Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Kira the Russian Princess

While I'm much too old to be anywhere near the target audience, I've been very interested in the arrival of a new brand that is coming to the States from Russia. The chain of stores, called Kira Plastinina, are named after its chief designer and founder, the 15-year-old daughter of a Russian millionaire. With nary a design background, but a taste for what's in with teens and tweens, and with the help of her father's wealth, she hopes to have 50 stores in the US in the next three years. Currently, there are about 49 stores all over Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. The first US store is in NYC.

I have read several articles (read here and here) about her background and her goal of an empire (or is it her father's goal?), but I think the most intriguing aspect of her story is not just the success factor (her business is worth billions already in Russia), but that this young girl is actually living the dream of every other young girl who loves fashion, art, and design. To be bankrolled by a father who is fully committed to her, to be able to doodle designs and hand them off to real designers and seamstresses/tailors so she can wear the real thing, to go to a store opening that is designed like her own dream closet, that is what is so fascinating about her. She is living the life of a princess, with no rules of the game. She can pick and choose at her whim, have a creative outlet that isn't held up by boundaries; that is the true goal of any entrepreneur. No one would ever say no to her, especially not at this stage. It's her level of power and wealth that can cause envy or dismissal, but she is truly the mistress of her own domain, and owner of her own conglomerate. There is a sense that you would want to root for her, but when everything is so perfect, there are definitely critics out there who want to see her fall.

The brand aspect of "Kira" is also appealing to me, mainly because while we make a brouhaha of young celebrities like Miley Cyrus who are owned by Disney and can't really steer their own careers without living a certain level of values, or compare this self-indulgent young girl to the likes of Paris Hilton, who sometimes has no business calling herself a celebrity, Kira's meteoric rise without having to answer to critics gives her a definite freedom that is different from the rest of us. One of the marketing goals of her brand is that she is young, and thus, would appeal to her target audience, from teens into women in their early-20s. But is her success story believable? Maybe the girl herself, she is still young and we can buy into her aspirations and dreams, but the truth is, she has lived the success of 10 lives over; many older, more cynical people will realize this and see past the rose-colored glass, that she is anything but ordinary and "your average teenager." She is obviously a very pretty girl and will be an idol for many little girls, but one mustn't be fooled by the PR blitz.

The question remains to be seen on whether or not all the hype will bring her brand to the level it has performed in Russia. I took a look at the early catalog of designs on her website, and they are cute, quite ok, although nothing groundbreaking. In fact, with all of her love of pink and rainbows and butterflies, she reminds me a lot of a design that I grew up with back in the 90's, of the old-school Lisa Frank designs, which were enmeshed with neon colors, and were always of unicorns, roses, puppies, etc.

Kira's designs at most appear to be ultra-fem and a little subversive. But if these designs are any measure, she will quickly build a fan following amongst the Wet Seal/H&M fans.

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