Beautiful Fashion of Beautiful People

Belarusian fashion grew out of diapers, became stronger and got on to feet
Belarusian fashion grew out of diapers, became stronger and got on to feet

Whatever you may say, the model business is a tough thing. Beauties often have to go to the limit and should always be ready to self-sacrifice. Not only beauties, though… These unbelievable efforts were worth it. Rome was keeping an eye on Belarusian fashion for several days and chose the favorites. Italians are ready to give the three models they liked the best a free photo session in the Eternal City and place them on the covers of the leading fashion magazines. What about a month in Rome in front of cameras in beautiful clothes? Also, the Rome-based Fashion and Costume Academy chose three Belarusian couturiers to take traineeship programs in fashion houses Valentino, Bertolucci, Mango, Adamo and other “gods” from the fashion Olympus.

Show under aggravating circumstances

Italians are probably more fashion-pampered than any other nation, and Italian men are definitely spoilt by so many beautiful women walking around. Local signorine are not only pretty and charming, but also seem to have a great taste for stylish and fashionable things, just enough to balance between elegant and extravagant. Anyways, there are many pretty women in any European capital city, but as for handsome men, you will never meet as many of them elsewhere… So the mission was next to impossible, to fascinate the “spoilt” public of Rome, the capital of the world fashion industry. And, which is even worse, to make them clap their hands in frosty “aggravating circumstances”.

The municipality of Rome provided one of its largest halls, seating up to 1,500 viewers, to Belarusian designers. Another gift is a lap of “the fabric of the future” (Italians invest millions in advertising another crazy invention, some weightless fabric, which keeps you afloat in swimsuits and warms you in a light coat somewhere in Antarctica). A couple of hours before fashionistas, paparazzi and celebrities gather for the show is enough to decorate the catwalk and work out a concept of the show for the Belarusians and Fashion and Costume Academy. Open-air pavilions for young Belarusian and Italian couturiers provided enough space for designers and their models, but that was where the “extreme” began…

Italy seems so far from Belarus, but winter may be equally biting there.

Mediterranean nights are not meant for long sentimental walks, but what a walk that was! Belarusian models were making their way down the catwalk with dignity and unbelievable grace, amidst the coat-covered public packed around the runway warming their hands in the immense unheated hall. Four and a half hours of the show with only a couple of minutes to change the light attire, and no lamentations from half-naked girls that had experienced a 3-hour tiring bus trip before the show. “Oh, come on, it was fine!” they were giggling the following day remembering the show by Ivan Aiplatov and Yelena Adamchik in Minsk last May, when they were marching up and down a 100-meter catwalk under a heavy rain. That was some test, they claim. Of course they know better, but I still shiver when I think of a frosty Rome that defied weather laws and had to face a very cold spell last December.

Diplomats’ wives are experts in fashion

The “Bravissimo!”s were because of good looks, though, and not to support the frozen beauties. Fashionists have little time to think about what happens outside the runway, unless reporters wish to create a sensation. There were many of them at the show, by the way, including those covering only the top fashion stories. They were all unanimous: beautiful people brought beautiful clothes to Rome. This sincere enthusiasm was accompanied by untranslatable gestures. Italians do not need a show to be emotional, but that night the Belarusians did their best, including those who were demonstrating their collections abroad for the first time. Their debuts were at the “Fashion Mill” in Minsk.

I was not the only one that worried that this “Roman turn” of the mill might become a blank shot. In Berlin they are always happy to see us, but in Rome, which has made fashion its official middle name, Belarusians will hardly become exotic enough… Oh, yes, they will, Pavel Mozheiko, the counselor of Belarus’ Embassy in Italy, tells me. The spouses of our diplomats prefer Belarusian brands despite the striking variety of Italian clothes, and they often “shock Italian beauties” (I quote Mr. Mozheiko as saying), who never expect such a fierce competition from the east. The Belarusians in Italy tend to wear Kondra dresses (the owner of Kondra, which is based in Brest, Natalia Kondratenko, made her debut at the “Fashion Mill” six years ago) and recommend the brand to their friends.

Mill turns faster

It was not without some envy that Belarusian designers were looking at the collections of their Italian colleagues, who seemed to have had enough experiments with tailoring and styles, and have plunged into new fabrics.

Leather under guise of lace, lace that looks like fur and cambric that is like knitting, hoop skirts with tracksuits! They will all be taken to Minsk for the next “Fashion Mill”, Italians promise. They are also willing to come to Minsk to visit their reliable Belarusian partners. We may not be as good in textile processing, but there is definitely enough imagination to elegantly combine something that seems incongruous, like hoop skirts and T-shirts.

Italian specialists were quite meticulous about their beloved child, fashion, but only a couple of collections for women were mildly criticized. As for men’s collections, the unambiguous “Bravissimo!” sounded more than once to emphasize that Belarusians managed to outstrip their counterparts from the cradle of fashion.

Another thing that impressed Italian fashionists was the young Belarusian models. The Universum Models kids were trained so well they never overdid on the catwalk and remained as natural as ever. This is an important quality for anyone, not only a future model. Director Alexander Yefremov found one of the heroines of his movie Dunechka at a fashion show. Sasha Grinker (Mini-miss Belarus) dreams of being an actress, but right after she becomes a tennis player and doctor, she told me on our way back to Minsk.
By the way, of all Belarusian models I saw none wished to stake on beauty: all of them study in the best Minsk universities. Bubbleheaded models are a myth, same as their draconian diets.

Sasha Varlamov, the owner of one of the best-known model agencies in Belarus, went to Vienna the other day to organize his Fashion Mill there in 2007. He believes young Belarusian couturiers should be aware of the recent trends in Austrian fashion.

After the New Year holidays each Belarusian region launched its own fashion mill. Belarus is breaking fashion records so fast that it seems the world may soon be talking not only about “Belarusian fashion”, but also about “Vitebsk Ritz” and “Mogilev Style”. The Minsk-based “Na Nemige” supermarket will open a section of young designers, where anyone will be able to purchase a bit of Belarusian fashion tested and tasted in Europe.

Irina Zavadskaya
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