W Dispatch: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia

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For much of the 20th century, Russia was a nation cut off from fashion—no designer boutiques, no local editions of Vogue or Glamour. The very notion of a runway show recalled the Wendy’s commercial from the ’80s, in which a zaftig woman repeatedly models the same gray sack dress. Today, however, post-Glasnost, Valentino and Chloé billboards enliven the traffic-clogged thoroughfares and TSUM, the city’s 150-year-old department store once known for its sparse inventory and surly employees, is rife with spring collections from labels like Saint Laurent, Celine, and Marni.

Meanwhile at Manège, a 19th-century neoclassical exhibition space situated beside the Kremlin, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia—now in its fifth season—has just wrapped its five-day run of 70-plus presentations. Though many of the participating designers showed an abundance of skin-tight, spangly looks, accessorized to the hilt, a few are worth keeping an eye on: Olga Vilshenko, a native of the Ural region who now splits her time between London and Moscow, is known for mixing clean silhouettes with Russian folkloric elements. For fall, she showed ’70s-inspired floor-sweeping frocks, sheer peasant blouses, and oxblood leather capes before a crowd of homegrown street-style stars like Miroslava Duma (dressed in Chanel’s pre-fall tartan) and Elena Perminova.

The Alexander Wang of Russian fashion, Georgian-based designer Bessarion mixed cool, street-inspired elements (sweatshirts, parkas) with sophisticated tailoring.

The St. Petersburg-based Alena Akhmadullina, who launched her label in 2001 and counts Naomi Campbell and Eva Green among her celebrity clients, presented a pretty, youthful collection full of vibrant sweater dresses and sumptuous fur coats.

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