Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"Ala Russe"

Paris Delights Herself with Gorgeous New Russian Shades of Rouge. KRASNY.

A Vogue inspired by the make-up of the Imperial Exiles of the court of Russia

When the Czar and his brilliant court and all the magnificent aristocracy of Russia went down to ruin in the Revolution, those who escaped death became exiles, homeless wanderers on the face of the earth.

Paris took them in--Paris with her flair for novelty and romance, was thrilled to welcome these magnificent women of a vanished dream--with their grand style, their infinite allure, above all their gorgeous color. Over night they were a new vogue!

Color is the Russian note--marvelously struck in the make-up of these splendid infinitely chic mondaines! Like the American women, they have vivid personality, they are not afraid of glowing, heart-arresting effects. Paris, seeing their beautiful and thrilling art of make-up, has responded as Paris always responds--she has made it her own! Krasny!
The New Yorker, May 19, 1927

As always these advertisements for Krasny rouge totally confuse me. Turning traumatic exile into a line of cosmetics seems crass, but I suppose enough time had passed to add a tinge of romance to the exodus, and people probably didn't care much about what the Russians got up to anyway. In 1927 the Soviets were too busy liquidating opposition to even bother with the "world revolution," the only thing bound to make upper-crust New Yorkers sit up and pay attention. All they knew about Paris emigres was what they saw between drinking-binges in the American-style other words, nothing. Except maybe the odd translated poem.

I also wonder when the Czar's retinue became "brilliant" and "magnificent," as opposed to inbred, out-of-touch, and selfish? Or maybe this describes the upper-crust readers of The New Yorker as well? It's certainly true that liberal society tended to side more with the revolutionaries than with their rouge-y overseers, but The New Yorker certainly had an aloof, hedonistic snobbiness -- at least from 1925-1927 -- so maybe the readers sympatised more with the aristocrats at the time.


Eric Little said...

I'm too lazy to go back and check--did we ever see what "krasny" is supposed to mean?

I'm no good a transliterating Cyrillic characters, but "red" in Russian looks like it begins k-r-a-s-n-[something that looks like a "b"]-i-i.

Then again, we know what "krasny" really means.

Adam Thornton said...

Aha! I just assumed "Krasny" was somebody's name. Thank you for being slightly less lazy in your research than I am.

Anonymous said...

Yes, "krasny" means "red" in Russian. My mother was Russian so I still remember some words, and that was what my grandmother hated about my one friend: she had "krasny" hair--which according to my baba's strange Russian beliefs meant she was crazy and slightly evil...
What a weird marketing ploy...although, few marketing ploys aren't bizarre or amoral.

Adam Thornton said...

Wonderful, thanks Tanzi! The word has stuck with me because of these strange advertisements, so it's good to learn its meaning from an authoritative source!

I'm not usually exposed to advertising, but at the hairdresser's I get to pore through magazines and learn once again -- as if I needed reminding -- that the advertising game is out to make chumps of us all. Jeez.