By Brian Johnson
Following a number of requests from readers over the last few weeks we are going to look at some simple ways to plan your retirement, or financial independence for those who say they will never retire.
It is never too late to start planning for your financial independence in later years. However, the sooner you tackle this, the easier it is to overcome the hurdles on the way to achieving your goals. Letâs look at the some basics which you need to consider.
There are four major key elements to making such a plan, which will enable you to consider the way forward with a master strategy.
How long must your portfolio last?
This, of course, will depend on when you actually plan to hang up your boots and take it easy. Once you decide on this we need to stab a guess at the realities of how long you will live. With medical science the way it is and improvements in healthcare standards it is going to be the norm to live to 100 in the not too distant future.
In any event if you make a plan to expire when you are say 90 and then you live well beyond that it could be disastrous! So, it is better to be conservative on this subject.
Income withdrawals, growth and inflation
We often talk about the effects of inflation, which are insidious, and which many expats simply refuse to acknowledge. I talk to some and they simply say there is no point to worry as they still think in Sterling or Dollar.
So to all those who believe the same level of income today will have the equivalent purchasing power in the future you need to get real.
An income of $50,000 today will require an equivalent of $110,000 in 20 yearsâ time to maintain the same purchasing power. If you had $50,000 today in cash and you put it in a drawer it would have the buying power of just $15,000 in 30 years from now.
Inflation is subtle and sneaks up on us over a number of years, and although we talk about annual rates of inflation and growth, these are actually moving averages. In some years markets will grow by 20% and in others they will lose 20%. Similarly although inflation has averaged 4% year on year for over eighty years now, some will remember the âgood old seventiesâ when inflation was running at around 18% in the western world. In summary it is never a steady rate.
If you were unlucky enough to lose 20% from your investments whilst drawing 10% as income you would need to make the residual assets grow by nearly 43% just to bring you back to par. So, it is going to be paramount that you do not rely on high growth rates for the years in which you will be drawing income.
Inflation, growth and required income are thus very important factors to consider.
A primary investment target
In order to ensure that you start along the right track you need to have a defined starting point, for instance the end goal in mind. It is essential that you are able to calculate your required income as you would require today, if you were to retire today, and then project this to your ultimate retirement age. Remember that inflation does not retire when you do and neither does it ever take a holiday. Just like a cancer it is always there ever growing. Thus you need to account for this by making sure that you have an income with the same purchasing power each year as you need in todayâs terms.
Once you have calculated your required income and then projected the inflated value you will need to work out how much you need to have as a lump sum when you retire to ensure this lasts as long as you may live. This requires some tricky calculations because you will need to project inflation and growth rates as time goes on. So, advice from a professional is much needed here.
Remember to reduce the income you need by any arrangements which you already have in place. Do you have any pensions which will provide some income when you get to a specific age? If yes then take these into account in your projections.
It is almost impossible these days to accumulate sufficient assets which will generate an inflating income and leave your entire capital intact. Thus you will be wise to have sufficient assets at retirement but not such a high value that it makes the task impossible.
Objective investment strategies
Once you have an idea of the calculations you can look at the investment strategies which will enable you to achieve the target. It is also important that you set the strategies after that magical retirement date. This may require you to adjust the income you may draw and the length of time the assets will last.
The investment strategies you use before and after your retirement date will determine the asset mix to be employed. Common asset classes are equities, bonds, commodities and fixed interest. The greater the equity content you employ the higher the possibility of you achieving and maintaining your goals. On the flip side, the greater the equity exposure, the greater the chances of falling victim to the volatility which goes hand in hand with equities and which may produce heavy setbacks along the way.
Despite equities averaging 10% per annum returns over very long periods if you are unlucky enough to hit a bad spell at the wrong time your entire plan may be shredded. Had you been heavily into equities in 2008 you would still not quite have made back your losses and recovered your portfolio to par, some four years later. So, for those with a strategy in equities and planning their retirement in say 2011 disaster struck them when the recent recession driven market crashes were experienced four years ago.
All this requires tough thinking and a realistic logical hard look at your entire situation is required. If you become a pragmatist and project it as it is then you will be far more likely to achieve a genuine result.
