Kazakh Couture: Very Nice

Was Borat the best thing to ever happen to Kazakhstan? At the Palace Hotel two weeks ago, a crowd of Kazakh expats and diplomats gathered to celebrate their independence day. There was also a fashion show where the talk was all about taking the Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. “I love Borat,” said designer Nina Lazaridi. “Now everyone knows Kazakhstan.” Lazaridi, who went to Parsons, is updating Central Asian classics like the malakhai, or furry fox hat, which retails for $550 to $1,250. She’s working in New York but aiming for home: Back in Almaty there are up-and-coming designers, she says, but few know how to become “brands.” “In Soviet times, there were never a lot of choices. You had maybe three, four things to wear,” says Summer Coish, co-editor of Steppe Magazine, on the phone from Almaty. “Now you have many different kinds of clothes and so much crazy fashion.” Coish reports that Kazakhstan Fashion Week (which just ended) was fabulous. As the first model came down the runway to pulsing techno, she turned on her heels and tore away her jacket. “She had this bathing suit on underneath that was, like, no material whatsoever,” Coish says. “One of her breasts was hanging out the entire time. It was insane!

Tim Gunn Opens Fire
The Project Runway fashion expert judges the looks at the Kazakh show in New York

1. “Cossacks? Militia? I suppose it’s all the same. I can acknowledge that this look is attempting to transition from a military march to a runway, but it’s trying too hard. I’d send it to the firing squad.”

2. “Empress of Darkness! I can actually see this at an evening affair here in the city. It’s Catherine Malandrino, Kazakhstan style. Bravo.”

3. “Please tell me that this baby-doll silhouette with mock-turtleneck gag is a costume for an S&M porn flick. And is that a fur hat or has she engaged Bea Arthur’s hairdresser from Maude?”

4. “Kazakhstan Cher assumes the stage! And unless I’m mistaken, iterations of Joan Collins and Barbara Parkins too. And Picasso’s costumes for Cocteau and Satie’s Parade. Not to flatter them!”
Photo: Alexander Soin/Courtesy of the Mission of Kazakhstan to the U.N. [4]

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Kazakh Couture: Very Nice