By Lydia Kelly
May 1 (Reuters) – Vyacheslav “Slava” Zaitsev, the designer behind world-famous Soviet fashion often adorned with colorful Russian folk patterns, died Sunday at the age of 85, Russian news agencies reported.
Born into a working-class family in 1938, Zaitsev’s first international recognition came in 1963 when French magazine Paris Match wrote about his collection of working-class overalls, according to a note posted on his fashion house’s website.
The RIA news agency reported that the collection’s bright, flowery jackets and skirts were rejected by the experimental clothing factory Zaitsev worked for.
The French press dubbed it “Red Dior” in the 1960s.
In 1965 he began working as the artistic director of the experimental All-Union House of Fashion Models in Moscow, and some of his designs, which often implemented traditional Russian floral patterns, were exhibited in the West.
In 1969, the Museum of Modern Art in New York hosted an exhibition of women’s dresses based on sketches by Zaitsev, among others. After the show, Zaitsev received offers to open stores in the West, which the Soviet authorities rejected.
In 1979 Zaitsev left the All-Union House of Models for a small workshop, which he transformed in 1982 into the Slava Zaitsev Moscow Fashion House, becoming the first Soviet designer allowed to label his clothes.
Among Zaitsev’s Russian clients were music stars, actors, socialites and politicians.
The patronage of Raisa Gorbacheva, the wife of the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, elevated her international fame in the 1980s.
He also counted President Vladimir Putin’s ex-wife Lyudmila as a client.
“I was incredibly lucky that at the beginning of my conscious life I decided, thank God, what I wanted to do, who I should be,” Zaitsev wrote in a note on his website. “Thank God, I found the meaning of life in search of Harmony and Perfection by means of the highest sartorial art, the art of painting and graphic design, photography. .. in life, poetry.”
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by Gerry Doyle)
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