"Sitting on a red velvet sofa, picking at a plate of strawberries, in her plush New York hotel suite, Russian heiress Kira Plastinina could be mistaken for just another teen socialite ready to splash her cash," says The Mail on Sunday. But Plastinina, 16, is no ordinary "spoilt bratski". Billed as the world's youngest fashion designer, her eponymous fashion chain has taken just a year to storm Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Now she's bent on world domination, starting with America. But is there anything more to her than her Daddy's stash of roubles?
It's easy to be cynical, says New York magazine, especially as Plastinina confesses her main ambition before she became a designer was to be "a princess". She still loves puppies, ponies and pink, and her idea of a great date is a sleepover. The suspicion, surely, is that she is simply the puppet of her father's ambition. Sergei Plastinina, himself just 40, is Russia's orange juice king and has a talent for branding. His insight that concentrated orange juice would taste better to ordinary Russians if imbued with a whiff of Anglo old money led him to call his firm Wimm-Ball-Denn (think Wimbledon). "Never mind that it said made in Russia' on the package; it just didn't say it in Cyrillic." After building his firm into a $5.6bn giant, he decided to diversify. He knew the teen retail market was huge. What better figurehead than his pretty, fashionable daughter who liked sketching dresses? At 14, Kira Plastinina "officially became a brand".
The estimated $100m shelled out by Plastinina has certainly oiled the wheels of rapid growth: he reportedly paid Paris Hilton $2m to lend allure to Kira's first catwalk show last year, garnering acres of coverage in teen magazines. Plastinina, a fan of London street fashion who says she'd like to study at St Martins College, London, insists that every piece in the collection is based on one of her ideas. But her drawings "resemble high-school doodles more than professional fashion sketches", sniffs the LA Times; it's clear she has no shortage of "help". Maybe, says The Mail on Sunday, but when you meet Plastinina it's obvious that she's no pushover. Polite and self-deprecating, she has "both feet firmly on the ground" and "Sergei's drive and entrepreneurial spirit". She works hard at the business, putting in several hours a day after classes at Moscow's Anglo-American School and is undeniably its "creative force".
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"Teenagers," says Plastinina, "are the same the world over." Well, not quite. Few of her customers are chauffeured everywhere with bodyguards, and not many would-be fashionistas can tap legends such as Vivienne Westwood for advice (for the record: spend more time at the opera and the ballet). Still, there's no doubt that Plastinina has her finger on the pulse; her collections are getting "edgier", says New York magazine. Her first US shop (there are now 58 in total, including 11 in America) is bursting with "teenybop, clubland fashion". It looks like a scaled down Topshop, with twists of its own, such as a silver bust of Catherine the Great and a pink leather sofa shaped like a baby's dummy, notes The Mail on Sunday. Confronted with this rouble-backed "Lolita-esque charm", Sir Philip Green must be quaking in his deck shoes. Say what you like about Plastinina, but she's a rising star: a thoroughbred foal taking her first tentative steps. "Watch her go."
Russia's golden youth' makes its mark
Plastinina is "a walking, talking, dressage-competing poster child for what the Russians are now calling the zolotaya molodezh, (golden youth)", says New York magazine. The first generation of post-Soviet super-rich Russians, they have "an unembarrassed, unironic relationship with extreme wealth". Kira is merely the youngest of a bevy of beauties, bankrolled by oligarch fathers or sugar daddies, making their mark. Many, including supermodel Natalia Vodianova and Ksenia Sobchak (daughter of a political mentor to Putin), are involved in charity work, says The Guardian.
But none has had quite the impact of Dasha Zhukova, 27, the international It girl currently bewitching Roman Abramovich. The daughter of a property magnate, Zhukova is rich in her own right and had already carved a niche supplying designs to Harvey Nicks. But Abramovich's billions have turned her into an "arts mogul". This year, the couple have spent £43m on a Bacon triptych and £17m on Lucian Freud's Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, says The Independent, while Zhukova was chosen to host the Serpentine Gallery's annual summer party. She opened her own gallery too the giant Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture, in a disused Soviet bus depot. Yet asked to name her favourite artists, says Gawker, she replied she's "like, really bad at remembering names". So is she just a "wealthy dilettante", or some kind of "idiot art savant"? Who cares so long as she's doing something constructive for the Russian arts scene, says The Wall Street Journal. "It beats buying handbags."
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