Over a year ago, the Department of Defense created its own design bureau to popularize itself in the civilian market. The well-known Russian designer Leonid Alekseev is at the head of the Army of Russia brand. One of the latest projects of the new undertaking was the launch of a clothing line that could be seen in Moscow at the last Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. The collection focuses on military and sports styles, which are very popular today. In the future, these clothes will be available in special corners of the Voentorg chain stores. It seems that today Leonid Alekseev can be safely called the commander-in-chief of Russian design.
London Collegeof Fashion, Central Saint Martins, European Design Institute - and yet returned to Russia …
The most important thing at that time was to do what I believe in, to be creative. Then I received an offer to participate in the Fashion Week, there was a place to work … Oddly enough, Petersburg missed me and offered a chance, which I took advantage of.
Didn't you try to realize yourself in Europe?
There were, of course, attempts to work in Europe. There were proposals, but they were all very limited: I had to work for someone and perform a very narrow range of tasks. I always wanted to work widely, to come up with something new, to be the most important thing.
Well, what, Saint Laurent also started with Dior
If I had been offered the seat of Saint Laurent at Dior, it would have been a different option. In fact, I wanted to make my own collections and not wait ten years, as it happens in Europe: before releasing collections under his own brand, the designer works for another.
Can you compare the domestic and European industries?
When I returned to Russia, no "domestic industry" existed yet. At that time there were different designers who worked in the atelier, sewed for their clients to order. However, at that time, a lot of interest in hosting shows began to show. Of course, the first decade of Russian fashion is the era of shows, when shows were an end in themselves. This is not an industry, but rather a segment of the industry. But that's where it all started.
And does this industry exist today?
Now we can observe the second stage, when the industry becomes a business. People are interested in not organizing shows, saving money on presentations and taking care of the commercial component of collections and the organization of points of sale. But this is only part of the industry. The whole industry also presupposes some kind of interaction between retail, PR and other components.
And which of the Russian designers can be called commercially successful?
Kirill Gasilin, Alexander Terekhov, Ulyana Sergeenko, Dmitry Loginov, VivaVox brand. These are definitely commercial stories, but in reality there are many more. There are brands in Russia that are not just engaged in the production of clothes, but use global promotion technologies and are successful in terms of profit.
Is there any interest in Russian designers in the West?
If we are talking about the fact that it is impossible to imagine a good European store without Versace, Valentino, Celine, then there is no such Russian brand. There is such a professional concept of "confetti" when, in addition to leading brands, the store presents unknown brands. It's not about “what's new?”, It's about variety and beauty.
And Ulyana Sergeenko?
Yes, there is a great interest in Ulyana now, but nevertheless, it is rather an interest in the Parisian Chamber of Haute Couture. There are very few designers who are ready to spend a lot of money on the development of hautecouture technologies. Therefore, the emerging new designer, who tried to take out haute couture from Paris, the chamber took over. This is more a promotion of the Parisian Fashion Syndicate, rather than the Russians. The main thing is the idea that all the couture is from Paris.
And how commercially successful was the LeonidAlexeev brand ?
Of course he was successful. At the same time, I set myself the task of creating not just clothes, but also many other things. The brand was a success in the media and among consumers. I do not work in one studio, I have many parallel projects.
By the way, is work in the theater some kind of inexhaustible creativity, or is it in some way connected with seasonal collections?
Probably, fashion critics should talk about this. For me, these are independent projects. I am working on costumes for performances as an independent product. Here is my creativity, and my skill, and the involvement of other professionals.
How are seasonal collections created?
There is a specific product matrix that takes into account the specifics of the season and other nuances. Then some themes and sources of inspiration are selected. All of this is encoded and inserted into clothing. The sources of inspiration are always different, and I am acting as a researcher, a scientist. I become a kind of filter, and then I put the information into visual phrases that I understand.
Is there a famous style icon that is especially dear to you?
When they say "style icon", they talk about platitudes and stereotypes. That is why they are called that, because their style has become canonical. Lately, I don't like the definition of "style icon" more, but rather the work of Giorgio Armani, which he did in the 1980s. This is a very soft and romantic beauty. On the other hand, I like the way Kanye West positions himself. He is a prophet, crazy, brutal, ruler. He is a hero, but at the same time not vulgar, he has some kind of complex aesthetics.
Leonid, can you name any components of an ideal female image?
The silhouette is the foundation of any good look. For me, he has always been the main thing, he sets intellectuality, sexuality, romance. In addition, there should always be duality in the image, there should not be unambiguity. A little black dress will be very boring in itself. It just allows you to add something special to it and change the image: with a pearl necklace it looks classic, with red stockings - defiant. This duality is very important, it is a manifestation of taste. And of course, the thing should always fit well, its non-randomness is important. The same goes for street style.
Now your ready-to-wear lines are closed, only the Leon studio remains …
Since I decided to devote myself to work in larger projects, we temporarily do not release collections, but I still make clothes. Let's say I took a little time out. There is also a St. Petersburg atelier, where we work with the client individually.
To what extent is individual tailoring in demand among Russians? And what are their requirements for him?
Individual tailoring is in demand. It is also a dress for the occasion, when an outfit is created for special events. These are custom-sized clothes. It is also used by those who want to try something new, who want something special. First of all, the client asks to help him decide. In this case, we ask what kind of life he leads, what clothes in his wardrobe are most needed, most often used. We are talking about cultural, color preferences, the environment in which a person lives, where he works … And so the task is set together.