The practicalities of creating a real plan for your retirement are essential. There are many of todayâs readers who have neglected the facts and are suffering as a result. The younger you actually start the more likely it is that you will achieve the goals you need to set.
Much of the requirements today revolve around the fact that expats are left to their own devices when it comes to such planning. There are rarely employer plans in place such that you would enjoy at home. If you eventually return home you will have created a huge vacuum for the years you lost abroad living it up and neglecting your own financial future.
Think about it, take advantage of a third party review and then take the necessary action – now.
By John Harrison
Gil Petersil came to Russia seven years ago and has always been the non-standard networker who has gone out of his way to encourage communication between foreigners and Russians through events and innovative businesses in Russia.
How did you come to be living in Russia?
Let me start from the beginning. I was born in Israel; my family goes many generations back in the Holy land and at the age of ten my parents emigrated to Canada. After moving around Canada and accumulating some good experience, I eventually made my way to England. I lived in London for seven years, doing many things from banking to engaging in Whole Food and Organic health businesses, which was actually quite interesting. That was what brought me to Russia. A couple of very nice foreign gentlemen who were active businessmen in Russia and investors in the Health Shop business in Moscow asked me to join their team to see if I could help build a chain of health food shops. So I got on a plane in 2007 with a 48-hour visa to check it out. My hosts explained to me how business in Russia is done, I met many people. Moscow welcomed me very very beautifully, and I wanted to stay.
What are you doing now in Russia?
My life is split up between two things at the moment. One is personal coaching and public speaking, and the other side is a company that I run with my wife called MeetPartners, which specialises in bring talented people to Russia, and helping talented Russians make contacts abroad.
I have noticed that Russians donât seem to do business so much with people they know. Why is that?
In Russia, I would put people into two categories, the people who you know and the people you donât know. Many Russians are afraid of doing business with friends, they would be really careful of bringing business into that relationship. But if you have a really good relationship with someone, why not bring business into that relationship to help each other? But for many Russians, the word business is somehow connected with something that will end up harming somebody else.
My standpoint is that before you start doing business, you spend some time getting to know that person, before jumping into asking about the possibility of new investments, finding clients or whatever. For many Russians it is the other way round, they donât want to talk about families, or whatever because they consider these things to be way too personal.
Have you ever thought that your way of seeing things is wrong for Russia?
The interesting thing about what I have been doing for the past year is that I have been getting a lot of demand from large Russian corporations here to come in and teach their account managers and sales people how to build relationships. Before that it was really me holding mega events and having two or three hundred individuals showing up, who wanted to know what networking means. Not so many people do actually know what the word means. One of the more mature ladies in one of my events recently answered the question: what is networking, with: ânyet workingâ. I keep on telling people that networking is working. You have to put a lot of work into it. You have to build relations and follow up with people.
Is there a prejudice here against you now in Russia because you are Israeli/Canadian?
Absolutely not. Russia has welcomed me with open arms, not just Russia, but Belorussia, and Kazakhstan especially. I am now been invited to every single corner of Russia on a weekly basis, I have to say no to a lot of people, it is just too much travelling. They donât usually ask me where Iâm from, that doesnât seem to be an issue. Russian corporations are not against foreigners; they are interested in bringing in people who can train their staff in skills that they can use now. They are looking for motivation, inspiration, for more skills and content that they can use tomorrow. We have only recently introduced a new project called Meet Speakers and have discovered that there is huge, massive demand for foreign speakers to come and speak on a very wide range of subjects. I think that the West and Russia have stopped talking on some aspects, but when it comes to development, I think that a lot of Russians have learned that they need to learn from the West.
There is a stereotype about Russians not being entrepreneurs, is that right?
Over the past 7 years that I have been living in Russia, I have had the opportunity to work with over 200 start-ups, Iâve been blessed to set up 15 of my own companies, all with Russians. I was the only non-Russian person in all the organisations that Iâve set up and worked with. Iâve learned that they are entrepreneurs, but they are more opportunistic than western entrepreneurs. I would say that they are more eastern than western in their entrepreneurship. To me, entrepreneurship is all about finding a problem and resolving it, about making a difference in society, building a business that will survive on its own, that will be sustainable, that will give not only take. The biggest issue for me, which is starting to change but it has a long way to go, is the ideology of customer service, which is just not there yet. Businesses are built and then customers are searched for. Customer loyalty as such is not really a priority.
