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The Russian-American Princess

What does a Moscow orange-juice king get for his 15-year-old who has everything? Her own fashion empire, named for herself—Kira!—with a new store in New York and 31 to come across America.

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Kira Plastinina, who will turn 16 next month, likes to tell people that her first ambition was to be a princess. It was, she explains, “when I was little.”

Kira, a tenth-grader at the Anglo-American School in Moscow, became a fashion designer instead. She was in New York in early May for the opening of her first U.S. store, on that hyperactive strip of Broadway between Houston and Prince Streets, and was staying at the Gramercy Park Hotel with her thirtysomething aunt Olga. Both Kira and Olga were wearing sweatshirts Kira had designed: Olga’s had three sparkly stars on the chest; on Kira’s, a large X was filled in with words lifted from the text-message log on her BlackBerry Curve: SWEETIE, it said, and GORGEOUS, and then HE DOESN'T DESERV—. Both were wearing jeans and high-heeled shoes and carrying shiny patent-leather bags. Kira’s father, Sergei Plastinin, the multimillionaire juice-and-dairy king of Eastern Europe, would be coming for the opening itself, but on this afternoon, it was just Kira, Olga, and Kira’s U.S. PR team drinking tea on the roof.

“When I grew up, I stopped wanting to be a princess. I always said I wanted to be a designer,” Kira explains. “Or do something that has to do with fashion.” Her English is perfect, with only the slightest Slavic weight at the ends of sentences and words. She has long pin-straight brown hair and round brown eyes, and says “like” with the same frequency as an American teen. She has a Paris Hilton accent on the word cute, so that it comes out “cyut.” She loves ponies, puppies, and the color pink. She talks a lot about her best friends and says that her social life consists mainly of sleepovers. She’s met Hilton twice—the first time was when Kira’s dad reportedly paid Hilton $2 million to attend one of her shows. “She’s just really sweet,” Kira says. “She wears my clothes, I really like her, she’s fun. We sort of talked about people writing stuff that’s not true. I would get upset, I would be, like, why, it’s not true. But now that I’ve talked to Paris, I feel better.”

What did Paris tell you? I ask her.

“Try not to read it.”

By the time Kira finishes the tenth grade next month, seven more U.S. shops will have opened, which, combined with the 49 Kira Plastinina shops that dot Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, brings the grand total to 57. Fifty-seven spangly, vinyl, magenta-and-mirror temples to teenybop, clubland fashion in the form of capri-length neon-green lace leggings, white faux-fur shrugs, metallic motorcycle jackets, and endless iterations of the bubble-shape mini. Robyn on the sound system and massive, co-branded Dylan’s Candy Bar pinwheel lollipops for sale, too. “It’s not just like a regular lollipop,” Kira says. “It’s pink. But, like, Kira pink.” She already does shoes and bags and has a signature scent. Kira is the artiste-in-chief, but she definitely has help. “This lady came with a huge box of smells,” she says of the creative process by which her perfume line was created, “and I picked stuff out.” The end result is, she says, “beachy.”

Kira Plastinina was born on June 1, 1992, less than three years after the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and nine months after Boris Yeltsin faced down the August putsch. She arrived in a world flooded with Western ideas, images, and products and a culture desperate to absorb them. One of these ideas was orange juice, because not long after the wall came down, Sergei Plastinin, from a region north of Moscow, tasted OJ from concentrate. He found it delicious and was thrilled to discover that it cost one-sixth the price of regular juice. Russian juice, at that time, was widely available only in three-liter unbranded bottles.

Imported foods were starting to hit the market, but they were expensive. Plastinin decided that his role in the new Russia would be to bring this genius concentrate to the people. He’d brand it as if it were foreign. He came up with the name Wimm-Bill-Dann, which he thought sounded (think Wimbledon) quite English. (Never mind that it said made in russia right on the package; it just didn’t say it in Cyrillic.)

The juice took off, and Plastinin expanded. In 2006, he shrunk his role in what is now a $5.6 billion business and went hunting for new opportunities.

The luck and the timing of Kira’s birth put her in a perfect position to be a walking, talking, dressage-competing poster child for what the Russians are now calling the zolotaya molodezh, or “golden youth.” These MTV-watching kids are the first generation of post-Soviet superrich Russians, and theirs is a hyperluxurious world of private planes, fast cars, and an unembarrassed, unironic relationship with their extreme wealth. According to Forbes Russia, there are 110 billionaires in Russia, which makes Moscow the most billionaire-dense city in the world. (And then, of course, there are the millionaires … ) And they’ve moved out from Moscow to conquer the West: They vacation in Saint-Tropez and the Italian countryside (where Kira insisted that her father take riding lessons, so they could gallop through a forest together), and to London and Paris (where Kira met Vivienne Westwood, who told her to spend some time at the opera and the ballet).


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