St. Petersburg: Masha, 18, was on her way to a mall to visit her favorite store: H&M. The teenager plans to major in cultural studies at university. H&M seems to have won over the hearts of Russian youth with the Swedish-based company opening stores in malls in most major Russian cities.
St. Petersburg: As I passed these two women early one summer Saturday morning in St. Petersburg, I noticed one of them had a bird's feather sticking out of her hair like you see in drawings of American indians. The woman said she saw the feather on the street as she was walking and decided to put in her hair. When I asked how she came up with the idea, she said The Last of the Mohicans was one of her favorite books while growing up.
St. Petersburg: Konstantin, early 30s, was sitting with his friend on a bench near Palace Square in St. Petersburg just before sunset. Konstantin said he works in the construction industry and dreams of building his own boutique hotel in the cultural capital. But not just any hotel...Konstantin says he wants one that rotates. When I asked if that is even possible, he said he still has to figure out how the plumping would work in such a building.
MOSCOW: Konstantin, 21, designs and sews his own clothing under a brand he calls 'Forevanavsegda.' The Russian word 'navsegda' means forever. Konstantin says he finds inspiration in historical costumes, European avant-garde fashion and Soviet kitsch. I asked his view of the latest fashion trends in Russia. "Unfortunately, fashion has taken a turn for the worse in Russia. Almost everyone - at least men - dress the same. Fashion is now dictated by a concept of 'normalcy' rather than leading fashion brands. And those that want to look different are having to cut back."
MOSCOW: "Clothing should match," said Muscovite Olga in perfect English when I asked her to describe her style. She was strolling by herself across Red Square on a Sunday evening right before sunset. Olga said she taught English to workers at western companies in Moscow such as Deutsche Bank and Boeing. She now teaches English privately.
MOSCOW: University students Alina and Polina were taking a walk in the park. Alina said her father landed a job in Australia and moved the family there about four years ago. Alina was visiting friends and her hometown for the first time since moving to Australia. She didn't things in Moscow had changed much since. Alina and Polina have been friends now for about six years despite the distance that separates them. Polina said she has yet to visit Alina in Australia.
St. Petersburg: Nevsky Prospect in St. Petersburg gets quite crowded during the white nights period as domestic and foreign tourists flood the city. It must be pretty difficult to walk a dog along Nevsky during the early evening in this period. That may be why Irina, 25, was carrying her dog. She said she worked as an image stylist for magazines.
St. Petersburg: Evgeny, 18, was walking with a new acquaintance outside a popular St. Petersburg mall. Hair slicked back and sporting a long coat, Evgeny said he liked the fashion style of 1920s American gangster figures as portrayed in films. Evgeny works in a restaurant and said he likes to spend his free time walking around St. Petersburg.
ULAN-UDE-EASTERN SIBERIA: Ulan-Ude looks unusual for a Russian city. It is dominated by wooden homes - many old - rather than high-rise apartment buildings. Thus, some locals called their city "a large village." You can view the wooden homes as a sign of regional poverty or national beauty. Lena, a native Ulan-Ude resident who loves rock-n-roll and H&M, chose the latter. She has been running an Instagram blog focused on fashion for about two years, but a little more than a year ago, she changed its style. When she posted a photo of herself in front of an old wooden home in the center of town, an Ulan-Ude resident asked where the photo was taken. "I was shocked by the question" as it was in the center of town, she said. "Thereafter, I decided to introduce my city to everyone. Why not make wooden homes fashionable?" Lena began to regularly pose in front of the colorful, old homes, attracting the attention of the photographer managing National Geographic Russia's Instagram account. He named her account of his 10 favorite. Lena said she hoped her photos will spark an interest in the city's architectual heritage. She has received a proposal to present her photos at an exhibition dedicated to Russian wooden architecture later this year. You can view her Instagram blog at @royal_lena
Anton was dressed in military style with white sneakers and a black baseball cap as he rode the Moscow metro. He said he worked in the fashion industry and I asked him about his view of Moscow trends and developments. Years ago, ''if you wanted to be fashionable and dress as you liked, you had to earn a lot and order everything from Europe or the US. Now, people can get what they want at stores in Moscow. Even tough street kids are wearing real Adidas.'' ''And there is now an opportunity for Russian brands to develop. We [Russians] now know what we love and what we can create for people.''