But Russians are family orientated, they are confident, they are not afraid, do they really want or need the western approach?
I would say that Russians by default are people who want to be free because they are ruled by fear. Most people are not meant to be entrepreneurs. Many entrepreneurs I meet here simply are not, which is something they cannot face because Russians are very proud. Failure is not an option for them, which makes them totally different from the western entrepreneur who will speak openly about his failures, and share them, and try to learn form them. Here, so often, people grow up with an existing community around them and donât necessarily try to bring in new people into that circle, or they donât try to step out of that community to build another community around them. This creates a lot of barriers around you, which stop you expanding as an entrepreneur.
It started as a beautiful evening in Moscow but then the heavens opened and some arriving members of the Moscow Good Food Club looked liked drowned rats as they ran through the deluge into the welcoming doors of NightFlight Restaurant.
NightFlight Restaurant has been a well-kept secret in Moscow for 23 years serving consistently high quality food in a refined atmosphere. Whilst the club downstairs is (in)famous world-wide many do not know about the restaurant and were pleasantly surprised by the warmth of the welcome and gentile ambience! Next time you go, take a look at the floor, evidently it is made from shipâs timber that was brought from Sweden all those years ago!
Executive Chef Mille Mikic and his team had prepared a feast of the finest that NightFlight offers.
As the guests arrived we were welcome with a glass of sparkling wine accompanied by a tantalising amuse bouche with tuna cerviche and camembert(!) which prepared our intrepid members for the delights that would follow. On taking our seats the first course of marinated salmon roll with light horseradish and herb oil was presented to the delight of the diners. With Swedish roots and of course connections, NightFlight has always prided itself on the quality of itâs smoked and marinated salmon and this evenings creation did not disappoint. This was accompanied by a Pfefferer Moscato Gialli from Italy a beautiful fragrant wine but could have been cooler on this rather humid evening.
The second course really surprised most members as the grilled scallops with seafood risotto, asparagus and lobster cappuccino appears. What a creation, succulent scallops, crispy, al-dente risotto the amazing foamy cappuccino sauce blended to a burst of flavours on the tongue. Accompanied by a Fritz Riesling from Germany the wine was again a perfect companion providing balance and flavour.
After a short pause, the main courses appeared, again Mille Mikic and his team had excelled. Glazed duck breast with a calvados-red wine sauce with thyme potato fondant. Nestling between the slices of pink, succulent duck was a portion of foie gras much to the delight of all diners. The Te Mata Syrah Woodthorpe from New Zealand was a delight and tasted much more full bodied that one would expect from a younger Syrah. For many this was a first Syrah from New Zealand but a wine that many of us will look for in the future.
Moscow Good Food Club members are experienced diners and know to reserve space for the dessert and when the caramelised apple tartine with yoghurt ice-cream was served we knew why! Wonderfully large helpings of crispy apple tartine that melted in the mouth with the combination of the yoghurt ice-cream. This was accompanied by a Kazumyan VSOP Cognac that surprisingly suited the combination.
So totally sated it was time to get down to business and each tables spokesperson delivered their critiques. All tables were unanimous in their praise of the food and its presentation and the scores for NightFlight Restaurant were:-
So excellent scores, for an excellent meal!
One cannot forget to mention the lovely waitresses in NightFlight, perfect English, flawless service and all with a lovely smile. Just another reason to go back to NightFlight!
As is traditional and to provoke lively conversation on all tables, we ask for answers to a question, which on this occasion was: âSummer brings out the best of Moscow. In your opinion what are the 5 biggest changes that have improved our lives in Moscow in the summer months?â Well fortified and relaxed the answers were lively and often duplicated on several tables, our male members noted unanimously that the greatest pleasure of Moscow in the summer was the rising of the hemlines on the female population! Our good hearted lady members allowed the male oriented observation with good cheer. Amongst the other comments were the high quality of the parks now, especially Gorky: the availability of rental bikes around the city; that parking meters seem to have resolved the previous tendency to double/triple parking; that there are many more trees and that bird life is increasing; and finally the arrival of many taxi Aps in English that makes the expats life much easier.
