MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - Moscow showed uncharacteristic reserve at its 20th fashion week with models strutting in diaphanous gowns and soft colors as the financial gloom of the credit crunch nipped at its stiletto heels.
The sushi-nibbling Moscow elite descended on Gostiny Dvor this week, a revamped 19th century exhibit hall near the Kremlin to see home-grown designs and catch a glimpse of Hollywood star and ex-Bond girl Denise Richards.
"I am extremely proud to open the 20th jubilee of our city's fashion week, Moscow is a true European capital," Moscow mayor of 15 years Yuri Luzhkov said sitting two seats down from Richards at the show of celebrated designer Valentin Yudashkin.
Luzkhov later presented a huge bouquet of colorful flowers to the raven-haired designer, who has boutiques in Europe and was commissioned to dress the Russian military.
Muted, neutral colors featured heavily in his spring and summer collection for next year, reminiscent of Milan shows last month where designers stuck to simple clothes in what fashion experts said was an attempt to keep cautious buyers keen with clothes that can work through several seasons.
The token Hollywood star for the event -- birthdays of billionaires and gallery openings in Moscow usually have one -- was Richards, who did her best to overcome the language barrier with an ear-to-ear smile.
"I love it, it's wonderful," she said of the Russian capital. "The show was amazing, it was fantastic," she added, teetering on gold high heels and wrapped in a short shiny dress.
At an exclusive after-party at a riverside bar which faces Red Square, fashion industry regulars swigged single-malt scotch and champagne but told Reuters in private that the financial crisis was hung over their world like a black cloud.
"People are having to tighten their belts," said prominent film actor and television personality Alexander Rappaport.
Yudashkin, dressed in a simple black suit, white shirt and black tie, agreed. "The state of crisis is always hanging over our heads."
Earlier, he had slinky models strut a curly catwalk in floor-length dresses and textured white suits to an audience including Soviet crooner Joseph Kobzon and celebrity hair-dresser Sergei Zverev, dressed in black platform shoes.
Russian designer Rosenfeld -- she only goes by her last name -- showed mono-color, sleek jumpsuits at the show, casting off the heavy use of sequins and color that has shaped Russian fashion for years.
"This crisis is of course affecting fashion here, but I hope it will be light on me, as well as the companies with which we work, such as advertising and PR firms," said Alexander Dostman, the president of the Haute Couture and Pret-a-Porter Association, which aids the Russian fashion industry.
Russia is the fourth-largest and one of the fastest-growing luxury markets in the world, but sector leaders such as Mercury have recently said they are experiencing a slowdown in sales.
"People will have to become their own personal accountants, even those who are used to spending a lot without thinking," Rappaport said.
(Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman and Simon Shuster, editing by Paul Casciato)