Slava Zaitvev brand
Viacheslav Zaitsev, better known as Slava Zaitsev, born on March 2, 1938, in Ivanovo (USSR) is a Russian fashion and costume designer.
Born to a mother who was a cleaner and laundry woman, and a father who was ruled ‘an enemy of the people’ and deported to Stalinist camp, his destiny seemed decided for him. Having been unable to study what he wanted, he joined the Applied Arts Faculty of the Chemistry and Technology School in his hometown in 1952. He left with a diploma in hand and an artistic knowledge of the textile industry. Zaitsev then completed a degree, graduating with honors in 1956, and decided to continue his studies at the Moscow State Textile University. The young man graduated with a diploma in painting (decoration and design) in 1962. He married Marina Zaitseva in 1959 and they had a son, Egor Zaitsev, in 1960.
A love of art
Slava Zaitsev’s mother influenced his career choice. As he helped her while she washed laundry, he became fascinated by the immaculate white of the linens and embroideries. Out of love for his mother, he tried his hand at embroidering and created small cushions using different cross stitches, but embroidery required a talent for counting and drawing. It was at this point that Zaitsev developed a passion for nature. He would draw everything around him, from carnations to lilies and blackcurrants. This infinite world of shapes and colors forged his keen eye and sharp mind. Zaitsev appreciated the essential beauty of nature, and like many Slavic people, he enjoyed the revitalizing happiness of belonging to the natural world.
Zaitsev in detail
Weaving his natural destiny
Slava Zaitsev is a painter, a poet, a graphic designer, and a fashion designer. But he also loves playing stage director when he shows his work at what he calls the “fashion theater.” This passion for the dramatic has led Zaitsev beyond his own collections to design costumes and scenography for different performances.
Beaumarchais’ The Marriage of Figaro was one of the plays he worked on for the Moscow Satire Theater. He also contributed to productions for the Maly Drama Theater, the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater, and the renowned Sovremennik Theater. This naturally led to Zaitsev being asked to design sets and costumes for movies.
Zaitsev shot into the international spotlight when he dressed a succession of champions from the Russian figure skating team and hostesses and stewards from the Russian national airline, Aeroflot. The most eye-opening examples of his work on the world stage were the costumes Zaitsev designed for the Russian team at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics. Last but not least, Slava’s talents have also been celebrated in photo exhibits, and painting and drawing exhibitions organized in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The brand and the fashion house
Slava Zaitsev was the only designer in the USSR allowed to label his own clothing, at his eponymous Slava Zaitsev Moscow Fashion House. The company opened with a theatrical show on June 19, 1982, and the classic black coats with appliqué features made him the talk of the town. The site was a gift from the Soviet State to the people of Moscow as part of a celebration of the Russian capital.
Recognized by his peers
After graduating from the Moscow State Textile University, Slava Zaitsev was hired as a womenswear designer at a factory in the Moscow region. The young man’s first collection upset the status quo, as he broke away from the usual drab workers’ clothing to create colorful jackets and boots and dresses featuring Pavlovo Posad* motifs. The creative board accused him of exerting a toxic influence over the Soviet people. Disappointed, Zaitsev then set about coloring the boring, ugly clothing using gouache paint…
In 1963 however, at the age of 24, Zaitsev was interviewed by French special envoys for Paris-Match newspaper in an article entitled “The Man Dictating Fashion in Moscow.”
Two years after the article was published, Zaitsev was found in Moscow by Dior’s Marc Bohan and other fashion designers such as Guy Laroche and Pierre Cardin who were eager to meet the daring Russian. He had just finished his studies, and was introduced to figures who would go on to become leading designers. A Parisian newspaper published a photo of Zaitsev flanked by Pierre Cardin and Marc Bohan, both impressed by his creations, in an article entitled “The Kings of Fashion.” Cardin even described him as his equal, and the French press nicknamed him the “Red Dior.”
From then on, his fame grew in the West and his collections were presented at Paris and Florence Fashion Weeks. In 1988, for the very first time in haute-couture history, Soviet fashion caused a storm in Paris thanks to Zaitsev. The Russian designer was even invited by Madame Carven to present his new collection at the Marigny Theater. He was lauded as the man of the year in the ultra-elitist fashion world, and was later named an honorary citizen of the city of Paris.
Slava Zaitsev’s Iconic Achievements
• The Russian Seasons collection presented in Paris and Munich in 1988 was specially designed with fabrics purchased across Europe. The challenge was to recreate a Russian identity with fabrics sourced from different traditions and cultures.
• The 1989 exhibition in Tokyo, where Zaitsev won the prestigious first prize in the “World’s Five Best Haute-Couture Designers” category against competitors Donna Karan, Claude Montana, Hanae Mori, and Byblos.
• The year 1992 was also important in Zaitsev’s career, when he presented his latest fashion collections for the very first time in prestigious locations such as New York and Beverly Hills. Never before had Russian fashion made it onto American catwalks. The highly-attended shows were hosted at the Bowles-Sorokko galleries on the East and West Coasts, and launched the first cultural exchanges between the United States and the new Russia.
• Two personal exhibitions in Belgium in 1993-1994.
• The Slava Zaitsev Fashion Theater, which took part in the 1999 International Fashion Festival in Berlin. This event was the chance to showcase the incredible, innovative work of this leading designer who had become a major fashion icon.
• When Russian president Vladimir Putin paid a state visit to the United Kingdom in 2003, Zaitsev was asked to design outfits for Russia’s first lady, Lyudmila Putina. The official visit also included a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.
• After visiting Ashgabat in June 2008 for a Turkoman textile exhibition, Zaitsev developed a fascination for the country’s traditional clothing and created a new collection featuring traditional local elements. The collection was made exclusively using Turkoman cotton, and included the traditional Turkoman embroidery that had so captured Zaitsev’s imagination.
• Fashion Week Russia sponsored by Mercedes-Benz and held at the Moscow Manege building in 2012 was dedicated to Zaitsev’s 50-year career and the 30th anniversary of his eponymous fashion house. Visitors were able to see his creations from 1982 through to today. They included one of his arguably most renowned collections, celebrating the 1000-year anniversary of the Christianization of Russia, first presented in New York and Paris in 1987-1988.
Ermitage exhibition in Saint Petersburg
• A more personal art exhibition was held at the Russian embassy in London. The event highlighted the close ties between Zaitsev’s paintings and his work as a fashion designer. A clear continuity was showcased throughout his artistic focal points and his choice of themes. Zaitsev’s most intimate paintings and drawings were later exhibited across the West. After all, he had been painting for many years, but his works had never left the USSR as they did not “comply with the dogmas of socialist realism.” With this event, the West realized the exceptional designer’s true talents across a range of prestigious fields.
• The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg honored Zaitsev in June 2016 with a major exhibition of his work. The event revealed a number of creations from the Slava Zaitsev Moscow Fashion House over the last 30 years, along with his clothing design sketches and photos. More than a hundred pieces from different collections were presented to the general public.