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 about hemlines.
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 rich.
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 design studio…”
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 business instincts.”
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 philosophy.”
“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 my work.”
“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 with Shrimp
Spinach fried in a garlic dressing, served with spicy shrimp
Filet Mignon (340g)
All steaks are served on a sizzling pan with baked tomato, champignons seared in wine sauce and garlic butter.
You can choose a sauce to go with your steak:
Blue Cheese (50gr)
Beef Wellington (300/50/50g)
grilled tenderloin steak (200gr) and mushrooms baked in puff pastry, served with asparagus, cherry tomatoes and dry sherry sauce.
Selection of fresh berries
Guilly’s special Baileys cheese cake
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 5521