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The Russian-American Princess


Left, the Kira store on lower Broadway, like all the other Kira stores, is anchored by a pink pouf. Right, the Kira wall in her stores commemorates - who else? - Kira.   

Kira officially became a brand when she was 14 years old. She had always liked sketching dresses in her notebooks during class and dispensing fashion advice to her friends on the weekends. “Also,” she says, “when I was little I loved to go shopping.” She would buy adult clothing and enlist people to tailor it to size. And then there was the time she took one of her mother’s scarves and refashioned it as a dress for her Barbie.

It’s pretty standard teenage fare, but Kira Plastinina has something most teenagers don’t: a superrich Russian father.

“My dad asked me to show him the sketches of what I really liked and what I think is cool, and then I think he showed it to some professional people, but I don’t know because I wasn’t actually there. And then my dad said, ‘Are you willing to do this?’ I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ ” Kira wriggles up and down a bit in her chair, beating her thighs with her fists. Yes, he was serious, and, yes, she was willing. “I was really happy,” she says. “I have, like, the best parents a girl could wish for.”

Sergei Plastinin arrived in New York several days after his daughter to attend the opening of her shop. He was with a dark-haired, blue-eyed woman: his wife, Olga, who is Kira’s stepmother. They would stay for the opening of the store and then fly to Miami for a weekend at Casa Casuarina, the flashy new hotel in the house where Gianni Versace was killed. It was vacation, that trip, but he conceded that they’d check out a retail location or two as well.

“I was interested in diversifying,” he explains, with his wife translating. He is not confident in English, and his wife, with her clean-scrubbed face and serious demeanor, is. “In terms of fashion, there was no one player in Russia with a significant chunk of the market share. It was very much like the food-production business was fifteen years ago. So it was a segment that I considered very interesting for investment.”

His interest moved fast. He hired an entirely Russian design team, and the company launched in February 2007. After that, the openings came fast and furious, with twelve in Moscow in the first six months. A large Russian advertising agency was hired to bring Kira’s life story, and her fashion tastes, to the Russian masses. “The interest was huge,” Sergei says. “We knew right away we should go worldwide.” Sergei smiles and shrugs a little. He is wearing a white shirt, jeans, and a dark blazer and looks pleasantly rumpled. “She is very good, Kira,” he says. “She even picks out my clothes.”

“You have to understand,” says Bob Higgins, the president of the company in America, “that Sergei is a businessman who looked at Kira not as his daughter but as a prodigy. She is the story. She is a 15-year-old girl, and she is the brand.”

The brand still goes to school full-time. Afterward, she’s driven to her office. Mondays and Thursdays, she presides over what she calls “the Style Council,” where fit models parade before Kira and her design team in muslin realizations of her notebook sessions. Kira & Co. then tweak. “I say what would be cooler and better,” she says of her role. There is a Russian stylist, a woman in her thirties, whom Kira calls “my right hand,” who is with Kira through each and every fitting.

The line is all about Kira, and Kira is all about pink, but not just any pink. There’s a certain shade of bright, nearly magenta pink that Kira calls, alternately, “my pink” or “Kira pink.” “I love pink,” she says. It was her idea that the stores all have a signature piece of Kira furniture: a round pink vinyl couch that Kira calls “the pouf.” After working four, five, or six hours, Kira is chauffeured to the house she shares with her mother, Sergei’s first wife. There is a lot of traffic in Moscow, so she does her homework in the back seat.

“She has always lived in a very intense way,” says Sergei of his daughter, describing a life of piano and dance lessons, after-school clubs. Since launching the business, though, she’s given it all up. All, that is, except for her horse, which she cannot bear to quit.

“His name is Baloven,” she says, clasping her hands beneath her chin, “and I just love him so much. His name means someone who is spoiled and treated too well.”

I ask Kira if Russian teenagers are any different from Americans.

She stares at me blankly, and wrinkles her nose. “I think teenagers are all the same everywhere,” she says.

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