For Russian teenage design phenom Kira Plastinina, it looks like a quick rise and fall in the U.S.

This story first appeared in the December 18, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

U.S. sources close to the company said many, if not all, of the 12 Kira Plastinina stores in America could close soon.

Difficulties were pegged to the declining fortunes of Plastinina’s father, Sergei Plastinin, a tycoon in the dairy and fruit business in Russia, who bankrolled the U.S. rollout and was heavily invested in the Russian stock market. Shortcomings in how the chain was operated and the impact of the recession in the U.S. were also cited.

“With the economic downturn, it’s not making it,” said one U.S. source who worked with the chain. “They haven’t decided on what locations they are going to keep open or may sublet.”

Robert Higgins, president of U.S. operations for Kira Plastinina, was let go about two weeks ago, according to the source.

Jeff Gural, the landlord for the 3,500-square-foot SoHo store in Manhattan, which Plastinina considered a flagship, said he spoke to Plastinin about two weeks ago. “He said he was bringing on someone else to run the company,” Gural said. The SoHo store, located at 594 Broadway between Prince and Houston Streets, and one in Stamford, Conn., were the first two U.S. units. They opened last May.

Gural also said Plastinin was planning to “reorganize” the business in the U.S., but had no specifics on the plan.

Gural said Plastinina was current on the rent in SoHo, as of November.

The 16-year-old Plastinina began opening stores just when the economy started to tank. “This was a tough time to be opening a chain that doesn’t have a track record. I took a shot,” Gural said. “Part of the problem is the father is not as rich as he once was.”

Many locations selected by Plastinina and her team are good ones, with high traffic and visibility, including units at 22 West 34th Street and 509 Fifth Avenue. There is also a store in the Beverly Center in Los Angeles and in the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif.

But the sources the stores weren’t supported with sufficient flow of merchandise and the level of fresh receipts that fashion customers like to see, particularly young women. The company did exhibit a knack for generating hype, however, with its flirty attitude and glittery club-inspired sportswear. The brand paid Nicole Richie a reported $150,000 to make an appearance at the launch of Plastinina’s new “higher-end” line in Russia recently. At the SoHo flagship, there is even a Dylan’s Candy Bar outpost. The company also recruited some high-profile advisers, including Marvin Traub, who assisted on the U.S. rollout. Traub could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Overall, the business was driven by dresses, novelty tops, short skirts, jackets and active looks, with a junior and contemporary appeal.

Officials at one time boasted sales of $1,000 a square foot in the shops operating in Russia, where there are about 40.

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