Student activist fashions pro-Kremlin catwalk collection

MOSCOW, April 2, 2008 (AFP) - In Russia, nationalism now comes pret-a-porter. After three years working on pro-Kremlin rallies, Antonia Shapovalova, 20, is now putting patriotic slogans on a catwalk collection.


Fashionshow of Antonina Chapovalova, on march 27th in Moscow - Photo : Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP

Her clothes boast slogans like "Love that which is Russian" and "Russians moving forward." A pro-Kremlin pair of women's underwear proclaims: "Vova I am with you!" -- using a nickname for outgoing President Vladimir Putin.

Shapovalova has already done her bit for Putin, taking a lead role as a "commissar" in the Kremlin-backed patriotic youth group Nashi in the run-up to recent elections.

Now she is using the nationalism Putin has cultivated to make her mark in the booming fashion market.

"Russia is a real trademark," Shapovalova said, wearing a Kremlin T-shirt in front of television cameras at a show of her off-the-peg clothing collection during Moscow Fashion Week on March 27.

Her clothes go on sale from April 10 in the prestigious GUM shopping centre that sits across Red Square from the Kremlin.

As well as the slogans, the clothes prominently feature traditional matryoshka dolls -- the wooden pear-shaped women that nest inside each other and are a favourite Russian souvenir.

The items in the collection already got a special outing during a Red Square youth event attended by 30,000 people on December 3, to celebrate the victory of Putin's party in controversial parliamentary elections.

And Shapovalova counts among her patrons both Putin and the man awarded victory at March's presidential poll: Dmitry Medvedev.

-- T-shirt slogan reads: 'reproduction is good for your health' --

Last summer Medvedev visited a patriotic camp organised by the Nashi youth group and picked up one of her T-shirts promoting the government's plans for averting population collapse.

The slogan on the shirt read: "The health ministry advises: reproduction is good for your health."

It was one among a number that are due to go on sale at around 40 dollars (24 euros) a piece. Others bear the slogans: "I want to have three children" and "I am the start of a demographic boom."

The fashion line is a natural progression both for Shapovalova and for Nashi, which is roughly translated as "Ours," in the sense of "our people," or "our land."

The movement was founded in 2005 amid youth-led uprisings in several other ex-Soviet republics that sent shock-waves through the Kremlin.

Putin has railed against supposed Western attempts to encourage similar unrest in Russia and Nashi's summer camps aim to train members to resist such unrest.

Nashi has brought tens of thousands of supporters onto the streets in shows of pro-government force, while also organising aggressive demonstrations against countries it perceives as plotting against Russia, notably Estonia and Britain.

But as such fears have looked increasingly misplaced the organisation has turned its attention to other issues, notably population decline.

Nashi's summer camps have provided tents designated for sexual intercourse, while it recently set up a mock graveyard in a central Moscow square as a reminder of the number of abortions in Russia.

Whatever happens, Shapovalova has come a long way from the provincial city Kostroma, 370 kilometres (230 miles) northeast of Moscow where she is still enrolled a student.

"Vladimir Putin and members of his administration have my T-shirts," she said.by Olga Nedbayeva

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