By  on November 3, 2010

Kira Plastinina refuses to give up on the U.S.

The Russian design prodigy is back, two years after closing all but one of her U.S. stores and leaving $54.4 million in debts in the wake of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Instead of Kira Plastinina’s bubble skirts, puffy jackets and bright-colored halter dresses, she is selling her new Lublu collection of simple, sophisticated silhouettes decorated with heavily beaded crosses.

She’s also handling distribution differently. Rather than opening stores, Plastinina is wholesaling Lublu, which means “I love” in Russian.

In December 2008, after just seven months, Plastinina closed 12 Kira Plastinina stores, including two in Manhattan. The only retail space that wasn’t shuttered was on Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles. It had a soft opening in August as a Lublu flagship. “It’s doing OK,” Plastinina said. “We need to work on the physical store and we need to figure some things out.”

Teetering on high platform shoes, Plastinina, who is now 18, was in New York recently to present Lublu to fashion editors. “I had a show for Lublu…during Moscow Fashion Week,” she said. “The collection is inspired by the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties.”

Lublu is targeted to 25- to 35-year-olds, in contrast with Kira Plastinina, which is aimed at 14- to 25-year-olds. “Lublu’s audience is older,” she said. “It’s more expensive and much harder to find. It’s sold in Tsum in Moscow and Harrods in London. We have a showroom in Milan that is selling it to multibrand stores.”

Asked for a volume projection, Plastinina said, “The average order from a store is 15,000 euros [$19,350]. This is only the second season for us.”

There are 130 Kira Plastinina stores worldwide. Lublu is in 40 multibrand stores in Europe, Hong Kong, Turkey, Dubai, Lebanon and Russia. Prices for Lublu range from 250 euros, or $344, for a skirt or simple blouse to 1,000 euros, or $1,478, for a long layered dress.

The teen designer’s business was bankrolled by her father, Sergei Plastinin, a juice and dairy magnate who was said to have spent $80 million on the U.S. expansion. Asked whether her father is still investing in the company, she said, “We’re working on being profitable.”

Plastinina said her problems in the U.S. were compounded by several factors, including the deteriorating economy. “We knew the time we came here was really a difficult time. Also, there is a brand that already had the name Kira in it. We had to change our name to K. Plastinina in the U.S., which meant changing all of the labels in the store. It was almost impossible to promote the brand without my name. It made a difficult situation more difficult.”

Marina Dolidze, Kira Plastinina’s brand director, said some of the retail spaces “were completely wrong and maybe too big when the crisis came. Lublu is completely different than Kira Plastinina and that gives me hope for the American market. In Europe, the collection is a real success.”

Now a student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Plastinina is interested in business and art history. She travels frequently. “All last week I was in Moscow working,” she said. “I wake up and have 100 e-mails to reply to. I’m always Skyping.”

It’s no surprise that Plastinina, who started seriously designing when she was 14, is a workaholic. “I grew up a little too fast,” she admitted. “I’m a little more involved in the business side than when I was 14.”

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