There were many interesting things happening in Paris this Tuesday, but there was one that overcame them all. Ulyana Sergeenko, an auteur fashion designer from Russia presented her first Haute Couture Collection at the Marigny Theatre in Champs-Élysées.
There are couple of reasons why I am using cinematic term to introduce Ulyana in this entry. First of all, her designs are quite theatrical. Second and the most valid reason would have to be her distinct style. When you see gentle lines, long ample skirts, retro floral patterns, Soviet inspired aesthetic – you know exactly that you are looking at one of Ulyana’s masterpieces. It is hard to be mistaken really. She sticks to her guns and it definitely works. Those may not be the clothes I would personally put on my back, but they are certainly clothes I can appreciate and admire. That is why when I heard the news about her debut in Paris I could not help it to be more anxious than excited. I wanted her to do well.
The whole occasion somehow reminded me of 1981 when Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo first arrived in Paris. They were an “army” weaponed up with unfamiliar styles, all ready to carve Japan into the stone of the world’s fashion history. Okay, perhaps they did not think about it quite this way at the time, nevertheless it is exactly what happened. They came, they showed and they conquered. So, I began to wonder… could Ulyana repeat the same success for the Russians? Could it be the beginning of a new exciting era for Russian fashion on the international arena? Truthfully it was building up to it for some time now. After all, in the recent five years or so more talented fashion designers emerged than it ever did in the past century.
Ironically, the Army analogy ended up being a spot-on. After all, what are Russians truly good at? Aside from gas and oil… war and women! Well and literature too. So it seems without much pondering Ulyana took the strengths of the nation and masterfully applied them in her creative process. What a smart move that was. On a magic carpet no less, the collection takes me to the time of Leo Tolstoy, to the pages of “War and Peace”, to Romanticism, to the days when ladies were called Baryshnyas. Looking at the overcoats, voluminous skirts, uniquely executed scarves, traditional Russian cut and of course various furs, I do not particularly see a Russian fairy-tale. I see an officer’s mother, his bride, his wife, and his widow. Through those clothes I see their characters, their femininity and their strengths too. I picture their entire life stories. In a sense it is mind blowing. What can be better than fashion that has a meaning beyond itself?
I applaud the enormous effort those pieces entail (the wool and cashmere hand-embroidered coat alone required sixty days of work). I applaud the fabrics and the finish. I applaud the coordinator of the show or whomever it is I should be applauding for the fact that each ensemble worked in a perfect harmony with a model that wore it. At last, I applaud Ulyana and her teams who were brave and made it happen. There are things to improve; things to still reach out for of course. However that first battle was victorious. Now there is still a “war” ahead and many more battles to fight. Thus I wish Ulyana and all the other gifted Russian designers the best of luck and never to loose that strength of theirs.