By and  on November 13, 2007

Kira Plastinina Style, one of the fastest-growing fashion brands in Russia, is something of a phenomenon, not simply because its sweetly sexy styles are selling briskly, but because the face behind the label is a 15-year-old girl.

Plastinina's father, Sergey Plastinin, director of Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods ADS, Russia's largest dairy and fruit producer, is bankrolling the business, which was unveiled in March. Now, seven months later, there are 28 stores in Russia, including 15 in Moscow, and two in Ukraine. By January, 40 stores are expected. Plastinin said in an interview in New York that Kira Plastinina will do over $20 million this year.

Like many girls her age in Moscow, Kira has been weaned on a diet of global popular culture. She loves Paris Hilton and the Olsen twins, Italian craftsmanship and the color hot pink. Hilton last month made an appearance at Kira Plastinina's runway show during Moscow Fashion Week.

Now, Plastinina is poised to join Hilton and the Olsens as she competes for U.S. consumer dollars. Her first 10 stores are slated to bow in the first half of 2008, quickly ramping up to 50 units. The company, which is seeking major locations in New York and Los Angeles, is targeting sales of $1,000 per square foot.

In addition to street locations averaging about 4,000 square feet, Plastinin said the company will open 1,500-square-foot to 2,500-square-foot units in A-malls.

The target audience for the line is between ages 13 and 23, with 20-year-olds accounting for the majority of customers, Plastinin said. "It's a collection of clothes for 15-year-olds by a person of the same age," he said. The clothes are not for shrinking violets. A short red jumpsuit tied around the waist with a giant pink ribbon looks like a gift that fell off Santa's sleigh. A one-sleeved turquoise top has a cutout on the remaining sleeve for the shoulder to peek through. There are long pink ombré gowns covered with graduated bows and bubble halter dresses with large flowers on the neck. Accessories, handbags, belts and shoes round out the line, which is refreshed every two weeks.

Plastinina designed the bottle for a Fermenich-developed fragrance called, of course, Kira.Plastinin said basics make up more than half the line. "The basic collection is far less glamorous," he said, noting that bestsellers and a denim collection are included in the category.

The label appears to be part of the ongoing development of Russia's middle-tier apparel market, which took off after the 1998 financial collapse and has gained ground as an upper middle class has begun to take shape and massive shopping malls have popped up in Moscow, St. Petersburg and elsewhere in the country.

Prices for Kira Plastinina in Russia average $50, Plastinin said, noting price points for the U.S. have yet to be determined, but will likely be lower due to the absence of value added tax and customs duties.

Whether American audiences respond to Kira Plastinina remains to be seen. But Plastinin is taking no chances. He's hired Directives West, a consulting firm, to "help us select the items and models most suitable for the U.S. market," he said. "Their most significant comment was, 'Make the [line] even more casual.'"

The brand will resonate with U.S. teens because Kira's lifestyle is very similar to those of her American peers, her father said. She's enrolled in the Anglo-American School in Moscow and most of her friends are American. "To some degree she's more a product of the American culture than the Russian culture," Plastinin said.

On a recent afternoon, Platinina arrived at her 11th-floor offices overlooking the Moscow River, bodyguards in tow. She said balancing school and work is tough. She's in class from 8 a.m. until nearly 4 p.m., then goes to work. Moscow's notorious traffic gives her more time to do her homework in the car. She often doesn't get home until 9 or 10 p.m.

This year she's preparing for the International Baccalaureate exam, which is 12 months away. She also has her gig as the chief designer for the television show "Fabrika Zvezd" (based on "American Idol"), goes horseback riding and is tutored in French and Russian on Saturdays.

The Kira Plastinina girl wants to flaunt her assets. She wants to look pretty, not edgy or punky or Goth. "The teen customer is aspirational," Plastinin said. "It's youthful and fun and about being a girl. It's not about rebelling. Kira is still a girl."But is it fair to call Kira Plastinina a designer? While she's rumored to be no more than the public face of the label, she insists she's involved in the whole design process. "I participate in everything," Plastinina said, adding she wants to study design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London.

Her talent at drawing became evident "when she was quite young," her father said, "but at first she didn't take it seriously. I never developed or encouraged this. Then she continued from six years of age, on and on."

Explaining her process, Plastinina said she draws something — a dress, a skirt, a pair of shoes — and gives it to one of the five assistant designers at Kira Plastinina Style. "They never say they don't like something, but sometimes they want to change something because of the construction," she said.

Designers she admires include Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen. She also loves Victoria Beckham's style and said she was "amazed" by Hilton. The two had dinner together at Turandot, one of Moscow's finest restaurants, just around the corner from Pushkin Square, following Plastinina's fashion week presentation.

Sometimes, it seems that Plastinina is as surprised by her success as others. "I see girls on the street wearing my clothes and I want to hug them," she says.

So far, Plastinina has refrained from incorporating traditional Russian elements into her collections, opting for a more modern approach. Her stores, called Style Studios, are designed in the same vein with counters and stools near the cash wrap and signature elements such as large round red poufs, chandeliers and stainless steel fixtures. Mirrors and glass are given various uses throughout the stores, the cream-colored walls and floors of which are a counterpoint to the bright color.

JGA, a retail design and brand strategy firm, is adapting the look for the U.S.

Marvin Traub, president of Marvin Traub Associates, who is helping Plastinin bring the brand to the U.S., said, "I was in Moscow for the Ralph Lauren launch [of two stores in mid-May] and the Kira Plastinina store looked to me like what one would find in the U.S. It has a feel like Juicy Couture, only it's more girly."The Russian media have been fascinated with Kira since she emerged on the fashion scene. Plastinin, who seems to have mastered the media game, said he'll make his daughter available to American journalists during the launch, adding, "We're planning to have a very active public relations and advertising program. We're building it around Kira as the designer and personality. She'll come and do a presentation of the line for editors.

"If we're successful in the U.S., I have dreams of going to Japan and China at the end of next year," Plastinin said. Sounding as if his daughter's talent might dissipate as she gets older, he added, "We just need to move fast. When we started this, Kira was 14. She just turned 15."

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