For all its obsessive preoccupation with youththe underage models and a preponderance of styles that only a gamine could get away withthe business of fashion has always been run by grownups. But there are some notable exceptions: Yves Saint Laurent was the original child prodigy, an assistant suddenly promoted to head designer of Christian Dior at age 21. When Saint Laurent died in June, French TV reran archival footage of the "boy wonder," blinking shyly behind horn-rims. A few weeks after his funeralat which the French establishment mourned the man as well as the fast-disappearing Old World approach he embodiedfashion's newest half-pint, Kira Plastinina, opened her 54th store, in Los Angeles.
Everything about Kirafrom her background to the way she and her father Sergei Plastinin, who finances her fashion company, operateis a slick mix of mass-market, high-fashion and entertainment strategies. Then there's her age (she just turned 16) and her unlikely home base of Moscow (until recently fashion's ultimate rhinestone sinkhole). Not to mention that Kira has no formal training to be the design director of her eponymous label. Who has time for design school when you're in 11th grade?
Kira's father, a successful entrepreneur who cornered the dairy and juice markets in Russia after perestroika, is not one to get hung up on details. He correctly observed that what counts in the current fashion scene, whether you're in L.A. or Moscow, is buzz. The designer brand Kova & T, by glamorous Russian heiress Dasha Zhukova (who dates billionaire Roman Abramovich), has it. So does Denis Simachev, whose $400 T shirt of Vladimir Putin ringed in roses is available just upstairs from his hot Moscow nightclub. Plastinin says he was wowed by his daughter's fashion drawings and sketches when she was growing up and was confident he had identified another wide-open opportunity in Russia: affordable fashion for the 15-to-25-year-old set. Father and daughter opened the first store in 2007at the mall, naturally.
Seven days a week, the escalators shoot a steady stream of teenagers onto the third floor of Moscow's Evropeisky Mall, one of Russia's largest. On a rainy, chilly Sunday, Kira, dressed in jeans and pink high heels (all her own label), rides to the top with her stepmother Olga, a former marketing exec at Coca-Cola. "That's what my friends dogo to the mall, go to the movies, shop and drink tea," says Kira in her near perfect English. She overuses the word like as an American her age might. "Right now, I don't have much time to hang out with them, because even on Saturdays I'm working, and if I'm not, I, like, have so much homework." For her crowd, the Kira Plastinina store seems perfectly positioned, adjacent to the cinema, with large store windows and a sophisticated display showing mannequins in trendy looks against a kitschy-glamour backdrop. The logo is her name written like a study-hall doodle, with the i in Kira dotted with a glittery heart. No one standing in line for a ticket or popcorn can miss it.
The store is busy with groups of teenage girls holding up tops and dresses for their friends' approval. In the middle of the shop is a round, bubblegum-pink pleather pouf, where girls can try on shoes or lounge with their friends. There are racks of shorts, stretchy tops, sparkly dresses (priced from $38 to $150) for graduation balls, fitted collared shirts with tiny cartoon characters printed on them, and several styles of high heels and platforms, all with trendy twists. Bright pink, lavender and various pastel shades dominate. "That's what I love about Kira's line, it's so girlie," says Masha Fedorova, fashion director of Russia's Glamour magazine, which has featured Kira and her designs. "I see girls with their mums coming into the store. Their mothers don't mind dressing the girls in that. It's quite simple. It's not overdone. It's not vulgar." Her 11-year-old daughter is a fan, she adds.
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