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Zaitsev says his customers find his swingy, generous cuts liberating: ''In the past, Soviet women were squeezed into their clothes.'' Nearby, at the Dom Modeli - the flagship of the Soviet fashion industry and Zaitsev's chief competitor -well-heeled private clients, reporters, manufacturers' representatives and ordinary citizens throng a chandeliered auditorium, settle on the velvet-cushioned chairs that line the runway and murmur their approval of the season's new looks. At its most current, Russian fashion is voluminous and steeped in a romantic nostalgia.Here, star billing goes to only a few designers, including Alexander Igmand, whose oversized, understated men's suits have a military cast, and who outfitted members of the 1988 Soviet Olympic team; and Irina Krutikova, who assembles her intricately worked furs, some of which are dyed in improbable candy-box colors, from the pelts of rabbit, mink, fox, raccoon and squirrel. Coats and dresses are tent-shaped; hemlines flutter, and everywhere, fabric floats, wafts or flares.But in Gorky Park or on Arbat Street in Moscow's oldest neighborhood, there are surprising hints of the faddish and the hip.In her keenness to stand out from the herd, one young woman spotted on an afternoon in spring wore a sleekly tapered jacket, its collar raffishly turned up against the chill.
The Ministry, Zaitsev complains, thwacking the table for emphasis, has not seen fit to provide him with the minimal trappings of success. Rail as he may, Zaitsev's protests only highlight the fact that he is currently basking in a permissive, even indulgent, climate.Russian folklore inspires some couturiers to employ peasant motifs and embroideries on everything from overcoats to evening dresses.A babushka peering through the Dom Modeli's large show windows last spring would have found herself face to face with reminders of her village girlhood.The austerity of the room is relieved here and there by stylish touches: a vase of calla lilies on a windowsill, a Modernist sketch on a far wall and, behind the designer, a photograph of two models, one scantily clad, the other sheathed in one of his slithery evening dresses.
Picking up steam, the Dom Modi's artistic director unleashes a tirade against a system he claims has yet to appreciate him. Worse, he has not been supplied with the raw essentials of his craft: not the textiles, nor the linings, not even the buttons or the shoulder pads that underpin a proper collection.Supplies are scanty, to be sure, and Zaitsev's office could be fancier.