A selection of Russian fashion designs will be on view in a special showroom in the French capital during Paris Fashion Week. For eight days, starting Monday, samples from the Mode: Moscow project will be available at a central-city apartment with a particularly tony address, just a few minutes’ walk from the Place Vendôme.
There is Russian Fashion Week, held in Moscow twice a year, at which Russian designers can make an impression, said Kirill Ilichev, head of the Moscow Export Center, the institution behind the Mode: Moscow project. “But unfortunately [the event] does not yet unite the strongest and most promising players in the fashion market.” And as with many other events held outside the European cities generally acknowledged as the world’s fashion centers, there’s also always the issue of getting enough international buyers and press to come to your town.
So if the market won’t come to Moscow, then it’s clear Moscow must go to the market. Ilichev explained that his organization, tasked with promoting trade and enterprise in the Russian capital, sees fashion as a creative industry worth supporting, which is why the decision was made to take local designers to the international market, via a series of temporary showrooms.
After fulfilling certain criteria — such as, for example, being a tax resident of Moscow — any designer could apply to be part of the project. Then a special committee, made up of magazine editors, retailers, trade and export specialists and even influencers, eventually chose 27 labels. Ilichev told WWD the project had gone for a wide mixture, everything from streetwear to glamorous gowns, and from established and well-known brands to fledgling independents.
Then, “at the end of 2018, an open vote was held on [our] web site,” Ilichev said. Local creatives were able to vote on which city they’d like to go to first in 2019 — they chose Paris.
Naturally, there is some nervousness about bringing the Russian designers to the ground zero of the fashion industry. “Of course, we worry about how things will go,” conceded Ilichev. “We would like everything to be perfect … to sell all our collections on the first day and immediately find reliable, promising partners. But this is our first experience and we understand that [it] can be different in the end.”
Russian designers also understand that they may not be taken as seriously at first in a city like Paris. The fashion sector in Russia still struggles with issues like a lack of high-quality fabrics and homegrown production staff as well as external perceptions that Russian style is all maximalism and imported glitz. “But we are confident about the quality of our collections,” Ilichev said. “Over the past 10 years, Moscow designers have reached a new level and they now do a lot of really high-quality and authentic things that are not inferior to Western brands. Our design is original and interesting,” he boasted.
Ilichev preferred not to disclose the cost of the whole exercise, but added that the organization hoped they would recoup costs within two to three years of introducing the brands to the world.
The Russians are not the only nation hoping to make a mark in Paris next week. As fashion weeks elsewhere struggle to remain relevant, industry stalwarts in Europe look all the more attractive to those farther away.
The Australian Fashion Council will host a reception at their country’s embassy, during which pieces from local designers, including Dion Lee and Albus Lumen, will be part of an interactive display highlighting Australian fashion’s connection with merino wool. It’s the first time the Australian Fashion Council has put on such an event in Paris.
Also coming to Paris for the first time next week is Canada’s Global Fashion Collective, an offshoot of Vancouver Fashion Week, that wants to introduce emerging designers to the rest of the world; not all of their initiates are Canadian and in fact, include Australian, Indian and Chinese labels, too. The collective usually shows at New York Fashion Week and has also had outings in Tokyo, but this is their first go at drawing a Paris audience to three runway shows at the Palais de la Découverte museum.
The Chinese will be in Paris, too, with Alibaba’s Tmall putting on an event featuring two Chinese designers, Peacebird and Eifini, at the historic Hotel Salomon de Rothschild in the 8th arrondissement. The event, named Tmall China Cool, wants to help indigenous designers there “grow their brands and appeal to a global audience.”