Submitted by Olivia Kroth…
“Russia makes nothing” has become an ironic slogan of Russians, who laugh about western wrong presumptions and foolish propaganda. Western main stream media are trying to tell their readers that the Russian Federation is a very backward country in industrial production, producing nothing worth while. They seem to forget that Russia’s military industry is one of the best, producing excellent planes, tanks and weapons, sold all over the world. Since western sanctions were imposed, Russian agriculture has grown enormously. Nowadays, Russia is a nearly self-sufficient country, producing all the foods that were formerly imported. Furthermore, Russia’s light industry is booming, for example the home making and fashion industry. Some startups are producing excellent, stylish furniture, tableware, curtains, interior design. Young fashion designers are showing their modern range of clothing every year at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Show in Moscow. Not only young but also old firms are making awesome things, for example the Imperial Porcelain Manufacture in Saint Petersburg, which sells its beautiful porcelain in Russia and all around the world. The Pavlovsky Posad factory, founded in 1795, is still making its lovely shawls and scarves, which are not only coveted by Russian women but also exported to many countries worldwide. Authentic and exuberant shawls from the town of Pavlovsky Posad are a treat for the eye. Decorated with traditional Russian patterns, the shawls are made of natural fibers: cotton, silk or wool.
Pavlovsky Posad (Павловский Посад) is a city with 64.000 inhabitants, located 68 kilometres east of Moscow. The early settlement of Pavlovo dates back to 1328. Pavlovo was situated at the junction of the rivers Vokhna and Kliazma. The growth of commerce and industry was facilitated by weekly markets and fairs held in the village. Merchants from different towns used to bring raw silk to the fairs.
The first textile manufacture in Pavlovo was founded by Ivan Labzin, in 1795. Two years later, the village already had 15 silk-weaving mills. One of these mills was owned by Ivan Labzin and employed 12 workers, who manufactured silk kerchiefs “of middle hand” (moderate skill). The weaving trade embraced the population of the entire district and those of neighbouring regions. In the village of Pavlovo the men were engaged in weaving, while the women were busy unwinding silk.
Textile production grew in the 18th century and made a name for itself outside of Pavlovo. During the Patriotic War of 1812, the village was one of the centres of the partisan movement against Napoleon’s troops: a battle took place between French units and local peasants in the area of Pavlovo. In 1844, Pavlovo joined forces with some neighbouring villages to form a town. Its new name became Pavlovsky Posad.
In 1860, under the leadership of Ivan’s descendent Yakov Labzin and his assistant Vasily Gryaznov the manufacture adopted modern methods of production, printing patterns onto the shawls. Interestingly enough, not someone from the founder’s family became a Russian saint, but Vasily Gryaznov (1816-1869). He was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church for “living a righteous life”, in 1999. Thus he became Saint Basil of Pavlovsky Posad.
After entering the manufacture, the village boy who was spiritually fragile became a drunkard. According to witnesses he “plunged into the world of vice and passion.” But he changed his mind and “repented his sins.” Later, the manufacturer Yakov Labzin married Vasily’s sister Akilina and incorporated him as his business partner. Even with his newly gained wealth Vasily Gryaznov continued to conduct the life of a sacred devotee, donating money to the poor, building schools and almshouses.
After Vasily Gryazin’s death, people continued to address him through prayer, both to praise his righteous life and to ask for direction in their own. He was venerated as an assistant to the poor, a defender of the oppressed, an adviser in difficult matters. In 1894, the Pokrovsko-Vasilevskovo Monastery was built over his grave, now acting as his shrine of worship.
The manufacture’s heyday came in the late 19th century, when its shawls were delivered to the Romanov court. Grand Duchess Alexandra Petrovna was a keen devotee of this handicraft. By the beginning of the 20th century, Pavlovsky Posad was the largest producer of shawls and kerchiefs in Russia.
After the 1917 October Revolution, the factory was nationalized. In 1937, it participated in the World Art and Industrtial Exhibition in Paris. After the Second World War, colours and assortment of shawls were expanded, while maintaining traditional motifs and patterns. In 1958, at the World Exhibition in Brussels, Pavlovo Posad shawls were awarded the Big Gold Medal.
Today, the factory makes approximately 800 kinds of kerchiefs, scarves, shawls and tablecloths that preserve the longstanding traditions of the original Russian craftsmen. Although these are considered traditional adornments, the shawls are still fashionable among Russian women (RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES, 17.03.2016).
The factory’s longevity might be attributed to its ability to adapt and change with the times. Installed in an austere red brick building, it produces 1,5 million items per year with 850 craftsmen and workers. The director is proud that his factory has survived two world wars and is still going strong. He admits though that in war times the factory did not produce shawls but material for parachutes.
Prices for shawls start fom about 30 euros upwards, depending on sizes and materials. The factory has an internet shop and 170 outlets all over Russia. The director says, “We know that we could sell our beautiful products at much higher prices but we still remember our humble origins. We used to make shawls for the peasantry, not the aristocracy. Nowadays, our products remain affordable for the average Russian woman. We do not want to become exclusive” (COURRIER DE LA RUSSIE, 21.04.2017).
The flowery motifs are predominantly images of popular garden flowers growing in Russia: chrysanthemums, dahlias, lilies, roses, tulips. Numerous combinations and variations are possible, adding leaves, sprays and sprigs, also birds or small garden insects. This is stipulated by the idea of a bond between man and living nature.
Every pattern is printed in several colour schemes. Depending on the pattern’s difficulty, various ways for applying the pattern on a fabric are used. Printing is carried out with automatic printing trolleys and multicolour printing machines. The most important operations, however, need to be performed manually.
