Donning a softly tailored grey jacket, eclectically patterned blue tie and a light layer of mascara, within moments Vladimir projects virile leadership ready to play politics with presidents. Only a few weeks since Putin’s take on military chic was unveiled in the Crimea and shocked the international community, he speaks to Honey Vogue.
“I was looking for the clean lines and dramatic sweep of Yves Saint Laurent’s approach meets a gypsy-like delight in travel overlaid with costumes of strict warrior tailoring,” Putin says to me as he looks around his atelier in the Kremlin and takes delicate bites at panini flown in that morning from Florence.
“I tried to maximize the impact with flared trousers in muted khaki that I feel added a touch of seventies glam.” When quizzed on the fact that none of the models who made long, sinuous strides into the Ukraine were seen wearing labels from the House of Putin, Vladimir comes back strongly. “I think too often we get tied up with names in this business, I wanted the collection to be appreciated without my branding, I wanted to let the uniforms breathe, I see now that was impossible.”
Accessories-wise, the collection has kept it simple with AN-94 assault rifles, re-imagined with boho-chic bead detailing. Putin’s approach has been heralded as a return to form for his ailing Russian house, and echoes the vision of inspired couturier Josef Stalin.
Anna Wintour is a known admirer of Putin’s leadership style and was heard to say at a private showing: “I think Vladimir’s work is really a celebration of craftsmanship; beautiful things produced by wonderful people … in Siberian armaments factories.”
However, the acclaim has not been universal. Veteran Korean designer Ban Ki-moon has stated that sanctions on trade in sequins, satin and chiffon are still not ruled out. Such a move could cripple Putin’s Spring-Summer collection, which is rumoured to revolve around the theme ‘Arabian harem fantasy’.
Others are asking whether the Crimea is worth the expensive gamble. Putin assures me that he thinks the peninsular is the investment piece of the season. Nonetheless it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Putin is the John Galliano of international relations: mad, bad and with unsavoury attitudes to minorities.
As I turn to leave his presence Vladimir calls out to me. “Did you know,” he says as he looks over his shoulder, “those soft Crimean hills in winter are not white but dove grey…understand that and you understand everything about
(For Annie Liebovitz’s re-imaging of the scenes in the Ukraine with Kate Moss, turn to p. 116)