MOSCOW (Reuters) - Headbands emblazoned with Russian symbols, cheap accessories and military-style clothes sashayed through the Russian Silhouette fashion designer contest in Moscow this week.
The contest, first launched in 1997 by the Russian Silhouette charity fund, is aimed at supporting young Russian designers and took in 67 collections at the Gostinyi dvor exhibition center, where Moscow Fashion Week will kick off next week.
"We went through more regions this time, about 60, nine time zones of Russia and neighboring countries, held 32 semi-finals, viewed 4,000 designers, twice as many as last year," Tatiana Mikhalkova, the president of the fund, told Reuters.
The collections represented nearly a dozen countries in their diversity, which usually sets the contest apart from similar foreign competitions, she said.
Some judges said that a slower economy this year had prevented students from displaying the kind of experimentation and whimsical flair seen in past shows.
"Unable to spend a lot, this year designers played safe and acquired similar style, that's why the show was a bit weak, I wanted to see more individuality and more guts," Gevorg Rene, an Armenian fashion designer, told Reuters during an intermission.
A representative of Denmark's Saga Furs auction house, Natalia Turovnikova, said she was disappointed with the drab uniformity of the collections.
"They are too modest, too tidy, not bold. You are young, you need to show sass, to surprise us," she said addressing the participants from the runway.
Russian women are well-known for their exuberant interest in high-end fashion and unconventional outfits are a current fad.
Saga Furs was among other fashion labels such as Germany's Laurel, Italy's Moschino, France's Claude Bonucci boutique and several Russian houses to offer 30 finalists internships and education programs.
The grand-prix -- a 22,000 euro ($30,365) year-long masters program at the Italian design and fashion school Domus Academy -- went to Muscovite Alexandra Ulyanova for her collection "From darkness to light."
Ulyanova's five outfits ranged from a long dark brown dress and heavy makeup to an angelic white transparent gown with an ivory belt accentuating the pale-skinned feminine figure floating on the runway.
"I had a philosophical concept in mind, I wanted to show the transition from dark to light," Ulyanova told Reuters backstage. "I wanted to find this purity in today's darkness and pull it out."
Winners of the previous Russian Silhouette contest will show at Russian Fashion week starting on Friday at the World Trade center.
Reporting By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya; Editing by Lidia Kelly and Paul Casciato