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Fashion designer for Russian first ladies dies

MOSCOW — Russia’s most famous fashion designer, Vyacheslav Zaitsev, who dressed the country’s first ladies, has died at the age of 85, Russian news outlets reported Sunday.

An obituary published by the TASS news agency said he died after a long illness but didn’t state when.

According to other Russian media reports, he was taken to a hospital in the Moscow region with stomach bleeding and died in intensive care.

Zaitsev was born March 2, 1938 in Ivanovo — a center for the textile industry, about 300 kilometers (185 miles) north-east of Moscow — in a Soviet Union where much of the standard attire was gray, outdated and unimaginative. He rocketed to fame in his homeland — and to some extent the world — when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s wife Raisa wore his creations in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Thanks to the visibility of the Soviet couple, the reform program known as “perestroika”, and an economic and political program that elicited hope, Zaitsev went on to display his fashions in Paris, Tokyo and other world capitals.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wife Lyudmila wore one of Zaitsev’s dresses and accessories for a state visit to the United Kingdom in June 2003, which included an audience with Queen Elizabeth II.

Among Zaitsev’s other accomplishments was his design in 1988 of costumes for the musical revue Sophisticated Ladies, based on the music of jazz composer and big band leader Duke Ellington, in New York City.

He founded his own fashion house in Russia, winning numerous awards in his home country and elsewhere.

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