MOSCOW (Reuters) – Beneath its glitzy facade, Russia’s high fashion industry faces an uncertain future.

Dozens of Western designer brands have left Russia in a backlash against Moscow’s decision to send troops to Ukraine, leaving their domestic rivals to take center stage.

But at the annual Moscow Fashion Week, which showcases the work of Russian designers, industry professionals said seizing the opportunity would not be easy.

“We need to expand fabric production because our fabrics and accessories are all imported,” said Yulia Lavrichenko, a fashion designer attending the event last week. “Unfortunately, our designers are suffering from this at the moment.”

Even Russian couturiers rely heavily on Italy to supply the exclusive materials that go into making the clothes of their wealthy clientele.

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And while China, Bangladesh, Belarus and Turkey all continue to supply Russia with consumer clothing and materials, Italy is participating in European Union sanctions that are making it very difficult to trade in luxury.

Olga Sinitsyna, whose brand SCORA designs hats and accessories, said her company was just emerging from the shock of the pandemic when Russia’s military campaign began, sending the ruble plummeting and import prices skyrocketing.

The ruble has since rebounded, “but the logistics are 10 times more expensive,” she said, adding that she had no choice but to raise prices.

“You have to understand that not everything you see here is made from Russian raw materials,” she said. “That, of course, affects the cost… But here the choice is either you do it – or you cry and do nothing. I choose to do it.”

For designer Albina Akkulova, known for her fairytale-inspired dresses embroidered with pearls and gold threads, growing constraints will force designers to come up with creative solutions and innovators to devote some of their energy to promoting a base of national fashion manufacturing.

“For Russia as a whole, these are new possibilities,” she said backstage at her brand’s show. “We will create something of our own, develop our own fashion industry.”

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey, William Maclean)

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