Style Counsel

From Russia with Style

A conversation with arts patrons Yelena and Igor Klimenkoff.

By Laura Cassidy December 13, 2008 Published in the November 2008 issue of Seattle Met

You are ardent supporters of the city’s arts organizations—from SAM to the Russian Chamber Music Foundation. Would you say that fashion is art? (Yelena) Absolutely. Fashion is an artistic expression of one’s self. It’s a play, it’s a theater.

So, what painter, sculptor, or other visual artist would you like to see take on a clothing collection? (Yelena) Alexander Rodchenko, the Russian constructivist artist. He was an inventor; Marni’s collections call him to mind.

Igor, you design ornate porcelain plates depicting propaganda art and delicate figurines of everyday Russians for your family’s boutique and gallery, Far 4. These ordinary objects refer to your childhood in ’50s-era Vladivostok, yet placed next to the classical and pop—influenced European designers in your shop, the work feels very modern. Your look today is similar—there’s something boyish about your very gentlemanly attire. (Igor) The Soviet Union cannot be forgotten. My psyche is split between the free and enterprising now and my very constrained Soviet past. These two worlds are as far apart as you can imagine. Working with ’40s and ’50s Soviet art is a psychiatric process that allows me to reconcile with my past. The outfit is by Lanvin. My mother taught me to dress in a clean and neat manner, and then Yelena helped me to push the boundaries.

Yelena’s in Lanvin as well. Do you two always coordinate so perfectly? (Igor) I always ask Yelena what she is going to wear when we go out. We don’t necessarily coordinate colors, just the general look and feel.

When I’m in your store, I can’t help but imagine that you have video installations in your master bathroom and rare Edo-period sculpture in the formal living room. If you were to curate a fashionable dinner party at your home, who would be invited? (Yelena) Coco Chanel for her innovation and involvement with Russian culture, particularly the ballet. And René Magritte, for having a keen insight on objects, and the space around them. (Igor) Fred Astaire, because I like his style. The Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto because he said he will never wear a tie, not even for the emperor of Japan. André Courrèges from Balenciaga, for pushing the limits in fashion—he invented the miniskirt. Alber Elbaz, currently at Lanvin, for his refined style. And Socrates; he’ll help to keep everything in perspective.

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