From Russia with Love

Dramatic couture designer Vasily Vein shares his inspiring life story

BORN IN SAMARKAND, UZBEKISTAN AND RAISED IN MOSCOW, VASILY Vein was 13 years old when he realized that he wanted to be a designer. He was inspired by his little sister, who was only three years old when he started designing dresses for her. The first dress he made was a baby doll dress with red polka dots and white buttons. Vein continued to create dresses for her throughout his teenage years.

During the communist reign of the Soviet Union, high school and college students were required to harvest the local crops every summer. Vein was assigned to the cotton fields. Each summer, he and his friends work long hours picking cotton, “For the good of the country.” After high school, Vein served the mandatory two years in the military. He completed his military service, the USSR Collapsed, Russia spun out of control, and the country’s broken infrastructure shattered all opportunities to attend college. Vein found work in a factory that manufactured clothing, and he sewed all day long.

During this time, Vein started to build his design business after working hours and on the weekends. He built his clientele by designing ready-to-wear casual and business clothing for women. Once he had a robust business going, he quit the factory. Vein’s avant-garde fashion made a lovely change from the drab years of communism.


In his twenties, Vein worked as a backup dancer for a famous Russian singer—the equivalent of Madonna in the United States. A handsome young man named Alex spotted him on stage. Alex asked around and discovered he had a few friends who knew Vasily Vein. After the show, they were introduced. That was 26 years ago, and the couple is still together. Alex is an integral part of Vein’s business and is always by his side.


Alex and Vasily were invited to visit some friends in San Francisco. During their stay, Vladimir Putin created a new law persecuting those who identified as LGBTQ. Knowing that their future in Russia would be both tough and illegal, they made the hard decision to emigrate to the United States as political refugees. That was ten years ago.


When Vein first arrived, a friend introduced him to the producers of Sacramento Fashion Week. Within weeks, he designed 12 different outfits—everything from ready-to-wear to couture. The next week, a magazine featured the event. One side of the spread had a photo from the John Paul Gautier’s fashion show, and the other side had a photo from Vein’s.

For the past eight years, Vein has been designing extravagant, over-the-top, dramatic gowns for San Francisco’s elite, from fashionista Sonya Molodetskaya to socialite Clara Shayevich and Mayriam Naza to surgeon Dr. Lisa Kang, and Farah Makras.

Vasily Vein’s design philosophy showcases the personality of the woman who wears his gowns, emphasizing her characteristics. He captures this by using unique fabrics, bold prints, captivating colors, incredible cuts, and unexpected geometry. He first meets with his client, dis- cusses colors, fabrics, and designs. He sketches his ideas, they agree, and then the magic starts. Next, Vein sends her photos of different selection of fabrics for her to approve. He then works his magic with the client, fitting the sample cut. Then, miraculously, a gown is built and sewn. Within a few weeks, a spectacular couture gown is born. Vein predicts volume, very bright color, and more prints with bold designs for 2020.