Thursday, November 29, 2007

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.


  1. I just saw Simachev's spring-summer 08 collection booklet - there's not a single soviet symbol )

    It's also important to note that the idea of CCCP t-shirts was brought here from the West 6-7 years ago and is out of fashion even in the farthest corners of the FSU

    For Simachev it's not about copying the western trend of soviet symbols, it's more like trying to replace traditional symbols used in street wear in the west - national flags, college logos, slang, everyday means of entertainment - with the similar symbols of his own (and his generation) teen age.

  2. Dear Veronica,

    I am shocked by your grossly inaccurate statement about my blog and hereby demand an apology. It's amazing that you can be so hypocritical, calling for accuracy yet doing nothing to assure that you accurately characterize my post. Beyond that, your post is one of the most vapid and inane I've ever come across in the blogosphere, which is really saying something.

    All my blog did was to re-publish the New York Times article, with no commentary at all of any kind, leaving readers totally free to draw their own conclusions. There is NO commentary in my post about Mr. Simachev WHATSOEVER. Our headline is aimed at THE PEOPLE OF RUSSIA who are embracing Stalin, and documentation that they are doing so is legion an indisputable, and the article is just one more indication of their egregious behavior. As for Robert Amsterdam, whose blog was just nominated for best of Europe (peeved that Global voices wasn't in the running, sweetie?), he needs no defense from me. Your haughty, arrogant dismissal of our blogs as "clueless" is pretty indicative of how seriously your own blog (with few Technorati links and little traffic) can be taken.

    You clearly didn't spend any time at all reading our actual post, even as you dare to criticize us for not reading the Times piece. It looks for all the world that you were just waiting for some chance to attack us. If so, that’s pretty pathetic.

    Having said that, your substantive analysis of the Times piece is deeply warped on two different levels (and I say this as no fan of the Times, which I've often mercilessly attacked).

    First, how you can justify diverting attention from the outrageous decline of democracy in Russia by publishing a piece that could easily have issued from the Kremlin itself is beyond me, and it hardly seems consistent with your mission at Global Voices.

    Second, your attempt to suggest that tourists buying souvenirs that they then shove in drawer is the same as rich Russians buying $600 t-shirts that they proudly flaunt to the world is simply idiotic. Dumber still is your suggestion that the Times is implying that because Putin and Soviet garb has become much more popular, it didn't exist before. There's no such implication, and the fact that this has been going on so long only makes it that much more outrageous. I don't know what planet you are from, but in New York City one doesn't see people marching about proudly with images of Vladimir Putin on their chests, surrounded by flowers -- or David Duke for that matter.

    Do you have ANY evidence that Mr. Simachev has spoken out against the rise of dictatorship in Russia? Has he ever made any direct criticism of Putin? Don't you think it's even a LITTLE bit disgusting to have $600 t-shirts of Putin while he is crushing the life out of Russian democracy and becoming dictator for life? Doesn't Mr. Simachev have ANY obligation to civic responsibility?

    It's obvious that you have just given vent to your own amazingly narrow-minded biases in this post. Would you have dared to write the same thing about a designer who was touting Hitler, or those who brought about the Ukrainian genocide? You know damn well you wouldn't.

    You should be ashamed of yourself. If one were cynical, one might think that you are simply jealous of the fact that Robert and I dominate the Russia blogosphere while you are ignored. A bit more cynical, and one would conclude you are using crass Limbaugh tactics to generate traffic for your blog, hardly what one would expect from the holier-than-thou Global Voices ensemble.

    Yours disappointedly,

    Kim Zigfeld
    La Russophobe