Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Vyacheslav Zaitsev- The "Red Dior" of Russian high couture

Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Zaitsev, otherwise known as Slava Zaitsev (Вячеслав Михайлович Зайцев) was born in Ivanovo in 1938. His father disappeared into one of Stalin's work camps, and his mother was forced to work as a laundress and seamstress. As his father was considered a "traitor to the motherland", Slava was not allowed access to any of the schools he wanted, such as industrial academy.

After graduating from the Faculty of Applied Arts at the University of Chemistry and Technology, he realized that working with textiles was a dream come true. He dominated the fashion world of Russia under the USSR, and, although he was not allowed to travel outside of Russia and Czechoslovakia, he was compared to such powerhouses as Christian Dior and Yves St. Laurent. It is believed that he would have been one of the world's top-tier names in fashion if he lived in the West.

While many people liked his designs for the multitude of color he used, the Methodical Council would not approve many of his clothes for production. He became a sucess when Raisa Gorbachyova began to patronize his clothes. In 1982 he became the first designer allowed by the Soviet Union to label their own clothes. Soon,he was required by the government to produce 2million rubles of clothing each year.

Slava often complained that there were not enough materials in Russia to adequately produce clothing- he had to use WWII mannequins. In 1987, he signed a contract with the United States to sell his clothing overseas, the first commercial venture between the USSR and United States.

Zaitsev also had some political pull. Zaitsev was the tailor to Vladimir Zhirinovsky for his 1996 Russian presidential campaign. Zaitsev, who planned to vote for Boris Yeltsin, stated on Zhirinovsky, "He wanted something distinctly Russian, so I thought back to the military-style jackets of the 20s, the 30s — like Stalin, only in new colours". And then Zhirinovsky lost the election. Coincidence? I think not...

In 2007, he was a judge on the Russian reality show "Fashion Sentence"- like Project Runway, but colder. He continues to design couture and tailor for Russia's rich and powerful to this day.

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