The luxury goods from famous UK brands that are STILL on sale in Moscow
At the beating heart of Moscow, directly opposite the Kremlin on the eastern side of Red Square, you’ll find Russia’s most famous shopping mall.
Known as GUM, the ornate neo-classical building sits a stone’s throw from St Basil’s cathedral and the mausoleum of Lenin, the man who attempted to overthrow capitalism.
Yet it has, in recent years, been filled with ‘landmark’ stores owned by luxury brands anxious to soak up the cash being liberally sprayed around by the post-Soviet oligarch class.
When they aren’t applauding the tanks that occasionally rumble over nearby cobblestones, cronies of Vladimir Putin flock to this marble-floored emporium, arm-in-arm with their high-maintenance wives, mistresses and girlfriends to spend ill-gotten roubles on Chanel handbags, Tiffany jewellery and Hugo Boss suits.
One of the still open Brtish shops is Paul Smith, the Nottingham-based purveyor of stripy scarves and modish menswear that its eponymous multi-millionaire founder and owner likes to describe as ‘classic with a twist’
Also open for business is GUM’s branch of Agent Provocateur, the upscale English underwear brand popularised by Kate Moss in the 1990s. It is also stocking designs from the new season
At least they did. In late February last year, everything changed. That was when their autocratic President decided to invade Ukraine, turning Russia into a global pariah overnight.
As Putin’s soldiers raped and murdered their way across the country, Western consumer brands began responding to public revulsion by literally shutting up shop.
Within weeks, the UK, EU and many Western countries had imposed sanctions to prevent fresh supplies of luxury goods from reaching Russia.
Today, the GUM centre’s Chanel, Tiffany and Hugo Boss outlets have closed their doors.
You can no longer shop for shoes by Jimmy Choo or John Lobb, or handbags from the houses of Prada, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Hermes.
As they boarded up their boutiques and cancelled shipments of fresh stock to Russia, these famous purveyors of luxury goods simultaneously issued earnest PR statements expressing their desire to, as the saying goes, ‘stand with Ukraine’.
But today, almost a year after Putin’s tanks rolled over the border, shopaholics of the Russian elite aren’t entirely out of luck.
For beneath the building’s glass-domed roof, the Mail this week made a scandalous discovery: outposts of not one, but two famous British luxury brands are very much still open for business.
One is Paul Smith, the Nottingham-based purveyor of stripy scarves and modish menswear that its eponymous multi-millionaire founder and owner likes to describe as ‘classic with a twist’.
While their compatriots fire missiles into Kyiv’s schools and apartment blocks, I can reveal Russians are still rattling the tills at the local Paul Smith boutique from 10am to 10pm, seven days a week, happy to fork out 16,900 roubles (£197) for one of the brand’s signature colourful ties and much else.
The shelves remain well-stocked with many of the very latest Paul Smith products.
Indeed, on Wednesday an assistant attempted to flog our reporter an ’embossed leather folio’ — a sort of briefcase — from the firm’s ‘new season’ range, which only went on sale in the UK a few weeks back. Its price? A trifling 90,000 roubles, or £1,050.
Scandalously, the man whose firm made (and is therefore profiting from) this expensive trinket is not just a Knight of the Realm.
For in addition to being honoured by Tony Blair in the heyday of Cool Britannia — having served on New Labour’s Creative Industries Task Force — Sir Paul Smith, 76, was last year invited to Buckingham Palace so that Prince William could elevate him to membership of the Order of Companions of Honour, one of the highest gongs available to anyone in the creative industry.
For example, Barbour, which used to have a franchise outlet at GUM, refused to ship a single item of new stock there from the day of the invasion and has now exited
A fifth historic British brand, the former Crown jeweller Garrard — which like Farlows has a Royal Warrant — was this week advertising no fewer than ten Russian stockists on its UK website, apparently under the terms of a supply deal that pre-dates the invasion of Ukraine
The Moral Ratings Agency, a lobby group which monitors Western firms operating in Russia, describes his firm’s presence there as a ‘disgrace’, telling the Mail Sir Paul ought to get his brand out of Russia or be stripped of his titles.
A few doors down from Paul Smith’s red-fronted shop — and also open for business — you’ll find GUM’s branch of Agent Provocateur, the upscale English underwear brand popularised by Kate Moss in the 1990s. It is also stocking designs from the new season.
One of no fewer than ten Russian Agent Provocateur boutiques that are still open — all of which remain advertised on its British website — we found it selling crystal-embossed leather bondage whips for 73,000 roubles (£850), bejewelled pink brassieres for 110,000 roubles (£,1280) and thongs for up to 85,000 roubles (£990) each.
An assistant told us the last shipment of new stock arrived shortly before Christmas and a new one is due in March — just in time for International Women’s Day.
Again, it’s hard to see how this British luxury goods firm squares its presence in Moscow with the supposed values listed on its website.
Shamelessly, given Russia’s ongoing use of rape as a weapon of war, Agent Provocateur claims to be dedicated to promoting ‘fearless femininity’ and is ‘adhering to the highest standard of ethics’.
The firm’s current owner, high street tycoon Mike Ashley is, however, no stranger to cutting lucrative business deals in questionable dictatorships.
His moral compass was seemingly untroubled by his recent sale — for more than twice what he had paid — of football club Newcastle United to a Saudi Arabia-backed consortium.
Once they have stocked up on clothes and lingerie, every good oligarch needs a bespoke Rolls-Royce to whisk them from central Moscow to their gaudy dacha.
Which takes us to the British luxury car firm’s main Russian showroom, on the ground floor of an upscale hotel just across the Moskva river, roughly two miles west of Red Square.
