russian design is the Alena Akhmadullina brand. Akhmadullina showed her first seasonal prêt-a-porter collection during the Paris Fashion Week in autumn 2005. Since that time she demonstrates a new collection on the Paris runway every season, breaking stereotypes and changing the attitude to Russia as a “far-from-fashion” country. A wardrobe from Alena Akhmadullina is a combination of Russian audacity and Parisian sense of elegance, creating an independently bold but womanly seductive image.

Among participants of the new season are the leading designers of the post Soviet space: Slava Zaitsev, Elena Makashova, Egor Zajtsev, St. Bessarion, Julia Nikolaeva, TEGIN, Masha Kravtsova, Anna Direchina, INSHADE, Elena Suprun to mention only a few among many. Significantly, it has taken Moscow only ten years to become the hot fashion spot that it is now, generating new fashion ideas and showcasing best national and international talents.

Because ‘Russian Fashion’ is still very young, the designers, typically rather young themselves, often look for inspirations to the west. That is not to say that they copy – their designs are aimed at Russian buyers and therefore always have a ‘Russian twist’ to them. Minimalism and layering have been seen in plenty on the runways in previous seasons, and there is reason to believe that Fall/Winter 2010 will either be a continuation of the legacy, or a total retreat from it.

However, Russian fashion mogul Slava Zaitsev, who has always remained true to the Tsarist heritage of the Russian people, will probably present yet another collection where excess of colour, texture and print dominates. He loves red, burgundy, purple and gold in his collections, as well as sequins, fur and textured fabrics-perfect for the cold Russian winters. Although he does not need a point of reference, Slava Zaitsev has often been called the Russian Valentino Garavani- a man in whose pieces women feel like royals or movie stars.

Along with established and up-and-coming Russian brands, Russian Fashion Week has in the past seasons staged shows by Vivienne Westwood, Julien Macdonald, Costume National, JC de Castelbajac and other prominent international designers. This season foreign designers participating in the fashion week will be representing countries such as Italy, Croatia, Latvia and Sri Lanka, bringing further diversity to the Russian capital. With each invited designer providing elements of their respective cultural frameworks, the shows will differ greatly.

On April 3rd, RFW will host a British Day under the support of the British Council whereby heads of fashion houses such as Clare Lopeman, Osman Yousefzada, Eley Kishimoto and PPQ will not only present their collections, but hold special lectures and seminars during which they will share their views on the future of the fashion-industry with the RFW visitors. According to RFW director Aleksandr Shumskiy, British fashion is one of the most interesting and original phenomena in the fashion world. “Their recognized tradition of designing clothes is an important competitor to the traditions of France and Italy. The current London Fashion Week experienced an increase in interest from people coming from all kinds of places all over the world. We are glad that this season the British are coming to us. There is technique that our designers can learn from the British designers and be inspired by,” he said.

NJAL’s Stefan Siegel will be one of the speakers at this year’s Brit Camp, as it is also known. Siegel will hold a presentation about NJAL and the role of emerging designers in today’s industry, explaining the first steps of planning, funding, marketing and promoting of new fashion labels, as well as Not Just A Label’s work of highlighting young designers and helping them with new business development.

The fashion week’s program also includes “Extending the Runway: Tatiana Sorokko Style” – an exhibition held by first Russian top model Tatiana Sorokko –, and “A Shaded View on Fashion Film”, a selection of short films presented by former NJAL curator and famous fashion blogger Diane Pernet, who will also announce a search for Russian fashion short filmmakers.

The week is set to be an exciting and entertaining social and business event, launching some special projects never before seen on the Russian catwalk, and expecting to attract over 45,000 guests among whom will be accredited journalists, buyers, celebrities and leading editors from Europe and the US, all giving Russian fashion a new impetus.