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My English Library Returns to Moscow

My library is finally back home. After I had moved and posted everything that needed to go before anything else, there only remained hardbacks and photocopies to be transported from Manchester to Moscow. That was the end of December, 2013.

In 2014, my grandma died, then the anti-Crimean sanctions struck, a little later, in the aftermath of the flood, we were faced with a complete makeover of the flat… The prospect of bringing the books and papers to Moscow was delaying with every passing month and year.

Then I made a resolution to have them all back to Moscow by the end of 2019. And when that didn’t work, I didn’t back down but instead adjusted the deadline. I suppose I was as determined as Cato the Elder when he professed the imminent destruction of Carthage. None of us knew exactly when this would happen but both of us were determined to live to the day. Well, I certainly was.

So, the books are finally here, and I have also been able to appreciate the long-term friendly ties that remain despite the boundaries and time. One friend helped to pack the boxes, another arranged the posting. Here in Moscow I had some books delivered by the courier; a few I picked up from my local post office; and one I had to collect from a remote post office in a taxi.

This weekend was spent putting the books on the shelves. The papers are still to be accommodated in their new abode. One thing I have already done was to look through my treasured Unseen Vogue and People in Vogue editions. In one of the pictures you can see Wallis Simpson and the former king Edward VIII, photographed by Cecil Beaton.

Milan’s Men’s Fashion Week

Russia’s leading fashion and style portal, LookAtMe, has published a photographic digest of Men’s Fashion Week in Milan this year. I’m a rare one for fashion photography, as you know, but men’s fashion has always been a bit underestimated. I must say, however: it is when I look at these photos that I wish I was born a man. Photos by Michele Michelsanti.




Matrioshka Fashion: The Haute Couture Take On Russian Symbol

One of the hallmarks of Moscow Design Week 2011 was Jacopo Foggini’s Matrioska installation. Fashion designers do, from time to time, pay homage to one of Russia’s most recognisable symbols. All that pales (arguably) in comparison to what designers did for Russian Vogue’s 10th anniversary in 2008. The then editor-in-chief, Alyona Doletskaya gave a creative brief to top couturiers to design a matrioshka, marrying the fashion brand’s “identity” with the peculiar form of a Russian doll. The result is a range of contemporary artworks by the likes of Marni, Prada, Jitrois, and others. This remains a great example of using an old form to produce a brand-new look, feel, and even the purpose.



St Basil’s Cathedral Protects You at Night

by F. T.

This is the kind of jewellery that I think is designed to be worn on a night out, so that when you are leaving a bar at quarter to four in the morning you don’t have to worry about anyone attacking you. With a ring like that on your finger, you’re well armed, in the proper sense of the word.

I have a couple of huge rings that I’m very fond of, but none of them is similar to the one designed by the French jeweller… sadly I didn’t take down his name, so I only remember his initials: F. T. This is a spectacular and impressive, if not massive, nod to the famous St. Basil’s cathedral in Red Square that celebrated its 450th anniversary in 2011.

Russians in China Exhibition Continues in Moscow

A Harbin-made dress (Alexander Vassiliev collection)

Russians in China exhibition at the State Orient Museum in Moscow (October 13, 2011 – January 2, 2012) traces the history of Russian emigration in China. This topic has become widely popular in the recent years, bringing academics and artists from various fields to contemplate the fate of those Russian emigrants who had to leave the country and to settle in the world quite different from
their own.

The present exhibition is a joint effort of the Russian-born French Historian of Fashion and Costume Designer, Alexander Vassiliev, and the State Orient Museum in Moscow. The exposition looks at the way of life of the Russian emigrants in China in the first half of the 20th c., particularly 1920s-30s. It explores the intercultural dialogue between Russian and Chinese traditions in art and domestic life, and especially at the material culture of the Russian set.

The challenge was presented by the necessity to display the co-existance of Russian and Chinese objects. The artifacts and clothes brought by Russian emigrants were heavily influenced, if not produced, by European designers. This ‘European’ part of exhibition has been entirely selected and arranged by Alexander Vassiliev. Among the dresses of prominent Russian female emigrees are several art deco numbers, some of which were purchased from the collection of the private secretary of the Admiral Kolchak. Other objects on display are dresses and kimonos made in Harbin in 1920s-30s, as well as “Chinoiserie” (Chinese-esque) numbers by British and French designers of the time.

