6 Fascinating Collaborations Between Russian Ballet and World Fashion

6 Fascinating Collaborations Between Russian Ballet and World Fashion

Traditionally, ballet costumes are created by theater artists, but in recent years, choreographers have increasingly collaborated with fashion designers. There is nothing unexpected about it as the world of ballet and the world of fashion have always been closely intertwined.

Another star name on the call board generates extra interest in the performance, because ballet and fashion often get attention from the same audience. The main value of such cooperation is innovation, designer reinterpretation of images. Costumes for foreign ballets were created by Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix, Gianni Versace, Valentino, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Russian designer Igor Chapurin - the latter dressed dancers in four ballets by French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj.

Who of the famous fashion designers created for the Russian productions and how was this collaboration remembered?

Le Train Bleu, Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, 1924, costumes by Coco Chanel

Her entire life Gabrielle Chanel was inspired by ballet. For many years she maintained an intriguing relationship with the composer Stravinsky, and after meeting Sergei Diaghilev, she began to patronize ballet dancers. In 1924, Chanel designed costumes for the premiere of a production by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes company, Le Train Bleu, based on the sketches from her latest sports collection.

For the first time, an everyday costume replaced a theatrical one on the ballet stage, which became a sensation in bohemian Paris. The artistic solution was justified by the story telling about life of the "golden youth" on the Cote d'Azur. The main characters went to parties, swam, played tennis and golf, so tutus and leotards were replaced by shorts, tennis skirts, tunics, striped sweaters, knee-highs and even swimming caps.

Anna Karenina, the Bolshoi Theater, 1972, costumes for Maya Plisetskaya by Pierre Cardin

Maya Plisetskaya and Pierre Cardin had a creative relationship for many years. The prima ballerina often gave preference to the outfits created by him not only in social life but also on stage.

While working on Anna Karenina, Plisetskaya complained to Cardin that the costumes of that period were too heavy and inconvenient for dancing. The couturier did not hesitate to help her. He made ten couture costumes for the ballerina, in which he delicately preserved the historical features but lightened the designs by adding slits on the thighs and replacing heavy bustles with lush bows.

In 1972, the ballet premiered successfully, but the name of the famous fashion designer didn’t appear on the posters - the Soviet government didn’t allow even a hint of Western participation. But this fact didn’t hurt Cardin and didn’t affect his friendship with the ballerina.

Cinderella, the Kremlin Palace, 1991, costumes by the House of Nina Ricci

In 1991, the Cinderella ballet produced by choreographer Vladimir Vasiliev was for the first time played on stage of the Kremlin Palace. The costumes, as a generous gift, were created by the fashion house Nina Ricci, which at the time was headed by Gerard Pipard. They turned out to be luxurious, but too bulky and extremely detailed, and, according to critics, they “buried the artists under them”. However, the next experience of Vasiliev's cooperation with the fashion world was much more successful.

Giselle, the Bolshoi Theater, 1997, costumes by Hubert de Givenchy

In 1997, Giselle was staged at the Bolshoi Theater. Vladimir Vasiliev saw his main task as to restore the first performance premiered in Paris in 1841. For the first time, the famous French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy was invited to work on costumes. His costumes were a gift to Russian ballet from the haute couture world.

The designer was happy to start cooperation, as he was continuing the family tradition: his grandfather worked as a costume designer at the Grand Opera. Givenchy studied the archives of that time and made sketches close to the original images: not flashy, muted, matte, creating graceful romantic silhouettes. It was subtle and delicate work. The couturier didn’t emphasize his signature style but completely submitted to the artistic task.

Park, the Mariinsky Theater, 2011, costumes by Hervé Pierre

Hervé Pierre has been known in the fashion world since 1992. He worked for the Oscar de la Renta fashion house, was the creative director of the Carolina Herrera brand for 14 years, dressed American First Ladies Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama, and in 2017 created a dress for Melania Trump, in which she appeared at the Donald Trump inauguration ball.

But few people know that in 2011 the designer collaborated with the Mariinsky Theater and created costumes for the Park ballet. 17 years earlier, Pierre had already worked on images for the first premiere of the same ballet by Angelin Preljocaj at the Paris Opera. In the center of the plot are romantic encounters and amorous yearnings of the characters in the Versailles Park during the time of Louis XIV. Studying engravings and drawings from that era, Hervé Pierre created historically accurate costumes that emphasize the sensual atmosphere of the production.

Gabrielle Chanel, the Bolshoi Theater, 2020, costumes by CHANEL fashion house

In October 2020, as part of the XI International Festival of Arts “Diaghilev. P.S.” the world premiere of the biopic ballet Gabrielle Chanel took place on the Historic Stage of the Bolshoi Theater. The main role was performed by prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova. The libretto was based on scenes from the life of Coco Chanel, reflecting her path from a cafe chantant singer to one of the most influential figures in the fashion world. The creative studio of the CHANEL house made over 80 original costumes. The production includes fragments of the ballets Le Train Bleu and Apollon Musagète - the costumes invented by Coco for these performances were accurately recreated by her fashion house a century later.