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Originally published Friday, May 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Russia's armed forces sporting snazzy new uniforms

Valentin Yudashkin, the first post-Soviet designer to bring a contemporary Russian look to the international fashion world, has taken on...

The Washington Post

MOSCOW — Valentin Yudashkin, the first post-Soviet designer to bring a contemporary Russian look to the international fashion world, has taken on his biggest challenge to date: Russia's armed forces.

Yudashkin's most recent catwalk was Red Square itself, where he debuted his newest collection of uniforms on thousands of soldiers who marched during a May 9 parade commemorating victory in World War II.

The 44-year-old has created 85 designs, which will dress all branches of the Russian armed services for all seasons and circumstances, including battle.

The soldiers in Red Square sported uniforms inspired by the first Victory Parade of 1945, among other historical influences, including Russia's Czarist past. The uniforms are of noticeably lighter materials and slimmer lines.

Yudashkin seemed an unlikely choice to reinvigorate the Russian army's wardrobe. The designer became known in Russia when he was in his 20s and dressing Raisa Gorbachev, wife of the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. He created a buzz internationally in the late 1990s when he dressed his models as beaded, bejeweled and quilted Fabergé eggs.

"Compared to the clothes we usually make, this is very different," Yudashkin said. "Young people joked that soon we'd see the uniform with swarovski [rhinestones] on the epaulets."

The new uniforms were shown to then-President Vladimir Putin in January. "We made this big presentation, very exact and clear," Yudashkin said. "Our president is a very elegant man, and he understood everything."

The presidential honor guard was the first design to be completed, the red and blue suit with brass buttons evoking an imperial rather than a Soviet past. Striking changes for female soldiers include a beret of Astrakhan fur and waisted coat with an Astrakhan collar for winter.

Some people, however, were dismayed. Alexander Prokhanov, editor of a nationalist newspaper, told the radio station Echo Moskvy that "when the Russian infantry attacks, they will look like a swarm of butterflies."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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