Viacheslav “Slava” Zaitsev, the couturier who gained international fame for his Soviet fashion designs infused with vibrant Russian folkloric motifs, has died at the age of 85.
Iconic Russian couturier Viacheslav "Slava" Zaitsev has died at the age of 85.
The fashion designer, known by his admirers as the "Red Dior", was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2016 and had been partially paralysed for the past few years. He reportedly died while hospitalised, succumbing to internal bleeding.
Russian state channel Perviy Kanal praised Zaitsev as a man who "dictated Soviet and Russian fashion for decades," calling him an "innovator who wasn't afraid of bold experiments.”
Zaitsev grew up in the town of Ivanovo, around 300 kilometres northeast of Moscow. After graduating from the Moscow Textile Institute in 1962, he found a job at a factory that made women's clothes. During the initial days of his career as a courtier, he faced a lot of criticism for using bright colours in his designs, which featured flower patterns taken from traditional Russian shawls.
His first collection of clothes - a uniform for female workers that featured skirts with the flower patterns and multicoloured boots - was rejected by Soviet authorities.
“The colours were too bright and contrasted with the greyness of Soviet everyday life, where an individual should not differ from the rest of society,” Zaitsev said in an interview with AFP in 2018.
However, Zaitsev soon caught people's attention worldwide and showcased his collections at fashion weeks in Paris and Florence. His career then took him to the catwalks of New York and Tokyo.
French media called him the "Soviet Christian Dior," a nickname that stuck with him during his entire career.
Zaitsev was watched closely by the KGB because of his contacts with Western designers. He was initially refused permission to leave the Soviet Union.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, the wife of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Raisa, wore Zaitsev's collections.
In 1987, he showcased the "One Thousand Years Since Russia’s Baptism" collection in New York. The following year, he presented his "Russian Seasons" collection in Paris.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's then wife, Lyudmila, also wore one of the designer's dresses during a state visit to the United Kingdom in 2003.
Later in life, between 2007 and 2009, he presented a popular television show called "The Verdict of Fashion," in which stylists dressed participants in the latest street looks.