|All About My Mother by Mila Ateva, photographed by Zlatimir Arakliev|
There was another piece on Russia's "booming" fashion industry in The Independent over the weekend. I recommend you read the piece in its entirety as I am guessing you would be surprised by some of the numbers quoted in the article. What I can't tell is whether any original reporting has been done for it as many of the quotes are taken from the New York Times article I mentioned a few weeks back.
Anya Ziourova is quoted again and so is Miroslava Duma, both basically saying that there was no "fashion" to speak of prior to the fall of Communism. "There was 70 years of nothing at all in our country, and then, when people got huge money from oil, there was huge interest in fashion," says Duma. Which strikes me as true but also as a very inaccurate way of describing that period, both aesthetically and economically.
It is true that clothing production and especially the production of luxury consumer goods was very much centralized and under severe control but at the same time, fashion (like art and design) was encouraged and supported if for no better reason than just to simply show the West that we could do just as well and better! Fashion was kept deliberately different but also entirely in tune with what was going on in the West. It's not that we didn't know what people in Europe and the States had. We were entirely aware of it, we were simply not supposed to want it.
What bothers me is that many people assume that people interpreted that by dressing like field workers or tractor drivers. Which, of course, was there but in no way was it the way most people lived. Our fashion wasn't anti-fashion. It was anti-Western fashion. And, as much as it was different it was also beautiful in its own way: more modest, more subdued, more functional. But also more direct, less fussy and respectful of traditional craftsmanship.
As I am thinking about all this, I keep going back to a story by Mila Ateva titled All About My Mother. The story is featured in 12 Mag (a Bulgarian fashion publication) and is inspired my Mila's memories of her own mother in Bulgaria during the 80s: coming home from work, wearing a dress, high heels and bringing home a bouquet of flowers. The model in the story (pictured above) is wearing Mila's mother's actual clothes and is insanely beautiful. I am absolutely mesmerized by the story and consider it in many ways the best documentation of that period that I have come across. And when someone tells me that during Communism, there was "70 years of nothing at all"... I just find that not only inaccurate but also absolutely disrespectful to the many men and women who took such great care to live beautiful, inspiring lives... despite everything.