With our quest completed it was time to make our collective way down the stairs, a turn to the right lead to the entrance and Tverskaya, however many could not resist the turn to the left to Moscowâs most infamous club! NightFlight, congratulations, we will be back!
By Chris Weafer
It is both a truism and a clichÃ© that change is constant. That is particularly the case in developing nations, as the description makes clear, amongst which is Russia. Sometime, if one is lucky, that change is evolutionary and proceeds at a sedate pace. More often changes are forced as a result of some egregious policy decisions or actions. Russia has always been in that latter category and appears doomed to remain there.
So, as we approach the 2nd anniversary of the prologue to the Ukraine crisis, what changes can we see resulting from this crisis? In particular, what might be the legacy of this period for foreign companies and expats working and living in Russia? Of course it is still too early to make a definitive assessment as both the geo-political and economic trends are far from resolved, but we can make a useful interim assessment under a number of categories.
For companies working in Russia there is a sort of bitter-sweet message; the boom years are gone forever but a new economic reality is starting which can deliver above global-average returns over a long period to those companies who are willing and able to adapt. A great deal has been written about the reasons why the period of strong average annual growth in the economy started to come to an end from mid-2012 and the fact that the country now needs a new investment led growth model. It is early days yet but the evidence of policy commitment from the government is encouraging.
But before any meaningful actions can start there needs to be an easing, if not a full lifting, of financial sector sanctions so that the state and Russian companies can again access new debt and investment capital. For now the governmentâs core strategy is âdamage containmentâ rather than expansion. It means that while there is a lot of talk about recovery strategies none will be funded until the crisis has definitely passed. Despite the optimistic rhetoric from senior officials, that condition is still some way distant. For foreign companies, especially those in the import-substitution industries, the game is changing from import and distribution to local manufacturing. That is especially the case for such basic industries as food, pharmaceuticals, engineering and services.
A key condition to make that new growth strategy work is that the state is successful in creating a more competitive manufacturing base. During the boom years workers enjoyed year after year real strong wage growth and the Central Bankâs (CBR) mandate was to maintain a strong rouble. Both of those conditions need to change and appear to have done so. In the future wage growth should be less of an entitlement and more closely linked with economic conditions and company performance. We can see that already changing in the state sector as the budget debate shows.
There is a lot of uncertainty over workforce demographics in Russia and that makes wage growth prediction difficult to apply across all sectors. In general, whenever an economy has such a big shake up as Russia is now experiencing, there is a tendency to push out expensive foreign workers in favour of local hires. That will not be possible in all sectors, especially given the fact that emigration of skilled Russians continues. For other sectors where local or Eurasian Union talent is available, foreign workers will find themselves less in demand or facing lower remuneration.
The big policy change, which affects both companies and foreigners in Russia, is the 180-degree policy shift towards the rouble. For the fifteen years after 1998 the strategy was to maintain a strong rouble. This was seen as important for domestic stability and a sign of robust sovereign fiscal strength. That has now changed and the preference for the foreseeable future will be to try and keep the rouble stable but closer to 60 against the US dollar. Clearly where the oil price trades will continue to be the key driver of the exchange rate but donât expect much CBR intervention unless the R/$ rate falls below 55 (intervention to weaken it) or above 65 (intervention to slow the decline, albeit not to halt it).
For expats earning salary in foreign currency Russia has become, and will remain, a much cheaper place to live. Those earning in roubles will have the same domestic inflation issues as Russians but will have considerably less to spend back home than they were used to pre-crisis.
Apart from economics and money, the other big legacy change is in the sphere of politics. While all government ministers and agencies are consistent with the message that there is a clear distinction being drawn between geo-politics and business, inter-government relations with western countries will remain bad and occasionally confrontational for a long time to come. That is now abundantly clear. Major companies already understand this means paying closer attention to reputation risk and to any form of publicity concerning their activities in Russia. Greater due diligence concerning business and trade partners is now the order of the day especially after the US recently expanded the list of those covered by sanctions to catch any attempt to camouflage the interests of primary targets.
