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Friday, December 19, 1997 Published at 15:28 GMT


Russian fashion steps out of the shadows
image: [ Keeping the heat in: Russian designers tailor for life below zero ]
Keeping the heat in: Russian designers tailor for life below zero

After decades in the shadows, Russian fashion is stepping into the limelight.

[ image: Top notch: new designs sell like hot cakes]
Top notch: new designs sell like hot cakes
A new fund has been set up in Moscow to promote Russian designers and models at home and abroad.

During the city's fashion week, Russian designers showed their work alongside the likes of Guy La Roche.

Designers such as Valentin Yudashkin are leading the way. Moscow style groupies were out in force to see his spring collection show.

[ image:  Yudashkin: A Russian fashion celebrity]
Yudashkin: A Russian fashion celebrity
The BBC's Sarah Beck, who was at the show, says it may not have matched the frenzy of the French catwalks, but the verdict was a unanimous triumph from those inside and outside Russia's fashion circles.

Yudashkin is the nearest thing Russia has to an international fashion celebrity.

His clothes are shown in Paris, he has opened a new boutique on one of Moscow's best known streets and, like all big names, has brought out his own brand of jeans. There is even a Yudashkin perfume in the pipeline.

[ image: Success: Yudashkin's own label jeans]
Success: Yudashkin's own label jeans
Valentin Yudashkin has clearly grasped the first rule of designer dressing - the smaller the outfit the bigger the price tag.

The average Russian would have to save their entire salary for five months to buy one of his suits. But each new Yudashkin collection is snapped up instantly.

In a country where the new rich are craving more ways to parade their wealth, the new Russian designers know exactly where their market lies.

"It's politicians, pop stars, film stars, dancers from the Bolshoi but it's only ever 5% of the population who can afford such luxuries. It's the same anywhere in the world," Yudashkin said.

The image of communist chic was never really one of the high spots of Soviet achievement. Haute couture was ruled out as capitalist indulgence.

Tatyana Mikhailkova, remembers her life as a top Russian model in the 1970s as far from glamorous: "We were level with unqualified workers and were paid and treated accordingly - it was hard labour."

Two decades later women are turning away from foreign imports to something more tailored to their lifestyle.

As Russia's clothes industry grows, there will soon be a new selection of labels for fashion victims to die for.

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