The artifactual part of exhibition comes predominantly from the collection of Dmitry Melnikov who came to live in China in the 19th c. and amassed a superb repertoire of Chinese art works.

Russian emigrants in China usually settled in four of the country’s top cities: Harbin, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Wuhan. The Russian set included such figures as Alexander Vertinsky, Oleg Lundstrem, Larissa Anderson, Pavel Severny, and many others. The world-famous painter Nikolai Roerich also visited these centres of Russian emigration. These figures all left unique recollections of the ups and downs of Russians who escaped their native homes amidst the Revolution and Civil War.

Last but not least, the visitors of the exhibition will also see the examples of Russian-language newspapers that were aimed at aquainting the Russians with the Chinese news, customs, and traditions. Some of the most intriguing displays contain photographs made by Russian emigrants in China and Korea where the well-off folk spent their summers.

The exhibition Russians in China runs until January 2, 2012. Address and visitor information.


MaxMara Coats Exhibition in Moscow until January 2012

Top Dog in a Top Coat (William Wegman)

Until January 12, 2012 the residents and visitors to Moscow have the unique chance to view the exhibition of top coats by one of the leading Italian fashion houses, MaxMara.

The exhibition marks the 60th anniversary of the label that has been a favourite among the fashion connoisseurs for decades. It takes place at the Exhibition Hall of the State Historical Museum in the city of Moscow.

The photo by William Wegman was made on the occasion of MaxMara’s 50th anniversary.


The Button World at Manchester Art Gallery

A few years ago I wrote the text below and published it on a different blog. Although the blog is no more, the collection the article speaks about is still at the Manchester Art Gallery, so, if interested, you are most welcome to send them any inquiries.


Back in 2004 Manchester Art Gallery has bought the “button world” from the dedicated collectors, Gillian and Alan Meredith. The collection has since gone on display, but somewhat surprisingly is aimed primarily at children.

Whilst not disputing the fact that children enjoy buttons for all good reasons, the adults – especially fashionistas – enjoy them too, and there is no reason why they should not flock to the exhibition. Featuring diverse and sundry buttons, some of which date back to 1750s, the displays contain much to tickle one’s style buds. Or to make one wonder at certain things.

For instance, there you can see the display with ladies’ gloves. The white ones are for the day, and the dark embroidered pair is for the evening. Lovely gloves, but how tiny! The leather is so thin that it is hard to believe the material: you could easily imagine that you are looking at a cardon-board copy. Even less fathomable is how people’s proportions have changed since the 19th c. Of course, today’s ladies’ hands are elegant and delicate in their own way, but if elegance is to be judged by a size, then modern female hands are nowhere near their 19th c. “predecessors”. In addition, the very look at those tiny gloves might see you reconsidering the entire “zero size” problem we often discuss today.

Two other gems of the display are a pair of Victorian children boots (very small again), and a few sets of Dorset buttons. If you are concerned about the children labour being used today to produce clothes and accessories, have a good look at the Dorset buttons (1800-1830). These were made by women and children from villages around Dorset and were hugely popular all over Europe. At the start of the 19th c. it was the hit of fashion to adorn white cotton muslin dresses with these buttons, but you are not mistaken in thinking that the buttons are just too delicate. They really are, and, as a proficient user of knitting needles and crochet, I know how much strain this sort of work causes to the eyes.

There are many more amazing buttons to be seen: the “Long Live the King” buttons that celebrated the recovery of King George III from his long illness; the buttons featuring characters from Charles Dickens’s novels; the Guinness buttons (1950-1960); and the Rothschild family buttons (1885-1900). The buttons are not exclusively English: there is a set of five Fornasetti buttons made in Milan in 1922. The set is titled Life’s Pleasures (i.e. Love, Pride, Luck, Success, and Money) and is made of porcelain.

Many more buttons are assembled in individual displays by type, and there are wooden, diamanté, plastic, brass buttons of all shapes and sizes. Not only that, there are also some really exciting designs, like the pooch or flower buttons.

Thanks to the Merediths, Manchester Art Gallery has unbuttoned a superb history of one of the main fashion accessories. It would be a shame if the exhibition remained focused solely on children.

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