Anastasia Romantsova describes the concept of her brand A LA RUSSE as an answer to the question as to what a Russian aristocrat would look like had there been no revolution in 1917. Her vision was to the taste of many celebrities, not only Russian ones. For instance, singer Beyonce tried out the A LA RUSSE image of a Russian aristocrat. Anastasia Romantsova told us about the difference between shows in Russia and abroad, the principles of investing in the fashion business and the most important time in the life of a designer.
Would you please describe the state of the modern fashion industry in one word?
Oversaturation. Nowadays, clients can choose from an immense range of designers, brands, collections and promotions. It is very easy to get lost in all this variety. Take online stores, for example. Such sites are trusted, loved and often visited. And that is why brands increasingly wish to appear there. At the same time, the client sees the collection in bright comparison with others, and this creates a serious competition for each designer: you need to be able to offer something special.
Do you remember when Russian designers became noticed in the world?
Oh, yes, of course! Everything started in about 2012, when Russian designers began to hold some pretty big fashion shows and present their collections abroad, specifically Paris, where there are more foreign clients, buyers and journalists. Miroslava Duma appeared in an A LA RUSSE coat at the New York Fashion Week and then, in France, at the Ralph Lauren jubilee, in our Pavlovo-Posad shawl skirt. And we were literally flooded with requests from foreign buyers. It was the Russian style and fashion that were in focus.
What is the fundamental difference between fashion shows in Moscow and Paris?
In Moscow, it is easier to organize a show and get people into work at any time. I remember how, in Paris, when we had a boutique there, we could hardly agree on the installation with the contractors, as it was Sunday. For Europeans, this day means no work at all.As for the audience and feedback, it is more exciting to stage a show in Moscow. You always want to impress your compatriots, familiar designers, journalists and experts. This is healthy Russian competition requiring you to do everything at its best! And since you have already announced yourself in Moscow, they will write a lot about you the next day, and the criticism can be absolutely different.
Are Russian fashion weeks a springboard for novice designers or just a show for non-professional viewers?
Social media are a real springboard. Their appearance has made it much easier for a designer to communicate with clients and followers. And, of course, the perception of brands has changed. Their world has become closer and their ideas more accessible. It makes sense to participate in fashion weeks only when the brand has gained some initial audience and has something to say to journalists. The worst mistake is to think that, after the first brilliant show, you can afford to relax! Unfortunately, this is absolutely not so. Yes, the first show will take all your strength, energy and emotions. But, after it, its very important to continue working, to order new fabrics, arrange buyers sessions and press shows, create the next collection. It is necessary to plan a year or two ahead after the first collection. This is the most important time for a young designer and their brand.
Your advice: is it worth investing in the fashion business? Is it a good time now?
Everything depends not on the time but on the concept. But the concept should be coordinated with the time. First of all, we need to decide on start-up capital. For example, capsule clothes may be made in batches and sold on advance orders. Here the pattern is simple: how much you have ordered, how much you will produce and earn depending on the margin and costs. If you decide to make two to four collections a year on a regular basis, this is a large-scale investment requiring patience and strength. As soon as the first collection begins to pay off with buyers orders, the money is immediately reinvested in further production and the next collections. Not only a catwalk collection, but also a commercial one need to be created. A vivid example are popular brands, where customers come over and over again for the same model, which is perfectly cut and fitted. And it becomes a classic.
Beyonce wearing a suit from Anastasia Romantsova
And yet, financial crises, sanctions, import substitution policies how has all this affected Russian fashion?
We are lucky because the A LA RUSSE brand became known before the crisis. Our basic models are in demand no matter what the exchange rate, so we do not complain. But, in general, of course, the pressure exerted by financial crises on fashion is high. We often use Russian production Pavlovo-Posad and Orenburg down shawls. There remain very few Russian craftswomen I have been inspired by, and there is no-one to whom they could pass on their skills and experience as people do not want to work in this industry owing to the lack of orders. It is a vicious circle! Sometimes, it is very difficult to find any fabrics, prints or embroidery in Russia. Just as its hard to sew sophisticated things here. Indeed, many go abroad to sew, where the production is better established, where you are easily understood and where they will fulfil any of your whims. Yet it is very important for beginners to have their own production in Russia. Otherwise we risk losing our talented Russian production. It is worth talking about this in the press and discussing it at events such as the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
So whats going to be fashionable in the coming season?
I think its any bright colours. We have been wearing pastel shades for so long, nude, all shades of ash rose. When I created the SS19 collection (SpringSummer 2019 Editors note), I dreamed of conveying the sunny warmth of the Krasnodar summer, as I was born and grew up in Krasnodar. I wanted to put my memories of sunny, dusty, sunflower youth into it. This is a great and warm memory of the 90s, the culture of backyards and suburbs. Not only in the interpretation of ugly fashion, which is so popular now, but in my interpretation of youth, hopes and dreams, first kisses and loves. This season you can give vent to your feelings without being vulgar, you can be very succulent and cheerful. After all, fuchsia sets the tone!