Russia Launches Its Own Fashion Council to Support Local Talent

It's Russia's answer to the CFDA.
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Dhani Mau
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It's Russia's answer to the CFDA.
Slava Zaitsev at his spring 2014 show. Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia

Slava Zaitsev at his spring 2014 show. Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia

Russian Fashion Week has been held biannually in Moscow for the past 29 seasons (about 15 years), and yet many Russian designers have struggled to grow their businesses. The reasons for this vary, but one is lack of support. Think about how many programs there are for emerging designers in cities like New York and London, from funds to mentorship programs. Moscow has never really had that -- at least not in any official capacity -- until now.

On Friday, the president and co-founder of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia, Alexander Shumsky, announced the launch of the Russian Fashion Council. A press statement likens this to other "national fashion councils" in "key fashion markets." The Council, it says, will bring together Russian fashion designers, manufacturers and experts who are involved in the development of the fashion business in Russia. Those involved include Russian designers Slava Zaitsev (the RFC's Honorary President), Alena Akmadullina and Julia Dalakian (all successful within Russia); Daria Yadernaya, the head of Esper Group, Russia's leading textile and apparel consulting company; MBFW's program director Elena Kuletskaya, and other local industry fixtures.

"We have a lot of designers, but their business is very, very tiny," Shumsky said at a roundtable discussion with other members of the press on Friday. "The idea is to teach them and promote them and help them to do business. A lot of designers are surviving from show to show."

While the council plans to launch projects and activities to support Russian fashion, no specifics were available as to what those programs would be. Chances are, though, it will not involve a fund for designers any time soon. Shumsky seems to think that "if you give cash to young designer, he will fly to [the] Maldives." The council will, however, help facilitate relationships between designers and investors who are interested. Shumsky et al. recently launched a program in Milan that allows a group of selected Russian designers to show there in a group show format, giving them exposure to international press and buyers that won't likely make it to Moscow. Now, the Council is also working with Russia's Ministry of Trade to make it easier for designers to export goods internationally. So if this Council is successful, we may start seeing more Russian designers in U.S. stores.

Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia has paid for my travel and accommodations to attend and cover the event.