The production of Pavlovo Posad shawls combines a conservative attitude towards tradition with the use of the latest technological improvements. Block models are prepared with the help of a unique direct engraving unit, which is controlled by a computer to put droplets of melted wax onto the surface of the grid covered with a photoemulsion.
Printed inks are prepared in an automatic colour boiling room, where all stages of the process — from dissolving the dye powder to mixing the finished paint — are carried out without human intervention. The enterprise was the first in the world to introduce plasma chemical cloth treatment before printing instead of using environmentally harmful chlorination. Therefore the factory in Pavlovsky Posad is many years ahead of other enterprises, which are just beginning to realize all the advantages of this method only today.
In 2017, the Pavlovo Posad Shawl Factory passed an ecological test and received environmental certificates of conformity for all its products: “The quality and safety of products and raw materials are confirmed by previously issued regulatory documents. Packaging and labeling of products correspond to specifications.” Of course, some other producers make cheap counterfeats out of synthetic materials. The Pavlovo Posad factory attaches its own label to all of its products.
Pavlovo Posad shawls are still trendy today. You can see them in the streets of Moscow in every season and in the countryside, too. A surprising number of young, fashionable women are wearing this granny’s accessoire, pointing at some sort of nostalgic longing for the past. When interviewed by a Russian news media, young girls gave the following answers (RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES, 18.03.2018).
Tonya: “The shawl for me is a feminine symbol, not an ordinary accessory. When I wear it, I always feel more feminine, calm and tender. My mother gave it to me as a keepsake, because there is continuity among the women in my family. You inherit not only a thing but the tradition.”
Alya: “I have liked this shawl since childhood. It is bright and beautiful. There is a large choice of patterns and there is something native about it.”
Masha: “The shawl is extremely warm. I can tie it round my head. It keeps me warm when I am out and about. It is also beautiful.”
Ljuba: “This shawl was given to me by my grandmother. It means a lot to me.”
Katya: “I notice that many girls now are wearing shawls. I find shawls attractive. If I had found them earlier in my grandma’s dresser, I would have started wearing them even earlier.”
Zina: “The shawl is beautiful and stylish. You can wear it as a shawl, you can cover your head with it like a turban or wrap it round your neck like a scarf.”
Anya: “It is warm and well made. I think it goes well with a fur coat.”
The same fashion impulse is visible on the runway, too. Russian fashion designers are exploring Russian heritage through traditional patterns and prints. They are incorporating the country’s traditional fabrics or patriotic elements into their work. It mirrors a surge in Russian nationalism that has peaked in the last five years.
Russia’s growing affluence can be noticed not only in its ever increasing numbers of billionaires and millionaires but also in the rising demand for Russian haute couture. “The sweet spot for Russian designers is an upper-middle market price point — catering to people who used to buy from international designer brands and now want to buy domestically.” Wealthy Russian customers prefer to buy Russian-made products rather than imports” (FASHIONISTA BLOG, 25.03.2016).
Russian fashion designers appreciate the decorative value of Pavlovo Posad shawls. They like to include these shawls in their collections. For example, the Russian couturier Slava Zaitsev created an entire collection with such shawls, calling it “Expectation of Changes.” The collection included close-fitting jackets trimmed with lace, long tunics and crimped skirts, all made from Pavlovo Posad shawls. Slava Zaitsev’s fashion house is located on Prospekt Mira in Moscow. Italian film star Ornella Muti is one of Slava Zaitsev’s clients. She was often seen at his runway shows.
“His signature gowns and coats, often made with the rich, traditional floral prints of Pavlovo Posad scarves, are finished with a couture-like hand. At Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia, attendees erupted in applause after seeing one of Zaitsev’s wildly ornate creations, a look that could have been plucked out of a Russian folktale” (VOGUE, 15.07.2017).
Fashion designer Ulyana Sergeenko, born in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, works in Moscow. She also likes the flowery Pavlovo Posad dreams. On her homepage Ulyana Sergeenko explains how she came to embrace her creative profession. “During Soviet times, the country housed hundreds of small ateliers which were perpetuating traditional crafts.” One of them was run by her grandmother, who is still the designer’s biggest inspiration. To these days, the love for handmade clothes has stayed with Ulyana Sergeenko, who founded her fashion house in 2011.
This designer’s creations always stay true to her heart, with many references to her upbringing. She combines Russian influences with chic design aesthetic. The flower motifs of Pavlovo Posad are perfect for feminine silhouettes. She said in an interview that her collections are designed and produced in Russia, as she highly values Russian craftsmanship.
“We are trying to find people who are able to do old Russian crafts. We find them in different parts of Russia, and now it is my dream to organise a school. It is a big deal to connect old crafts from Russia with couture clients from abroad, because it is a way for these crafts to survive. Some of them came from centuries ago. We use only Russian crafts. It is a celebration of our atelier. Our production team is more than 100 people, which makes us the largest atelier in Russia of this kind” (PRESTIGE, 17.09.2017).
Ulyana Sergeenko couture has become an international trendsetter. Actresses, models and TV stars are wearing her designs, for example Beyonce, Dita von Teese, Ksenia Sobchak, Nadezhda Obolontseva, Natalia Vodianova, Renata Litvinova, Renée Zellweger, Sonam Kapoor, Toni Garrn, Vera Brezhneva. Her fashion was present at the Cannes Film Festival, in June 2019.
For nearly 220 years, Pavlovo Posad shawls and scarves have symbolized Russian tradition, originality and good taste. They make excellent gifts for girls and ladies. Besides, they are beautiful souvenirs for tourists to bring home from Russia. The light silk and wool materials do not weigh much and do not take up a lot of space in the suitcase. Why not surprise your loved ones with such a wonderful piece of Russian crafts and folk art for Christmas and New Year?
Olivia Kroth: The journalist and author of four books lives in Moscow.
Her blog: http://olivia2010kroth.wordpress.com