A glimpse of Russia in Dubai

A glimpse of Russia in Dubai

Designer Igor Gulyaev, who participated in the recent Matryoshka Festival, is using fashion to bring the culture to international markets


Janice Rodrigues

Published: Fri 11 May 2018, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 11 May 2018, 2:00 AM

We've all heard about Parisian chic or New York style, but when you think about the global fashion scene, Russia is probably not the first country to come to mind. Reason? Although Russia does have a rich and illustrious history, it is a relative newcomer to the international fashion market. Prior to 1991, Russia was closed off from imported American and European designs and, as a result, most outfits were made by local craftsmen. or sewed by people themselves. Which is why designer Igor Gulyaev got his first taste of fashion at a young age.
"I grew up in a small town during a difficult period for the country," says the designer who was in the UAE for the recently-concluded Matryoshka Festival. "My grandmother and mother sewed clothes themselves and, at the age of 14, I mastered the sewing machine. I still remember the first thing I sewed myself - a shirt with a non-standard cut."

(Designer Igor Gulyaev) 
His tryst with fashion may have begun at an early age, but it wasn't always what he wanted to do with his life. In fact, since childhood, Igor wanted a career in music, and worked towards it by studying it professionally. Eventually, his love for fashion trumped that of music, and he ended up in the fur industry, where he worked for 18 years, before setting up his own label, Igor Gulyaev.
Today, his work with fur has played an integral part in his success. Labelled as a 'fur expert', he's famous for turning fur items into works of art. For Igor, this is all part of paying tribute to his country and its culture. 
"Russia is a royal country. We have been wearing fur since time immemorial," he says. "It helps create an exquisite and noble image and combines femininity, refinement and aristocracy. And, of course, the role it plays in our climatic conditions should not be forgotten. It may be a complicated material to work with, but I like dealing with difficult tasks."
One might think that working with fur limits his reach in international markets, but Igor has been careful to blend it with other materials and interesting cuts to give it a more global appeal. His designs have been seen on celebrities such as Sharon Stone and Goldie Hawn, and in 2011, he became the first Russian designer to take part in the Milan Fashion Fur Week (MIFUR). So, what's his secret? "Relevance," he says. "I do not like to create things that will hang in the closet. I want people who own my clothes to be proud of the pieces and walk around in them. To do this, naturally, I take into account the local mentality."
This year saw Igor opening his first Middle East boutique in Dubai (located in The Mall on Jumeirah Road) and he has, as promised, modified the collection according to regional sensibilities. The shoulder and décolletage area has been closed for some of the items in his collections and he has also created an abaya, a tribute to the region! "It has such a special place in the wardrobe and it was important for me to prove that my clothes can be interesting, elegant and uncommon, while respecting religious canons," he says.
All this means fashionistas in the region can get a little taste of Russian style without having to leave the country. One could wonder if the fact that Igor's brand - and its reputation for working with fur - might deter some women in sunny Dubai, but Igor is not too concerned. "Most of my clients in Dubai aren't afraid of buying fur as they all travel abroad," he says. "They know it will be of use at some time or the other."
"But honestly, I see hundreds of women around the world who are united by their sense of style and beauty - those are things that needed to be developed and cultivated," he adds. "Then, whether you live in Russia, China, United Arab Emirates, Europe or America, you will certainly find outfits that are relevant in the streets of your city."  

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