You may remember Kira Plastinina as she burst onto the U.S. fast-fashion scene in 2008 with a playful, pink-cursive logo and boatloads of saccharine party dresses lining her short-lived NYC boutiques. You may also remember that Plastinina was just 15 years old at the time, and deemed “the youngest fashion designer in the world" — a dubiously lofty title for a teenager to assume, especially when her business was orchestrated by the adults around her.
Though her brand saw much success overseas, it flopped in the U.S. mere months after the stateside stores opened; brand insiders chalked it up to the recession, while outsiders say it was just poor business decisions. Now, after several years of criticism from fashion industry VIPs, Plastinina is bravely re-emerging in the American market with premium line LUBLU ("I love" in Russian), which will be headquartered in Dallas where she's currently a college senior.
Plastinina, a thoughtful-spoken young woman, acknowledges that she has an uphill battle before her, and says that she's prepared to "prove the naysayers wrong." LUBLU, which has already existed for five years in Russia and the Middle East, is a huge departure from her eponymous fast-fashion line, with the fall '13 collection steeped in jewel tones, rich fabrics, sharply structured garments, and an overall regal aesthetic. Plastinina qualifies LUBLU’s brand DNA as "daring, feminine, and savvy," stating that she designs for "an very international, stylish girl who is smart about her fashion choices — I never do a skirt that’s too short."
But how, exactly, is it different this time around? "The LUBLU collection sits at a new designer price point, allowing myself and the team to showcase the brand quality and my continued growth and maturing as a designer," she says. "In the past, I oversaw more of the design and inspiration... Now I'm more involved in the day-to-day business and design process, traveling to Moscow on a monthly basis, constantly Skyping with my design team and always 'in the know.'"
For added ammo in her foray into high-fashion territory, she's tapped some heavy hitters as her brand ambassadors, including Leandra Medine (The Man Repeller), Miroslava Duma, Dannijo, Candice Lake, and Nasiba Adilova. "She is not only an inspiring young woman, but a role model to many," says Adilova, editor of Buro247. "My favorite piece was the dress I wore on the [ambassador] shoot. The fall collection is very feminine and playful, which I love."
Whereas Kira Plastinina’s dealings in the U.S. market were primarily funded by her father five years ago, LUBLU now operates off of its own capital. Which is no small feat as the 21-year-old doubles as a full-time college student at Southern Methodist University, which she credits as helping her make intelligent, strategic moves as a businesswoman. “I decided not to go to design school because by the time I applied to college, I already had four years of design experience, so it wouldn’t be as beneficial for me as to study something else,” the public relations major/fashion media minor explains.
Finally, after many years of careful contemplation and introspection, Plastinina will put her real-world and academic-world learnings into motion with the grand opening of her only U.S. boutique and launch of LUBLU’s e-commerce platform, which will hopefully remint her as fashion royalty in her own right and earn back that “It Girl” status she was given so many years ago.
“I do see why some people could question my commitment, but I’ve never really left the fashion industry and my time focusing on my studies and personal life have allowed me to rediscover my passion as a designer,” Plastinina says. “[My team and I] have learned what it takes to make it in the U.S. market — and I look forward to working very hard.”