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The city’s Ethnic Fashion Festival aims to promote tolerance through the universal language of clothing design.
Published: November 9, 2011 (Issue # 1682)
The festival showcases diversity in the form of ethnic fashion.
Ethnic diversity and tolerance take center stage at the forthcoming Ethnic Fashion Festival (Etnomoda) that takes place in the city this weekend.
The event, which will be held at the Vyborgskaya Storona cultural center, brings together fashion designers from far beyond St. Petersburg: Moscow, Kazan, Yakutsk and other Russian cities.
The festival opens at 1 p.m. Saturday with the Show Room event, showcasing pieces by experimental fashion designers, who will also be giving master classes during the course of the day.
The next day sees a fashion contest in which designers, handmade art specialists, ethnic clothing collectors and private fashion galleries will compete in a wide range of categories including ethnic motifs in modern clothes, exotic fashion (meaning a fusion of various ethnic motives or elements), stage costume with ethnic details, traditional ethnic costume, ethnic art photography and children’s fashion theaters. The contest starts at noon. During the competitions, handmade ethnic fashion accessories will be on sale in the club lobby.
The festival’s jury is made up of leading experts from the Russian Ethnography Museum, professors from the St. Petersburg University of Technology and Design and the Stieglitz Academy for Art and Design, as well as art historians and high profile professional stylists. The list of prizes is diverse enough to incorporate sewing machines, gift certificates from local ethnic restaurants, tickets to a course of lectures on the history of fashion from international fashion expert Alexander Vasiliev and dance classes.
The Ethnic Fashion Festival is supported by the state-funded five-year Tolerance program, which was launched by City Hall in 2008. Entrance to all festival events is free.
While Russia’s top politicians regularly pledge to work toward ensuring cultural diversity in the country, Russia has a disturbingly high level of hate crime, with St. Petersburg reigning as one of the most affected regions. Human rights groups describe the state of ethnic tolerance in the city as “deeply worrying.”
St. Petersburg was once considered to be Russia’s most liberal and progressive city. It still advertizes itself as Russia’s “cultural capital.” In recent years, however, the city has become infamous as the scene of a chilling spate of racist attacks.
Handmade fashion accessories
will be sold during the festival.
Human rights advocates say that Russia’s cultural and ethnic diversity, one of the country’s greatest assets, is treated with neglect, and criticize the authorities for their cursory attitude toward the high level of hate crime and widespread ethnic intolerance.
Sociologists say that more and more Russian citizens feel alienated from one another. Not only are their social values and political beliefs different, but many people focus with hatred on the differences between them — be it a different skin color, political persuasion or social status — and are unwilling to open the door to dialogue and reconciliation.
Experts agree that it is a lack of interaction with people of different ethnicities that leads to intolerance. During the past five years, local sociologists have been investigating the level of exposure that locals have to foreign cultures. The results were somewhat at odds with what a megalopolis purposely built as a cosmopolitan center and a “window to the West.”
According to official statistics, at least 50 percent of local citizens have never traveled abroad.
Various polls show that approximately every second St. Petersburger has never dined in a restaurant serving any cuisine other than Russian, and half of locals admit they have never attended an art exhibition by a foreign artist.
In order to improve the situation, City Hall launched its Tolerance program, which sees regular festivals of ethnic music, art and gastronomy held both at a district and municipal level. Local religious communities have also been active in organizing lectures and weekend schools offering insight into the world’s main religions.
The Ethnic Fashion Festival (Etnomoda) runs from Nov. 12 to 13 at the Vyborgskaya Storona cultural center, 13 Ulitsa Smolyachkova. M. Vyborgskaya. Tel: +7 911 903 1746. etnomoda.spb.ru