The New York Times piece on Denis Simachev is amusing:
[...] Victoria Tirovskaya, 24, says she wears the designer’s clothes because they are chic and a bit audacious. “I have a classic blouse and shorts from Simachev but I also have a U.S.S.R. sweatshirt,” Ms. Tirovskaya, an interior designer, said. “Before Simachev, nobody dared to use the symbol of our country as a fashion icon.”
The designer’s rise as the commissar of Soviet kitsch neatly dovetails with Russia’s current embrace of retrograde politics and resurgent nationalism. A billboard just off Red Square advertises the results of the parliamentary elections, scheduled for early December, as if they were a fait accompli: “Moscow votes for Putin!”
After more than a decade of Westernization, in which international brands have flooded the Russian market and the Russian elite have taken to wearing designers from Valentino to Louis Vuitton, a “Back to the U.S.S.R.” movement among consumers seems a logical step, some social observers here say. [...]
"Before Simachev, nobody dared to use the symbol of our country as a fashion icon"?
How about all those "Western" tourists, who arrive in Russia/Ukraine and run to Staryi Arbat/Andriyivskyi Uzviz to stock up on hammer-and-sickle t-shirts and ushanki?
Folks like these three:
They are such a typical sight in touristy spots of Moscow, St. Pete and even Kyiv (this photo was taken in late August of 2003 in St. Pete), that some of Simachev's items seem like a cross between allusion and mockery.
His famous Putin t-shirts, by the way, have been around for a long, long time, since 2003 or even earlier - though the NYT piece may lead you into thinking that it's something new - "[...] one of the most popular fashion designers this fall [...]" - something designed specifically for the election that's in a few days, perhaps.
Also, these two passages shouldn't have been separated by about a dozen paragraphs - they do belong together:
[...] He insists he is no Communist — for one thing, his overcoats sell for about $2,100 and his T-shirts for about $600. His boutique is sandwiched between Hermès and Burberry stores on a pedestrian lane, Stoleshnikov, that is one of the capital’s most expensive shopping streets.
For now, the Simachev label appears to be attracting more attention than revenue. With Russians earning an average of about $550 a month, few can afford Mr. Simachev’s wares. [...]
In general, the piece is pretty readable, and Simachev doesn't sound like some terrible ogre at all:
[...] “Nobody wants to go back to Communism. But it had certain attributes and symbols which for younger people are not associated with the regime, but with our own personal memories.” [...]
I wouldn't mind it if someone gave me a t-shirt with this image for, say, my birthday:
More stuff from Simachev is here and here.
And here's an item from Simachev's 2007 collection:
I'm posting it here because some bloggers seem to have taken Simachev and what they believe his message is a bit too seriously - and I wonder if they bothered to look through his stuff before sitting down to write these titles for their blog posts:
La Russophobe: "Russians Find Dictatorship and Mass Murder Oh-So Stylish".
James, from Robert Amsterdam's blog: "Chekist Chic: Nostalgia for Soviet Fashion Is a Hit in Moscow".
Sorry, guys, but that's pretty clueless.