Red Meat and Velvet
Ball gowns, Ballet and Business
My guest for dinner at Guilly's restaurant was Igor
Chapurin, fashion designer, entrepreneur and the artist who produced
the sets and costumes for Les Presages now showing at the
Bolshoi, in the evening of three one-act ballets by Leonide Massine
(see our review on page 13). The location was ideal, within walking
distance of the Bolshoi where Chapurin was working.
Chapurin's signature style is one of understated elegance, he
likes expensive fabrics in muted tones - think Calvin Klein or
Giorgio Armani: I was sure that the quiet luxury of Guilly's would
appeal to him. I was right about the restaurant, but if I was
expecting to talk about spring and fall collections I was wrong; it
turned out to be an evening as much about bottom lines as it was
Chapurin is from Vitebsk, famous as the birthplace and the muse
of Marc Chagall. After he represented Russia at the International
Festival of Young Clothes Designers in Paris in 1992 fashion critics
wrote that a new star was burning over Vitebsk. In the nineties
Chapurin was more famous in the West than in Russia - he designed
celebrated outfits for 'Miss World' and 'Miss Russia' - but he has
since then become one of the favoured designers of the new Russian
Guilly's is a steakhouse, and it's menu features lots of red meat
but what I like about it is that it also offers a number of lighter
alternatives. It's one of those restaurants where you can't go wrong
no matter who you go with. In this instance Igor went for both
options - the light seafood tartar and then filet mignon. I did the
same - spinach with shrimp and the Beef Wellington.
"You produce two collections a year, you have a pret-a-porter
line, you design jewellery and furniture, you have an interior
Igor laughed and said, "Don't forget the new children's
line and the skiwear."
"How do you manage to do it all?"
"I have a good team and I love working. I work all the time. My
company is my family. A lot of the people who work with me are
younger. I like to give them as much responsibility and freedom as
they can handle."
The seafood tartar looked as if it could have been designed by
Chapurin - an elegance of tuna, salmon and shrimp, layered with
spinach, and beads of red caviar.
"I hope it's a diet salad," joked Igor, "I used to do sports
gymnastics but my company is growing fast so I don't have time." He
ate it all.
"How many people are there in Igor Chapurin Inc.?"
"A hundred and fifty."
The fried spinach with shrimp was a good combination; the garlic
dressing not too heavy - the spicy shrimp around the edge giving it
a nice bite.
"You have designed for the theatre, working with Oleg Menshikov;
but why ballet?"
"I learnt to watch ballet through Grigorovitch and his favourite
designer Virsaladze. I was fascinated by the mix of emotional
choreography and complicated colours, particularly for example in
Legend of Love. When Alexei (Ratmansky) asked me to design for
Les Presages, it was a dream come true."
"He has a strong mind, did he let you get on with it?"
"He said that it had to be a 21st century version of the ballet,
and I myself didn't want to re-create what had been done in the 20th
century. How can I speak to the public? that was what I asked
myself. The answer was in a dialogue of colours. Everything comes
out of the connection between men and women. That was why I learnt
the roles of every dancer."
Igor pronounced the filet mignon "incomparable," which
says it all. I can say the same about the Beef Wellington - perfect
pastry, the meat rare, exactly as I had ordered, and the mushroom
sauce not too heavy.
We were talking about how difficult it is to be an artist and a
businessman. "It's not easy," said Igor. "The artistic process is
rational and irrational. It can't be fully understood. I spend more
money than anybody else on a fashion show, which is wrong for the
business, but right for me. I'm both a one hundred percent
perfectionist and a fatalist who thinks that nothing is ever
perfect. But it's artistic fatalism; it doesn't get in the way of my
There was soon not much left of Igor's filet mignon, and
nothing left of my Beef Wellington. I wanted to know how Igor
thought that Russia had changed; he was so much a part of the
free-for-all nineties, and now he is a part of the Establishment.
"Russia has to changes its genes; we have abandoned so much of
our past that now we have to recreate ourselves."
"You remind me of Karl Lagerfeld, who can be doing a
hundred different things at once, and still find time to talk about
"Thank you for the compliment."
Somehow Igor found room for the cheesecake and the ice cream
("perfect," was the verdict). The fresh berries I ordered could have
come straight out of the garden.
"So where will the company Igor Chapurin be in the future?"
"We are like Hermes or Trussardi in the way in which our original
business has evolved. You always have to go up, not just forward."
"What are you proud of?"
"I'm proud of my team. My personal ambition is only one part of
"Which applause do you like best, for a ballet at the Bolshoi, or
a catwalk collection?" "When I do a collection I am a dictator. When
I am in the theatre I am a part of something much bigger. I am not
leading them, I am lifting them."
Time had flown; we had been sitting there for two and a half
hours. As we were getting our coats, Igor invited me to come to see
another performance of the Massine ballets, "As my guest."
"Okay, but the dinner's on me."
At Guilly's of course.
If you would like to know more about my guest Igor
Chapurin, please visit his website at www.chapurin.com, or
visit his boutique at 25 Ul. Nikolskaya, 'Nautilus', 3rd Floor.
Tel.: +7 095 937 0528
WHAT WE ATE
Tartar made from
thinly diced tuna, salmon and shrimp, layered with spinach,
served with red caviar and sliced lemon
Spinach fried in a garlic dressing,
served with spicy shrimp
All steaks are served on a sizzling pan with
baked tomato, champignons seared in wine sauce and garlic
You can choose a sauce to go with your steak:
grilled tenderloin steak (200gr) and
mushrooms baked in puff pastry, served with asparagus, cherry
tomatoes and dry sherry sauce.
Selection of fresh
Guilly’s special Baileys
with Oreo cookie crust. Served with
coffee ice cream.
WHAT WE DRANK
1 bottle of Borjomi (0,33L)
4 glasses of
Malbec Trapiche Oak Cask 2001, (0,15L) (Argentinian, sold both
by the glass and by the bottle)
What it cost:
Guilly’s: 6 Stoleshnikov Per., M.
Tverskaya, Okhotny Ryad.
Tel.: (095) 229 2050, 933