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1 May

Slava Zaitsev, Staltwart of Russian Fashion, Dies at 85

Russian couturier Vyacheslav “Slava” Zaitsev, who went from leading Soviet designer to father of Russian couture, died on April 30 near Moscow at age 85.

His death was revealed on Sunday by Russian media outlets and confirmed by long-term friend Evelina Khromtchenko.

The designer had gone to the hospital earlier within the day attributable to abdominal discomfort and later died within the intensive care unit, in accordance with fashion editor and former model and friend Tatiana Sorokko. Plans for a memorial service for the Moscow-based designer haven’t yet been finalized.

“He gave hope to women within the Soviet Union that through fashion and searching good they might aspire to other things and overcome the hardships of on a regular basis life. He was that voice for generations of Russians who need to look to the West to see a greater future,” Sorokko said. “He left us today, when there isn’t a future in Russia.”

Remembered as a stalwart of Russian fashion since Soviet times, Zaitsev opened the Slava Zaitsev fashion label in 1982 in Moscow and was best known for dramatic, colourful designs that tapped into his country’s folkloric heritage and traditional garments.

Along with his ready-to-wear and couture businesses, he designed film and ballet costumes in addition to outfits for the Russian Olympic team and the Moscow police. He also dressed the wives of Soviet and Russian leaders.

“Because of you, the concept of ‘Russian style’ has grow to be more obvious in international fashion, and the very concept of ‘fashion’ has not died within the totalitarian U.S.S.R.,” said Khromtchenko, a fashion expert who served as editor in chief of the Russian edition of L’Officiel magazine.

Apart from Zaitsev’s humorousness, he would need to be remembered for his “incredible voice” and being “absolute fun to be with that,” Sorokko said. That sunny-side-up personality was despite a trying upbringing.

Born on March 2, 1938, in Ivanovo, a city 155 miles northeast of Moscow, Zaitsev grew up in a modest family, raised by his mother who supported the family by working several jobs, including as a cleansing lady and laundress, after his father was swept up by the political purge orchestrated by then-Soviet general secretary Joseph Stalin.

“But he at all times had a dream and checked out life through rose-colored glasses. And he gave that enthusiasm to so many individuals in Russia to beat the hardship,” she continued. “Those bridges that were built with such love are actually all destroyed.”

While his initial ambitions were thwarted attributable to his father’s imprisonment, he went on to review applied arts at an area university before moving to Moscow, where he enrolled within the Moscow Textile Institute.

After his 1962 graduation, he was hired as a womenswear designer in a factory near Moscow. In accordance with his biography, Zaitsev’s first collection featuring traditional colourful floral motifs landed him in hot water because it was considered too frivolous and contrary to Soviet ideals.

In accordance with French and Russian media, a mid-Sixties encounter with the likes of Pierre Cardin, Guy Laroche and Marc Bohan saw Zaitsev dubbed the “Red Dior” by French weekly magazine Paris Match. Along with Cardin, his designer friends included Donna Karan, Oscar de la Renta and Jean-Louis Scherrer, amongst others.

Although most of his profession was restricted to the previous Soviet bloc, a 1987 licensing agreement saw Zaitsev’s designs launching on the U.S. market through an agreement between the Soviet Ministry of Licensing and Intertorg Inc., a Sacramento, California-based company specialized in industrial trade activities between the 2 countries.

On the time, Zaitsev was the leading designer for Dom Modi, a Moscow fashion house that dressed Raisa Gorbachev, the wife of then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Later that yr, the licensed line of suits, coats and eveningwear made its debut in Latest York, with Zaitsev keen to indicate Russia’s “tremendous fashion potential” and tap into similarities between Russian and American design goals, comparable to a shared love of sportswear.

His designs were described as “dramatic” by Bloomingdale’s but retailers considered them “out of the mainstream of fashion,” with asymmetrically closed wool coats, layered looks and “tricky trompe-l’oeil dresses that looked like suits.”

In 1992, he was considered probably the most commercially successful Russian dressmaker and he launched the Maroussia by Slava Zaitsev scent with L’Oréal, Russia’s first designer perfume and “irrefutable evidence that communism really is dead,” in accordance with WWD reports on the time.

Between 2007 and 2009, he also served as a judge on the “Fashion Sentence” TV show, where stylists would compete by giving makeovers to members of the general public.

A retrospective of his fashion work was shown in 2016 on the State Hermitage Museum in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. In parallel to his fashion profession, Zaitsev was also a noted painter and artist, along with his work exhibited outside his homeland.

“Nowadays with the ability to draw is sort of not essential for young fashion designers starting within the business because they arrive from the purpose of draping. He knew how one can draw so well that he had several exhibitions in america within the Nineties that were very well-received,” Sorokko continued.

Though considered amongst probably the most influential Russian designers — together with Valentin Yudashkin, who is taken into account his pupil — Zaitsev seemed bored with the international market, telling WWD in 2008 that he thought that “as a Russian artist, [he] should show in Russia.”

“Firstly of the Nineties, I had the possibility to indicate in Paris, and I spotted that it’s not my place,” he said.

— With contributions from Rosemary Feitelberg (Latest York)

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