I have talked at great length with friends and fellow ex-pats about the “cool factor” of living in a foreign country. And I don’t mean the interest people take in your experience once you are back stateside, but rather the “cool factor” that gets undeservedly placed on you in foreign countries. It’s a simple algebraic expression. You are person A when at home. While abroad, depending upon the historical relationship of the two countries, the level of development, and location on the map of the country you are in, a certain “cool factor” X is applied. Thus you become person B. A*X=B. Or something like that.
While studying in Ecuador, my X factor was a big integer. I was cruising into fun upon a giant, exported, American-made cultural surfboard. Russia, however, was a different story. The X integer just wasn’t as big. In Russia, it was more like, “Oh you’re American? Ok. Can you please step to the side. You’re standing in my way.” This wasn’t always true, but there were many occasions of “Sorry no foreigners” at club entrances and suspicious looks at our loud, public, English-speaking ways.
This was the case for awhile until my friend Katie got VIP tickets to Aurora Fashion Week in Saint Petersburg. Bentleys! Models! Free Champagne! My X factor would skyrocket. Or so I thought.
Our awesome VIP badge that let us into the red velvet-roped lounge.
How many Bentley’s do you see? I see six.
And just in case you are in the market for a Bentley, the best deal is to go to Belarus, buy one there and then drive it into Russia. Way fewer taxes.
Models. There were lots of them.
The man who gave tickets to Katie, who we will call Sergei for both my safety and yours, was a very imposing man. After introducing ourselves, Sergei avoided Katie and I like the plague. It was actually quite comical at times. We would sidle up near him or try to make eye contact, and he would immediately move in the opposite direction. We thought we were looking pretty sharp, had our VIP badges securely fastened to the lapels of our trendy blazers, and had his assistant helping us out at every turn. I guess even with a VIP badge, you’re a nobody until Sergei thinks you’re a somebody.
So we did what any young woman at a party filled with models, rich oil tycoons, their plastic filled
wives mistresses and fashion icons would do. We made an immediate beeline for the bar.
We managed to down half a bottle champagne, which was pretty impressive given the time constraints we were under and the witty repartee we imparted on any and all who approached us, before the bell for the first show began. As we were making our way up the stairs we noticed Fancy LA Businessman, henceforth known as FLAB, for the first time. Remember FLAB, he will come into important play as our night progresses. Keeping an eye on our new adversary, aka one the other three people there who spoke English, we sat down to watch the first show.
And it was FABULOUS. Only in Russia can a Joan Crawford meets Cruella DeVille inspired fur show make me pine for a floor-length mink coat and a reason to wear sable fur hand muffs. Impractical? Yes. Necessary. Hell Yes.
This was by far my favorite look.
I could rock this on 5th Avenue.
This is a bad photo but the model pictured is the designer, Igor Gulyaev,’s wife. He and his child walked out in the end in fur vests. It was pretty amazing.
Think I can make it into the next show?
Part II to come…. two girls, a McDonalds value meal and a quick getaway from FLAB.