It is no secret that Russia has been on an economic slump lately due to economic sanctions brought about by the United States, Europe and their allies. The drop in crude oil prices makes things even worse.
Russia’s GDP grew by only 0.7% in the third quarter of 2014, and the World Bank projects that the country will go into recession in 2015. The Russian ruble (RUB) already lost about half its value. To counter the ruble slide, the Russian Central Bank raised interest rates to around 17%. Inflation is at around 9%.
But you probably cant’t tell what the Russian economy is going through based on what Miss Russia, Yulia Alipova, has been wearing to the Miss Universe 2014 pageant in Doral, Florida.
For the official evening gown portraits, Yulia wore an Elie Saab haute couture gown. Fashion pundits estimate the gown’s price tag at USD175,000. Yes, the number of zeroes are correct – the gown costs as much as a house.
The gown is described as a ball gown embellished with colored floral sequin appliques. That still doesn’t justify the price to me. What probably will is the fact that it is “Haute Couture”. The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in France awards that designation to fashion houses that belong or invited to their association. To qualify, the fashion brands must fulfill the organization’s requirements.
Elie Saab, a Lebanese designer, has long been making clothes for rich women in the middle east. However, his popularity skyrocketed when Halle Berry wore his creation when she won the Best Actress Oscar for “Monster’s Ball” in 2002. Shortly thereafter, worldwide clients and an invitation from the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture followed. Prices for Elie Saab clothes have also increased significantly in the succeeding years. Interestingly, Mr. Saab is not dressing Miss Lebanon nor Miss France in this year’s Miss Universe pageant.
For the Miss Universe preliminaries (held on January 21, Doral time), Miss Russia wore another Elie Saab haute couture gown. Fashion pundits put a smaller price tag to the gown, but it is still ridiculously pricey at over USD 100,000. It is not yet known how these gowns found their way in Miss Russia’s pageant wardrobe. Either Mr. Saab lent the gowns to her (which is unusual since luxury fashion houses do not normally associate their brands with pageants) or a sponsor has acquired the gowns for her. The second option is more plausible given that Miss Russia’s wardrobe for this year’s pageant consists of very high-end stuff, according to chatter in pageant forums such as this.
Many will probably question the wisdom of wearing such an expensive gown to a pageant. One of Miss Universe’s major sponsors this year, Sherri Hill, sells affordable prom dresses and evening gowns for around USD 500. Some candidates will wear Sherri Hill gowns to the event, and many more will wear non-couture gowns of their own choosing. These candidates may actually score higher in the evening gown competition than Miss Russia.
Perhaps, and I am just speculating here, Miss Russia’s wardrobe was meant to send a signal; that despite all the recent Russian economic woes, all is well in the country. Another candidate wore a haute couture gown, this time a Zuhair Murad creation, in the Miss Universe preliminaries. She was Miss Ukraine, Diana Harkusha, the representative of Russia’s current foe and the main source of Russia’s recent political and economic problems.
It seems that even in pageants, Russia and Ukraine continue to battle. However, for this year’s Miss Universe pageant, their representatives will be fighting it out in very expensive haute couture.
– Finance MD
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