Kirill Ilichev of the Moscow Export Center on helping Russian designers become international entrepreneurs
The Mode: Moscow showroom on Castiglione street, two steps from Paris’ luxury thoroughfare Place Vendôme, was where 27 Muscovite labels presented a diverse array of collections for this season. The showroom was organized by the Moscow Fashion Association created earlier this year by journalist and Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, along with fashion professor Anzor Kankulov with the support of the Moscow Export Center.
Attesting to the growing influence of Russian labels, the fledgling showroom attracted a buzzing crowd of international press, fashion socialites and top luxury buying directors to its launch party on September 24. The day after, FashionNetwork.com met with the young CEO of the Moscow Export Center, Kirill Ilichev, to talk about the showroom, its European buyers and the work of the Moscow Export Center.
FashionNetwork.com: Could you tell us more about the Moscow Fashion Association, created in April?
Kirill Ilichev: Our organization, the Moscow Export Center, created by the Moscow Government to help entrepreneurs from the Russian capital enter foreign markets, of course, supported the creation of the association. We help to provide support for any associations of entrepreneurs with common goals, because the system works [to support] the community, rather than individual designers. But our fashion community is one of the most fragmented. For example, today there are 27 very different brands at the showroom. And if we hadn’t organized it, many would not even know that [some of them] exist.
FNW: How did your colleagues react to the fact that the Export Centre would support the fashion industry? Was there any surprise about it considering that this is not considered the most pressing problem for Muscovites?
K.I.: There was. It's no secret that we [Russians] have a special feature in our mentality - to criticize. Some people wonder why we should maintain the fashion industry if there are social problems. It all started with a request from fashion professionals after a meeting with Moscow Mayor Sobyanin, where industry representatives asked the city for help, since this sphere, despite there having been some occasional initiatives, did not have a support system. After this appeal, we started making some steps progressively. For us this field is important firstly as an entrepreneurial industry. All the brands represented in this showroom are Muscovite companies who pay taxes into the city budget; Muscovites work for them. And our main goal is that fashion design, from being a "creative hobby", as it is perceived in Russia, becomes a business, so that designers can become entrepreneurs.
FNW: What have you already done as part of the Fashion Association?
K.I.: Last year, even before the association was founded, we organized a collective booth of Muscovite designers at the CPM tradeshow (the biggest fashion tradeshow in Russia and the Eastern Europe), in which 13 brands participated. This year there were 20. In addition, in early September we held the first Moscow Fashion Summit, which, for example, was visited by the chairman of the British Fashion Council, Caroline Rush. After the event we agreed with her that the MEC and the British Fashion Council would cooperate. So, we organized three major projects: a stand at CPM, the Moscow Fashion Summit and the showroom Mode:Moscow.
FNW: What is the main purpose of the Mode: Moscow event?
K.I.: The primary goal is the sale of the collections that we brought to Paris. To do this, we have organized buying sessions: there is a schedule of buyers’ visits, including those from Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Saks and others. And there are not only French or European buyers, yesterday (during the cocktail party) there were buyers from Shanghai and some Japanese ones. The second goal is to see how people work here. Since this is also new for me, I watched how they behaved, what they were looking at. Before they left I tried to get feedback from everyone. For many of them, the evolution of a brand is very important. One of the buyers pre-ordered three labels, she was interested in [the future development of] two more. But we of course do not expect a ‘wow-effect’ right away. We brought everything for the first time and we understand that this is a gradual process. Yesterday we agreed with Printemps to sell one of our designers, and then buyers from other stores will come to Printemps, and so this is how this wheel begins to turn slowly.
FNW: Do you notice the difference in working styles between people from different countries, for example, Russians and French?
K.I.: I work in different fields, but in Russia - and in fashion this is particularly evident - a lot depends on the personality and on who communicates with whom. For example, one of yesterday's buyers is friends with a TSUM [Russia’s biggest department store] buyer, and she came with a very positive attitude.
FNW: How do you evaluate the work of the showroom over the first two days?
K.I.: We are absolutely expecting to be successful, because we have attracted international experts. Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised that Carine Roitfeld came, she stayed for a long time and went through all the designers! We are very pleased that international stars are paying attention on us.
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