Russia’s most famous fashion designer, Vyacheslav “Slava” Zaitsev, has passed away. Russian media reported it on Sunday. The 85-year-old Zaitsev could count, among other things, the first women of Russia among his wide clientele.
According to the Russian news agency TASS, he passed away on Sunday after a long illness. Other Russian media wrote that he was taken to a hospital in the Moscow region with stomach bleeding and died in intensive care.
Zaitsev was born on March 2, 1938 in Ivanovo – the center of the textile industry, about 300 kilometers northeast of Moscow. It was a time when almost everyone in the former Soviet Union wore old, faded and gray clothes.
In 1965 he was appointed artistic director of the All-Union House of Fashion Models in Moscow, and some of his designs, often featuring stylized traditional Russian patterns, were exhibited in the West. In 1969, the Museum of Modern Art in New York staged a show of women’s dresses based on Zaitsev’s drawings, among others. After the show, Zaitsev received offers to open stores in the West, which the Soviet authorities refused.
In 1979, Zaitsev left the All-Union House of Models for a small studio, which he transformed into the Slava Zaitsev Moscow Fashion House in 1982, becoming the first Soviet designer allowed to name his clothes after himself.
Among Zaitsev’s Russian clients were music stars, actors and politicians. The designer achieved his international breakthrough when Raisa, wife of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, began wearing his creations in the 1980s and 1990s. Thanks to the emergence of the Soviet couple and a program of reform known as “Perestroika,” Zaitsev soon began showing his designs in Paris, Tokyo, and other world cities. In the French press, he was later dubbed “Red Dior”, a reference to the famous French fashion house.
Zaitsev was dressed by Lyudmila, the wife of Russian President Vladimir Putin. She wore one of his dresses during a state visit to the UK in June 2003, which was also attended by Queen Elizabeth II.
Zaitsev won many awards at home and abroad. “I was incredibly lucky to realize early on what I wanted to do with my life,” Zaitsev wrote on his website. “Thank God, I found the meaning of life in the search for harmony and perfection through the finest art of dress.”
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