Pushkin, Gay Moscow, James Goldstein and Absinthe

If you thought New York had the market cornered on the 24-hour city identity, Moscovites would disagree. They too consider their city to be the one that never sleeps—a fact my hosts repeatedly proved during my stay last week.

In between shows, it was a whirl of dining and partying and though the city is massive, I tasted a good slice of it. I was first taken to Café Pushkin, the legendary and iconic restaurant named for the revered poet with its rustic interior and authentic Russian food. I love the “bag perch” they provide for each diner so your bag doesn’t touch the floor. It seemed a fitting accommodation for the oversized crocodile hobo I normally carry. On the menu the brocht was a must. And seeing the servers zipping around in golden, ornate uniform worn over breezy chemise was one of those visuals you’d only expect to see in Russia. Capping off that night was an opening party sponsored by Russian Fashion Week. It brought out Moscow’s crème de la crème in fashion, celebrities and James Goldstein. I’m used to seeing James in Paris at all the shows, always wearing some super luxe ensemble made of a variety of skins, but we’ve never been introduced. Seeing him in Russia, I thought it was time to get acquainted and get the lowdown on his story. He explained that he owns that  John Lautner-designed modernist house in Los Angeles where so many shoots have taken place over the years, and he’s a private client of many designers including John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier. I’m not quite sure how that supports travelling to numerous fashion shows around the world including Copenhagen and Stockholm Fashion Weeks in addition to RFW, which he’s attended for the last five years, but I decided not to pry further.

So many designers from all regions of the globe have told me about Russian stores such as Tsum and Podium buying their collections, and I was itching to see how the products were represented. From the beginning I had my translator and driver trot me around to check out the interiors and the merchandise. And let’s just say I was left agog at the sheer selection and variety in these stores. You can read up on my full retail rundown in a feature that will appear on the site later this week. I had no idea that Russians celebrated Halloween, so when my translator told me that The Most was the place to be on Halloween night, I showed up in my cozy Rick Owens t-shirt and jeans, ready to kick up a leg and get a taste of Moscow’s nightlife. Upon arrival I saw that everyone was in costumes. No matter. The music was gorgeous and I proceeded to dance out some of the kinks and had a glorious night. I’ll confess that my mood was greatly enhanced by trying absinthe for the first time. After seeing it on the menu, I couldn’t resist the taboo aperitif. It was prepared authentically with the fire, the sugar, and just a trickle of melted ice to cool the liquid. It tasted like grappa and the effect was drug-like. I stopped at three “shots.” To drive the point home that Moscow never sleeps, on the way back to the Swissotel, where I was staying, my driver took it upon himself to take me Rai, one of those mega clubs with thumping beats, light shows and every surface covered by streamers or confetti. I jammed out there before heading back to the hotel at 5.30am.

I wanted to check out the vintage clothes on offer in Moscow and was taken to Pak Pak, an out of the way appointment-only basement store, stocked to the gills with show costumes and vintage clothes sourced in London and the US. I played dress up there for a while and spoke to the owner but decided that the prices were a bit high for the products. So after providing a curious side show for the staff and some shoppers we headed to Cara and Co. where Rozalia Kamenev had a small but top-notch selection of vintage. I met Rozalia earlier this year in Sydney and we had a raucous catching up. I fell in love with a patent leather piped Chanel blazer. (More on Cara and Co in my retail rundown.) More dining ensued at Casa Diva, where models and their beefy boyfriends kept streaming in.

I conducted The Death of Trends lecture for Anna Lebsak-Kleimans’s company Fashion Consulting Group, which is closely linked to Russian Fashion Week. It was Anna who introduced me to the organization and was instrumental in my invitation to attend. I had been checking in with her over the course of the week, asking questions and seeking direction as to what not to miss during my stay. I wanted to have a proper sit down with her, however, because I was struck by her astute understanding of global fashion and her expert eye on fashion in her own region after meeting in New York earlier this year. She’s a touchstone for anyone doing fashion business in Russia. She took me to Turandot restauant—just next door to Pushkin and owned by the same restaurant—which has a spectacular interior that resembles a Faberge egg. Anna and I chatted for about three hours on the cultural implications on fashion in Russia, going all the way back to Peter the Great. I was riveted. But my trip was coming to end and I wanted to cap it off with one last nighttime activity. On Sunday, Chinatown is the gay night at Propaganda and it truly lived up to the PR it had gotten for all the hipster gays. I danced till the wee hours and made it my bon voyage to Moscow. Now on my Aeroflot flight and soon to land in New York I’m dreaming of my next trip to Moscow, but first Rio de Janiero where Im heading to tomorrow to attend Summer Rio.




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