Expats living in Russia also have had to get used to a different set of responses when they tell people back home where they work and live. In the boom days the typical reaction was a mixture of wow and envy. These days it is more likely to provoke a look of sympathy and questions about your sanity. The perception of Russia, especially in the US and many EU countries, has badly deteriorated since early 2014. One only has to count the number of stereotypical Russian villains in Hollywood movies these days to understand that. On the positive side, you might have a better chance of arguing for a hardship allowance if working for an international companyâ¦then again, no chance if your boss has been and saw just how wide of the mark are the perceptions.
Clearly there is a lot which is uncertain about living in Russia, as is the case for most developing economies, albeit always at the extreme edge of that scale. Predicting how the business and living environment may change in the years ahead is even more difficult than usual. To the uncertainties of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the oil price there is the upcoming election season in Russia. Nationalism and anti-western rhetoric are bound to be prominent through most of 2016 in the lead up to the Duma election.
As always those companies as well as individuals who thrive in such conditions are those that are most aware of the changes and are adaptable rather than resistant to them while holding onto core values. Most expats in Russia are particularly good at that. One has only to look at how adroitly they have shifted from spiriting caviar out of the country to smuggling cheese in (allegedly).
Contributed by Hugh Mc Enaney, Educator and Coach and social justice advocate.
It was summer 1985. My father had just collected me from boarding school and, as we were driving back to our home in Dublin, he suddenly stopped the car and got out in such a rage I was dumbfounded. I genuinely thought it was about my exam results, which he still hadnât received. As wise as he is, his foretelling the future skills were never that well honed. He had just seen a young man hit a girl repeatedly on the pavement of a small town and he got out and marched over to the couple and broke them up and checked to see if the young girl was alright. He got back into the car and drove off back to home as if nothing had happened. I asked him about it and he brushed it aside and didnât dwell on it, if memory serves. That was my first encounter with relational violence first-hand.
Years later, in my mid thirties, when I was working as a volunteer in Dublin with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, I came across this issue again. My primary role was to visit lower income families, young and old, and listen. The role over time morphed into one of counselor, mediator, legal and financial adviser as well as the âgo toâ guy whether it was looking for work or appearing in court on behalf of my âclientsâ. I used to call on one particular young family with six (yes six) children and from the outside looking in, all seemed as fine as could be. Of course, there was significant financial pressure and general stress and alcohol imbibing did not lower the tension. I remember visiting the home on one occasion and the young matriarch was with her youngest and crying and head was lowered in what turned out to be shame. She had been beaten by her partner and he was in the local pub. I sat and had some tea and listened as she told me what a great guy he was and âhe was under so much pressureâ and âI love himâ and âheâs never done this beforeâ. My initial reaction was to call the police but then the children would have been separated from their father, the mother would have been alone and I was scared to intervene because of any repercussions to the charity itself. The father had some friends in low places too so this made reporting even more difficult.
I hadnât had any contact with this theme until earlier this year, Edith from Sweden got on Facebook and posted a notice seeking some support. We met and had coffee and visited a charity shop and discussed the work she is doing with an organization called Kitezh.
Kitezh was established by Alena Sadikova after she herself had seen firsthand the effects of domestic violence. This is an issue that, for years, has been swept under the carpet and not given enough attention by the State. Having decided there and then to take some action, I asked people to help with donations of clothes, toys for children and anything which could be helpful for this charity. I took the time to visit the shelter which has been provided by an Orthodox monk on his parish territory outside Moscow. Alena has practically single handedly set up a refuge for women and their children to come and find shelter, food and a safe place to be after having endured domestic violence. I knew little or nothing about this issue in Russia until recently and having been educated by media reports and Edith who is on an internship for a year here.
Kitezh is located in a recently renovated home which can cater for up to 8 – 12 women and their children. A psychologist is on site three times a week and sessions are mandatory according to the house charter which all visitors must abide by â short and long term. Some women stay for a month and some for three. The maximum period is six months and, to date, over 80 women and 100 children have been assisted by Alena and Kitezh. Skills acquisition is an integral part of the program and volunteers have visited to train the tenants in jewelry making. All are obliged to maintain hygiene and take responsibility for the home and surrounding areas.
