Russian ex-spy deported from US launches new fashion line

By Anna Malpas, AFP

MOSCOW–Former Russian spy Anna Chapman, who has cultivated a sex bomb image since her return to Moscow, is now launching a signature line of dresses to be sold in stores around the country. Chapman’s official website describes the designs as “lethal weapons for women.” The clothes will go on sale in February, initially online and then in stores. Photos on Chapman’s website show models posing in high-necked long dresses with elbow sleeves and full skirts.

Chapman, who returned in 2010 under a Russia-U.S. spy swap, presented the line of dresses and accessories at a trade fair in Turkey. “The collection is based around dresses with a price range and styling that is accessible to practically any Russian woman,” a spokesman for the bank where Chapman works as an advisor, Grigory Belkin, told the Interfax news agency on Friday. Chapman’s site says she was inspired to create the collection after she flew back to Russia “in just a prison shirt” and found that she could not buy attractive dresses made locally. On Thursday she gave a preview of the clothes at a fashion show for Turkish brand Dosso Dossi in Antalya, a resort popular with Russians. She told the Vechernyaya Moskva daily that the collection was “entirely created in Russia” and featured motifs from Russian fairytales and folklore, and would be sold in department stores in cities including Moscow and the upcoming Winter Olympic venue Sochi. Fashion news website published photographs of her handbags styled to look like copies of classic Russian novels such as Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s “What Is to Be Done?” In 2011 Chapman herself appeared as a catwalk model at Moscow Fashion Week, accidentally dropping a pistol she was brandishing. She has also posed in lingerie for the Russian men’s magazine Maxim. Chapman has retained an enigmatic silence over her past since returning to Russia. She formally works as an advisor to the president of a bank linked to the space sector, FundServiceBank, although her role is unclear. She also hosts a television show about the supernatural. She regularly puts in appearances at film premieres and other glitzy events although her fame has waned since her initial return to Russia. In July, Chapman turned to Twitter to propose marriage to U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

Russian fashion experts were skeptical about the sartorial offerings, with stylist and television host Grigory Lisovets telling Vechernyaya Moskva: “I wouldn’t say Anna Chapman herself has ideal taste. She wears clothes that are absolutely ordinary.” “Now a lot of media figures are presenting themselves as designers and couturiers, but this is far from the case,” fashion historian and collector Alexander Vasilyev told Vechernyaya Moskva. “I wish her well but I don’t think her collection will be a success.”