Scores of Western designer labels have quit Russia as part of a backlash against Moscow’s decision to send troops into Ukraine, leaving their domestic competitors to take centre-stage.
But at the annual Moscow Fashion Week, which showcases the work of Russian designers, industry professionals said seizing that opportunity would not be easy.
“We need to develop the production of fabrics because our fabrics and accessories are all imported,” said Yulia Lavrichenko, a fashion stylist taking part in the event last week. “Unfortunately, our designers are suffering from this for the time being.”
Even Russian couturiers rely heavily on Italy to provide the exclusive materials that go into clothing their wealthy clientele.
And while China, Bangladesh, Belarus and Turkey all continue to provide mass-market clothes and materials to Russia, Italy is taking part in European Union sanctions that make trade at the luxury end very difficult.
Olga Sinitsyna, whose brand SCORA designs hats and accessories, said her business was just emerging from the shock of the pandemic when Russia’s military campaign began, sending the rouble tumbling and import prices skyrocketing.
The rouble has since bounced back, “but logistics are 10 times more expensive”, she said, adding that she had been left with no choice but to increase her prices.
“You have to understand that everything you see here is not made from Russian raw materials,” she said. “This, of course, affects the cost … But here the choice is either you do it – or you cry and do nothing. I choose to do it.”
For designer Albina Akkulova, known for fairy tale-inspired dresses embroidered with beads and gold thread, the growing constraints will force designers to come up with creative solutions and innovators to put some of their energy into promoting a domestic fashion manufacturing base.
“For Russia as a whole, it’s new possibilities,” she said, backstage after her brand’s runway show. “We’ll create something of our own, develop our own fashion industry.”