Clothes say a lot about what’s on your mind
It’s tough to find a more famous Russian fashion designer than Slava Zaitsev, both in Russia and abroad. Zaitsev first became popular in the 1960s, when the French magazine “Paris Match” published a sensational article about him, entitled “He Dictates Fashion in Moscow.” Today, Slava Zaitsev’s name appears alongside legends such as Pierre Cardin, Gabrielle Chanel, and Christian Dior. During his interview with Sergo Kukhianidze, Editor-in-Chief of Capital Ideas, Slava Zaitsev talked about why clothes are so important for business people.
Mr. Zaitsev, how important are clothes for business people?
Very important – it’s essentially like a business card.
In your opinion, is it fair to say that the success of certain negotiations depends on how the participants are dressed?
I think so, yes. You see, clothes say a lot about what’s on your mind. You can tell a lot by the way someone dresses – not just about the way they live, but also about the way they think. For me, it’s enough to glance at how someone is dressed to understand who they are. I don’t even have to necessarily talk to the person.
What’s the most important thing about a business suit?
The most important things are simplicity and elegance. A suit must have a classic shape – the pants must be straight, not narrow. Right now, a silhouette with a slightly narrow waist is in fashion. In terms of color, suits need to be grey or dark blue. Black suits are too official for day-to-day wear.
Which country’s business people are the best dressed?
The British and Italians. It’s no wonder that Russian businessmen often order their suits from England or Italy.
In terms of Russian public figures, who would you say is well-dressed?
Two Channel One show hosts – Vladimir Pozner and Ivan Urgant.
This may be a funny question, but not everyone is clear on this: should socks match your suit or your shoes?
It’s better to wear socks that match your shoes. So if you’re wearing a grey suit and black shoes, you need to wear black socks. By the way, it’s best to stick to black shoes, regardless of what color suit you’re wearing. The heel needs to be low, higher heels are in bad taste.
Does the price of a suit matter?
Yes, because fabric matters. A suit needs to be expensive. And it’s best to have one tailor-made, not bought – even if it’s at the most expensive store or boutique. This will ensure the perfect fit. Even the most expensive store-bought suit will not fit perfectly.
What about shirt colors?
White is best. Ties need to be striped or monotone. It should either match the color of the suit or be a contrasting color. If you’re wearing a blue suit, it’s best to stick with a blue tie, or one with blue and white stripes. And a small expressive handkerchief in the coat pocket helps too.
How many suits should a business person have?
At least three. And you can only wear the same clothes – the same suit or shirt – for two days in a row at most.
Do you agree that, although suits are important, the most important thing for men are watches?
I agree that an expensive watch really is important – it speaks to the person’s status. This is why businessmen can’t help but pay attention to their partner’s watch. It makes sense that business people tend to splurge on watches.
But let’s remember the 90s, when our so-called businessmen wore crimson suits and very expensive watches…
Back then this stemmed from bad taste. It’s something we had to go through. Because in those wild times, poorly educated people often became businessmen in Russia. I met with people like this back then, and they made me smile instead of irritating me.
We’ve been talking about men, but what about business suits for women? Should they wear pants?
Absolutely not. Business women should only wear skirts, about five centimeters below the knee. Skirts need to be straight, or with pleats. A blazer. A blouse or a shirt – white or another color, depending on the woman’s personality. or color depending on the nature of the woman. In terms of color, the rules are the same as for men – grey or blue are best. And elegant shoes with a small heel, but not stilettos.
Did Soviet business people have style? Foreigners used to laugh at our officials, who were always wearing hats….
Our Soviet business people and politicians didn’t have any sense of style, of course. Just remember Nikita Khruschev and his shapeless, light-colored suits. Leonid Brezhnev, who came to power after him, was slightly better dressed, but also didn’t have any taste. Back then, the majority of men and women simply wore whatever they could get their hands on. Because it was impossible to purchase anything decent at Soviet stores.
Did Leonid Brezhnev ever ask you for fashion advice?
Thankfully no. I was invited to visit him once, but when I saw the multitude of burgundy ties in his wardrobe, I felt ill. (Laughs)
Do you consider yourself a business person?
Of course I’m a business person. Although I let myself dress in a way that business people in a traditional sense aren’t supposed to dress. I like color, and I like different textures. So I let myself war what other men shouldn’t be wearing. A lot of what I wear depends on my mood. But still, my shirt will always be white – it instantly conveys freshness. I have about thirty white shirts in my wardrobe. I like bowties, but not ties. Overall, I think bowties are more elegant than ties.
Are Russian men’s tastes changing?
They are. Young people – not just women, but also men – are really well-dressed these days. I was pleasantly surprised when I attended a reception recently. Everyone wore great suits, excellent ties, fantastic shirts. I felt like I was somewhere abroad, not in Russia.
What can people who have no taste do?
That’s really a tough break. (Sighs, smiling)
But what can they do – read special magazines, get a stylist…?
I think it’s best to get consultations from stylists. At the very least, look at what the mannequins in stores are wearing and buy the same outfits. Because mannequins are always dressed by experienced stylists.
What kind of advice would you give business people?
Dress in a way that won’t leave you feeling embarrassed about the way you look!