Violence in the home is an issue I feel strongly about and one which affects the victims directly and other family members indirectly in so many ways. In some of the stories I asked Alena for about the clients Kitezh has supported, she tells me of women arriving with nothing but the clothes they are wearing and children crying and kicking and screaming for, ultimately, a safe place and love. In some of the cases, the women tolerated the abuse and violence for extended periods and when the abuser threatened and beat the children, this was the final straw for the women and they plucked up the courage and contracted Kitezh. After speaking with Alena many times, this is the issue many women have â how can they leave? It is, undoubtedly, a brave step to move from the security – albeit fragile – of a home and food on the table and clothes on their backs to living on donations and starting over. In many cases the police have been contacted and arrive and are paid off to turn a blind eye to the situation. Iâve heard stories of womenâs families ready to help and then the abuser finds the home and the process starts again with a new target. There are many stories too numerous to tell here and now it is the untold stories Kitezh wants to be there for.
Statistics suggest that 14,000 women die every year which is 2 every hour. People may find this an alarming and even bloated figure but, after hearing some stories from hospitals in the Moscow region, there is an average of three women each week presenting themselves at emergency clinics after âfallsâ and âscrapesâ and if they have the courage to tell the truth, they can be helped. Alena has started to develop a similar model in Rostov where she worked for many years and the donations for Kitezh are also being used here. Volunteers have come forward to assist and many have contacted me through my network and social media with donations of clothes, toys, books, games and toiletries. Rostelecom has been fundamental in providing funding for building works at Kitezh and their support has been superb. Many groups such as Leeds University, Anglo American School, MPC Social Services and a broad spectrum of individuals have been very generous with their support and donations to date. A lot has been done and there is a lot more to do.
âKitezh is an independent, non-religious and non-profit shelter for victims of domestic violence.Â It is the first and only non-governmental shelter in Moscow region, with capacity for 8-12 residents. At the shelter, women and children are provided with medical and psychological rehabilitation, as well as broader help and support from social workers.Â The shelter is located outside Moscow, providing a peaceful environment for women to heal physically and psychologically as they gain the necessary skills to live independently.â
You can find Kitezh on facebook with a search – ÐÐ¸ÑÐµÐ¶Â ÐºÑÐ¸Ð·Ð¸ÑÐ½ÑÐ¹Â ÑÐµÐ½ÑÑÂ Ð´Ð»ÑÂ Ð¶ÐµÐ½ÑÐ¸Ð½. I collect and deliver items monthly and you can contact me here on firstname.lastname@example.org
Yevgeni Demin, a man on a mission with an startling business philosophy, creative products, a highly motivated workforce and a genuine care for the environment. Read about the Splat story, a Russian success!
By Kim Waddoup
Sometimes, its hard to think of successful Russian companies, but then we start to look around and in addition to many giants of industry there are many highly successful Russian companies that have truly taken their well earned position on International markets.
When researching this article, we hardly expected toothpaste to feature but then we discovered a company called Splat!
Created back in 2003 by Yevgeni Demin and his wife, Splat is now the leading Russian developer and producer of innovative, professional oral care products controlling 13% of the Russian domestic market and currently exporting to 28 countries around the world. The company employs more than 700 people worldwide and follows many innovative and creative business philosophies including:-
â¢ To be real, open and honest
â¢ To be innovative and creative
â¢ Be persistent and results-orientated
â¢ Be the best in everything
â¢ To grow, to improve oneself and to be open to new things
â¢ To be optimistic and to believe in love
â¢ To be self-confident and to enjoy life
â¢ To love oneâs work
A visit to the companyâs production facility is almost like leaving Russia for a few hours! Located in the midst of deep forests in the ecological pure region of the Valdai, the companyâs genuine environmental responsibility is easily apparent with a CO2 neutral production programme and a production line that many restaurant kitchens would be hard to beat. The management have striven to introduce and respect International norms in Russia and the list is impressive with GMP Cosmetics(ISO 22716), ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and certified to be in conformity with the EU Cosmetics Directive.
One can easily see the impressive management directives at work in the plant, which is bright, modern and so clean. The staff are generally local and much has been done to encourage their loyalty and dedication to attention through a well considered and environmentally compliant workplace more often seen in the US or Europe. The staff canteen is like a restaurant and only serves local produce and the facility even boasts a fully equipped gym with a full time fitness trainer.
