Slava Zaitsev, the Russian fashion designer nicknamed the ‘Soviet Christian Dior,’ has died

Slava Zaitsev (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) (ALEXANDER NEMENOV /)

Russian fashion designer Vyacheslav “Slava” Zaitsevnicknamed the “Soviet Christian Dior”died at the age of 85, his fashion house told the AFP on Sunday.

Confirming Russian media reports, a spokeswoman added that when Zaitsev celebrated his birthday in March with friends, “we could already see that he was very, very weak.”

“Couturier Viacheslav Zaitsev has died,” Russian state channel reported Pervy Kanalpaying tribute to a man who “dictated Soviet and Russian fashion for decades, an innovator who was not afraid of bold experiments”.

“It is a great loss for the international fashion world,” the news agency said. Ria Novosti citing Russian stylist Sergei Zverev.

Russia’s most famous fashion designer, Zaitsev achieved worldwide success with sparkling dresses embellished with the flower patterns found on traditional Russian shawls.

Models present creations by Russian designer Slava Zaitsev at the Moscow Russia Fashion Week in Zaryadye Park in central Moscow, Russia, on June 20, 2022 (REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina)
Models present creations by Russian designer Slava Zaitsev at the Moscow Russia Fashion Week in Zaryadye Park in central Moscow, Russia, on June 20, 2022 (REUTERS / Evgenia Novozhenina) (EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA /)

From a modest childhood in Ivanovoa town of 400,000 northeast of the capital, his career has taken him to the runways of Paris, New York and Tokyo.

The French press in the 1960s dubbed him the “Soviet Christian Dior”.

Closely watched by the KGB Due to his contacts with Western designers and his extravagant nature, Zaitsev was initially denied permission to leave the Soviet Union, and his first collections were shown abroad without him.

In 1962, the Soviet authorities rejected Zaitsev’s first clothing collection, a uniform for working women that featured flower-patterned skirts of traditional Russian shawls and multicolored boots.

“The colors were too bright and contrasted with the gray of Soviet everyday life, where an individual should not be distinguished from the rest of society,” Zaitsev said in an interview with AFP in 2018.

But the collection nonetheless attracted international attention. In 1963, the French magazine Paris Match it became the first Western media outlet to describe Zaitsev as a pioneer of Soviet fashion.

Slava Zaitsev poses with her models (REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina)
Slava Zaitsev poses with her models (REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina) (EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/)

Born into a poor family with a mother who worked as a cleaner, he was initially barred from attending a top-tier university because his father, taken held captive by the Nazis during World War IIhad, like other former prisoners of war, been labeled an “enemy of the people” and sentenced to 10 years in a forced labor camp.

“When I was a child, my mother taught me to embroider so that I wouldn’t wander the streets aimlessly,” he told the AFP.

“At night I collected flowers with the girls on Lenin Avenue to draw and recreate them in embroidery. That was how I began my adventure in art”.

He studied at a vocational college until the age of 18 and then moved on to the unglamorous Moscow Textile Institute.

“During my studies, I lived with a family whose children I took care of. The apartment was small and I slept on the floor under the table, ”she recalled.

Later in his life, between 2007 and 2009, he hosted a popular TV show called The fashion verdictin which the stylists dressed the participants in the latest street looks.

It featured several Russian movie stars, singers and the ex-wife of the president Vladimir PutinLyudmila, among her clients.

(With information from AFP)

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