Hear from Alexander Belov, a men’s fashion stylist and image coach.
Who are you, And what do you do?
My name is Alexander Belov. I’m a fashion expert and critic trying to help Russian men to choose a stylish wardrobe. Usually, it’s shopping or tailoring to order. Also, I train prospective stylists giving them this knowledge and manage the trainings for men teaching them to collect the perfect wardrobe on their own. I’ve been doing this for 16 years.
How did you get into being a specialist fashion expert in men’s style and image coach? What was your inspiration?
My dad died when I was 11, and my mom worked as a teacher of the Russian language and literature. Our family was not prosperous, and growing up very quickly, I became the tallest one in the class. My mom could not always buy me new clothes, so our relatives gave us their unnecessary clothes.
However, I didn’t like it. It was old-fashioned, and I associated it with old Soviet clothes. I didn’t feel myself comfortable enough among my classmates. But, I was very interested in studying and I’m naturally the perfectionist, so my childish desire to look good led me to the fact that I got carried away and realized that I have abilities in this field. As a result of many years of practice, I became a fashion expert.
Did your upbringing or home have any influence on your decision?
My dad was a scientist and inventor. I remember that when I was tiny, he liked to sew and dress elegantly. We owned the old Singer sewing machine. Using this, he altered the clothes which could be bought in the shops for my mom, sometimes for himself and me too. It’s always been fascinating for me. There were only a few TV channels in our state, but one of the channels broadcasted fashion shows, and I really liked watching it with my Mom. I graduated from school with excellent marks. As I always liked computers too,
I entered the Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas and into the Faculty of Automation and Computer Engineering. But, soon I realized that the field of fashion is much closer to me, and my mom supported me in this choice.
Do you ever come across any blocks or struggles in your career/industry?
Yes, of course. The Russian man’s fashion was not relevant before at all. Only now has something begun to change. Men consider clothes as not the main thing, a women or non-binary people prerogative. According to the opinion of others, it was an atypical choice of profession when I started doing this. There were very few male stylists, and in Russia, I became one of the founders of this trend. I encounter misunderstandings as to why a stylist is needed. They say to me, “If I want to buy food, I don’t go there with a food selection specialist”. But now, more and more people understand that the knowledge I give them is useful and applicable. This can be of great help in their personal life, career, or business negotiations. This is the investment in yourself that pays off many times. I have many examples in my practice when after our collaboration the person changing his appearance has a radical success in his job or private relations. In these moments, I feel that I am doing what I should do in my life.
What are some achievements or awards you have received?
I never tried to chase awards, but now at home, I have the showcase full of statuettes and diplomas. Just last year, I won three titles in Russia. Also, I have received two awards from the international fashion competition European Fashion Union, the first one in Budapest where in addition to participating in the ceremony I gave a lecture to Hungarian stylists. A year later, I received the Fashion Expert of the Year award at Fashion Week in Milan and the Blog Magazine Italy Awards award in Florence two years later.
What are some past works you’ve done that really pushed your creativity?
I can mention my affection to antiques. For instance, a bronze of the XVII and XVIII centuries or art works of classicism. I often visit museums and exhibitions. In childhood, I liked the numismatics and collected old coins. I am sure that the spheres of art and fashion are close.
You were recently at Moscow fashion Week, how was that?
Fashion Week was held six months ago, and the new one will be very soon. The last one was quite modest due to Covid restrictions. However, I have noted several collections that had good perspectives. I look forward with hope to the future when everything in the world calms down.
Who are the people you style? Is there a process you go through when deciding?
Absolutely different men from 18 to 60 years old, but more often around the 30–40 age range. Usually they are businessmen, officials, politicians, and some media personalities– all people who care about their own appearance. My customers are successful men who understand the importance of the image for their activity. So, in choosing a wardrobe, I base their type of appearance on the physical features and the desired image and purposes they want to reach in work and life.
How would you describe Russia’s style?
The neglect of appearance with using clothes only as weather protection is in the past. In large cities, many successful Russian men are well-dressed and self-confident. But, of course, some nouveaux riches stand out by their passion for expensive brands with a big number of logos on all salient places to show having money.
As a male stylist in Russia, how is that? (side question: Does the current war with Ukraine have any effect on your profession?)
I would not say that this work is among the top of mostly demanded ones. This is a rather specific niche. Many people think that this work is the occupation of non-binary people to whom there is traditionally cautious attitude. But, information and education bring results, and more and more men understand how important this area is. So, I try to promote it as much as possible in social media and professional magazines. Since recent events, we all live in a difficult mode for the whole world. Probably you know that I’m completely not able to express my views because of new laws in Russia. I just say that the most fashion brands have temporarily ceased their presence in Russia, and their prices have increased. For sure, many people are not temporarily interested in clothes, and some of capital inhabitants have left the country, so it had a negative effect on my work.
What are your impressions of working with Western colleagues, communicating with famous stylists? Was communication easy, and which of the famous personalities (Domenico Dolce, Stefano Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Tom Ford, Jean Paul Gaultier, Philipp Plein) left a more remarkable impression?
I’ve met them but am not closely acquainted with everyone. Domenico Dolce was a very positive person. I met Jean-Paul Gaultier at his extensive cabaret show “Fashion Freak Show” at the Moscow Youth Palace and at the afterparty. He was open, energetic, and enjoying life like a teenager. Tom Ford presented his book to me. Philipp Plein had a small show in Moscow about ten years ago, when he was not such a famous designer yet. At that time, he opened his first store here. We met then, and he was very friendly, energetic, and sporty. Giorgio Armani had an impressive show in the Moscow art space “Tesla 4000” in 2016. Getting to know him was also very inspiring.
Do you have any hobbies?
I often play the psychological team role-playing game “Mafia” where you need logical thinking and the ability to convince, calculate mathematically, and involve people. I like to engage in mentalism to develop the capabilities of my brain and my creative abilities. I also attend art and painting lectures and etiquette trainings. Recently, I started to study vocals at a specialized school with professional teachers.
What goals, professionally and personally, are you aiming for in the future?
I want to do a lot, like publish a large colourful book about men’s fashion in Russian. I wish my dream to come true so that all Russian men start looking stylish and beautiful. Hopefully, the link between Russians, tastelessness, and absurd clothes will disappear forever. Big plans for the family creation.
What would you like to wish our readers?
Always be yourself with love, beauty, and peace.