In addition to an incredibly creative work ethos, Splat displays highly innovative deliberation to their many and varied products from Black Toothpaste to toothpaste with real gold. An amazing product of the new Russia and a company to watch for in the future.
By John Harrison
Radical Chic, which offers textile and scarf design, and has its own retail outlet on Bolshoi Kozikhinskii, does not fit very well into the usual stereotype image of Russian companies. Small, dynamic, very creative and hyper-responsive to the market, the company would fit well into Covent Garden or Greenwich Village for that matter. But that is where you, dear reader might be wrong.
We visited owner Radical Chic, Alexandra Kaloshina in the companyâs offices above their shop on Bolshoi Kozikhinskii in Moscow. The shop itself is pretty amazing, if you need a present to give to people back home, here is your own special gift shop. The word âradicalâ has another, more gentle meaning in Russian, and Radical Chic has nothing to do with Tom Wolfeâs âThat Party at Lennyâsâ, however Alexandraâs designs and story is pretty amazing in itself. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
How did you get started in the design business?
âI worked with clothes, and textile design over 15 years in Russia. During that period, I represented various large Italian fabric companies, then I started my own design bureau, thatâs the kind of person I am. I understood that we needed to develop specific designs for the Russian market, which was a new idea in Russia because during the Perestroika period we [Russians] had no intrinsically Russia fabric design. So when we opened our studio, it was very difficult for us because we had no specialists, nobody to teach design, but we persevered and established ourselves. I encourage our designerâs to go to major exhibitions and sell their designs. There is no better way to learn than to see your own design through the eyes of a potential client. My designers learned very quickly. We donât have 40 or 100 years of design history behind us, we have to learn on the job.
âWe found that there was a real demand for our fabrics and scarves, not only here in Russia, but in over 30 countries. Now we trade mostly in wholesale to other retailers, such as Gum and TsUM, however we have our own specialist shop right here.
âAt first when we went to international exhibitions, the organisers tucked us away somewhere in the corner, in places where it wasnât possible to find us. But we still won many clients. That is not the way we get treated now though, and we have been winning a whole series of major prizes in the best international competitions.â
What is special about your designs?
âI suppose the fact that we concentrate on Russian themes and motives, for example here is Bulgakovâs Begemot (the black cat in his novel âMaster and Margaritaâ), here are Russian cityscapes, folk stories and so onâ¦ We have taken the traditional Russian scarf concept and made it modern and accessible. This was a big surprise for many people.
âRussia as you know, is between Europe and Asia, so our design is not immediately recognisable as being European. At the same time, it is not as decorative as Asian design. We are somewhere in the middle. Asians buy our designs because they think that this is good European design, so we are crossing borders.
âWe create a lot of designs, about 1,500 fabric designs a year, and 30-40 designs for scarves every season. Unfortunately, we still print everything in Italy, to this day, there is no one printing works in Russia which can match Italian fabric printing although we are thinking of opening up a factory here in Russia ourselves. The quality of the Italian printing, on to silk in particular, is amazing. Even individual hairs on a horseâs mane for example are visible.
âThe fabrics we design are often for a particular use, as specified by the client, — bags, clothes swim wear, anything. With scarfs, everything starts from a concept. With thinking about who is the girl, woman, man, who is going to buy the scarf. How is it going to be used? For example, if the person will be wearing a sable or mink fur coat, then there are certain colours that work with those furs and so on.â
A lot of people are saying how difficult it is to start and run a business here. What is your view?
âI graduated from Moscow State University, a long time ago, and started my own company on the first day after I graduated. At that time it was really difficult because there were no rules, no regulations, no laws. There was corruption; horizontal, vertical, every way you want. We even paid firemen, and local administrators would need to be paid bribes to authorise where we wanted to put our ceiling lights and so on. Now it is an absolutely different situation, and it has become far simpler and easier to start and run a business. People who start businesses now say that it is difficult because of all the documents. But I donât really agree. The tax situation is great. Itâs simple, and you have every confidence that you can grow quickly.â
By Martin Williams
Possession football, intricate passing and scoring beautiful goals are the modern trademarks of Spanish football teams, so when the chance to follow them up close and personal was not one to be passed up. This time, though, it was not Xavi and his famous international teammates, but the Spanish representative team at the inaugural 8×8 Cup for Embassies and Diplomatic Missions in Russia. I spent some time with captain Alejandro De Prado and his compatriots to get the rundown on playing out international football fantasies.
Goals, goals, goals. The qualifying fixtures of the first weekend were nothing if not consistent. Spain dispatched each of their opponents 3 â 0, using their awareness of colleagues and a good level of fitness to make and pick out some excellent runs. The commanding presence at the back of Oriol Ripoll, who often mopped up the opposition through balls and started successful moves himself, set the tone for the whole team. However, the star of the show was Juan Lopez, whose hard work down the channels created numerous chances for himself and his teammates. Three goals, including a perfectly angled finish off the crossbar, set up the Spanish as favourites for the final stages of the tournament the following week.
Having repeated their favourite 3 â 0 scoreline over Venezuela in the semi-final, Serbia were waiting for Spain in the final. Their experienced front line caused problems for the Spanish defence, eventually applying a sucker punch and taking the lead with a well-taken goal from the edge of the penalty area. The punishment for the Spanish profligacy in front of goal was short-lived, though, as a cool finish by Francisci Guaita into the bottom right hand corner kept the scores even going into the half-time break.
There was only one team capable of winning once the second half got under way. Spurred on by Lopez, who wanted to prove that 41-year olds can run with purpose for a whole half an hour, the Spanish attacked with verve and panache. Firstly, Lopez latched on to a dangerous free kick aimed perfectly for him to fire a bullet header past the goalkeeper at the near post. Then he chased a lost cause down the inside right channel, firing hard and low into the same corner. A well-controlled long pass briefly made things interesting, but Lopez decided to finish the match in style, the Sales Director easily selling the defender a dummy before rounding the goalkeeper and completing a âperfectâ hat-trick with his left foot. Four goals to Spain, two conceded, plenty of entertainment and the Tournamentâs Best Player accolade to top scorer Juan Lopez. I wonder if any of the other nations will fancy their chances of toppling the Spanish from their perch in the near futureâ¦
Congratulations and great thanks to the whole Spanish squad: Alejandro De Prado (Captain), Juan Lopez, Francisco Guaita, Hector Martinez Martin, Paco Olmedo, Jaime Sampio, Ivan Baos, Pedro Lopez, Fernandez Miguel, Diego Montero, Juan Pedro Delaunay, Julio Postigo, Miguel Barinaga, Oriol Mayoral, Vicente Llacer, Patrick Aedo, Oriol Ripoll.
By Richard Peers
The inaugural British Football School Rosinka Cup took place on June 27th as the Rosinka Sports Centre played host to teams from the west of Moscow. This community event saw both boys and girls between the ages of 5-13 play a whole day of football and also raised money for a Mitino Detskiy Dom through the charity FlagDobra.ru
Five British Football School teams were in action. BFC City, BFC Athletic, BFC Rovers, and then British Football Clubâs two newest teams â BFC Vixens and BFC Union â who were both playing their in their first matches together.
Tournament organiser Richard Peers from British Football School said, âit was a small but exciting tournament to be involved with. The play was fast paced and the supportive parents saw many good individual and team performances. They were treated to not only many goals but competitive football that was played in a fun and fair manner. A special mention should go to the girlsâ only team BFC Vixens, who despite this being their first competitive football experience (and especially playing against the boys!!), managed to secure a draw against a stronger team from ISM Rosinka.
The tournament winners included:
Division 1 â ISM Bulldogs and BFC City (joint winners)
Division 2 â BFC Athletic
Division 3 â ISM Bears
British Football Club has been developed from the model of a youth football club in the UK. The football club offers children aged 5 to 13 living in Moscow the opportunity to receive training from British professional throughout the 2015/16 season (August 2015 to June 2016). The club has a number of teams so that their players can play more structured football with their friends and develop their football skills and abilities against children of their own age (some age groups even have two teams).
British Football Club will run a free day of training on Sunday 6th September at the International School of Moscow, Krylatskaya 12.