Rolls-Royce insists it no longer sells new cars in Russia, claiming in a holier-than-thou media announcement that: ‘We stand for the peaceful co-existence of all cultures all over the world, in all times and at all locations.’
These appear to have been empty words. On Wednesday, we discovered five brand-spanking new models on sale at this single Moscow dealership, for a combined 320 million roubles (£3.7million).
Three were sitting in the showroom for visitors to inspect, a salesman said. Two more are at a nearby branch of the same dealer.
Each of these gas-guzzling behemoths, with bespoke leather interiors, rolled off the firm’s production line at Goodwood in Sussex and was shipped to Russia via a third country last autumn.
It should, at this stage, be stressed that all three of these supposedly-prestigious British brands do not directly run their Russian locations.
Instead they are operated via partnership or licensing deals that were signed prior to the invasion of Ukraine.
The same goes for a fourth famous British brand, the fishing outfitter Farlows, whose name sits above the door of a large store in downtown Moscow.
A Russian company today runs that location, filling its shelves with kit largely shipped from Kazakhstan.
However — unlike Agent Provocateur, Paul Smith and Rolls-Royce — the British Farlows does not make or supply branded goods that go on sale in its Russian outlets.
Their only connection between the UK and Moscow firm is via a historic licensing agreement for their name and branding to be used on the store.
A fifth historic British brand, the former Crown jeweller Garrard — which like Farlows has a Royal Warrant — was this week advertising no fewer than ten Russian stockists on its UK website, apparently under the terms of a supply deal that pre-dates the invasion of Ukraine.
It removed them when contacted by the Mail this week. A spokesman stressed that it has not supplied any product to Russia since the war started.
Instead, the remaining Russian stockists are merely selling off old stock that was in their possession before Putin’s invasion. Garrard says it’s powerless to stop them.
While exiting any franchise, partnership or licensing deal can be difficult and costly, that hasn’t stopped the majority of Western luxury firms from managing to completely cut ties with Russia.
For example, Barbour, which used to have a franchise outlet at GUM, refused to ship a single item of new stock there from the day of the invasion and has now exited.
Burberry closed standalone stores and cancelled all shipments to department stores such as TSUM — Moscow’s equivalent of Harrods — right away.
Burberry closed standalone stores and cancelled all shipments to department stores such as TSUM — Moscow’s equivalent of Harrods — right away
A glum-looking assistant in that store’s almost empty Alexander McQueen section told us they had no way to access new stock
A glum-looking assistant in that store’s almost empty Alexander McQueen section told us they had no way to access new stock.
To some critics, remaining British luxury firms who fail to remove their brand from Russia are making a costly mistake.
‘It’s completely wrong for firms to still be trading in Russia, given the murderous nature of the regime which is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians and tens of thousands of Russian soldiers,’ says Bob Seely, the prominent Tory MP and former soldier who has successfully campaigned against British law firms that have profiteered from Putin’s cronies.
‘We should congratulate those who have left. They have behaved with integrity and done the right thing.
But it’s important to now make sure that companies which continue to have a presence there realise they are doing serious damage to their brand.’
Here is what we found at the outlets of three top British brands in downtown Moscow this week…
Russians are the new ‘big spenders’ said Sir Paul when he opened his first store there in 2006.
‘Moscow has 33 billionaires, more than any other city in the world!’ One of those billionaires is Mikhail Kusnirovich, a politically connected property tycoon who is a close ally of Putin and has been photographed with Sir Paul at various fashion industry events.
His firm Bosco di Ciliegi runs Paul Smith’s boutique at GUM under a franchise agreement that remains in place to this day.
When the Mail visited the store on Wednesday, shelves were fully stocked.
A saleswoman, Liya, told our reporter that some items from Sir Paul’s spring collection have already arrived, with another shipment due next month.
Kusnirovich also continues to sell Paul Smith products across Russia via a website that declares ‘life would be boring without the bright ideas of Paul Smith’.
It stocks a full range of 425 product lines, ranging from 171,850 rouble (£1,995) cashmere coats to 3,700 rouble (£40) striped cotton socks.
After being branded a ‘disgrace’ by the Moral Ratings Agency, Sir Paul’s company this week failed to respond to multiple calls and messages seeking to establish why its Moscow store remains open, or how this fact can be reconciled with the virtue-signalling list of ‘corporate values’ that the firm publishes on its website.
The company claims to be devoted to opposing ‘modern slavery’ and campaigning for ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’.
The car of choice for any self-respecting despot — from Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein to Kim Jong-un and Muammar Gaddafi — is quite the status symbol in Putin’s Russia.
Scandalously, the central Moscow showroom is currently flogging no fewer than five brand-new models.
They range from a 61 million rouble (£710k) Cullinan with ‘arctic white’ bodywork and gaudy turquoise interior fitted with a bar, refrigerator, massaging seats and ‘starry sky’ interior, to a 64 million rouble (£740k) tungsten coloured model with a panoramic sunroof.
Sales dockets state that all five cars, which have a combined value of £3.7 million, were made in Goodwood, Sussex, in 2022.
According to the salesman, Igor, they did not come directly from the UK but were instead shipped via so called ‘grey’ routes via one of Russia’s strategic allies during the autumn.
Rolls-Royce insists it no longer sells new cars in Russia, but these appear to have been empty words. On Wednesday, we discovered five brand-spanking new models on sale at this single Moscow dealership, for a combined 320 million roubles (£3.7million)
Three were sitting in the showroom for visitors to inspect, a salesman said. Two more are at a nearby branch of the same dealer. Each of these gas-guzzling behemoths, with bespoke leather interiors, rolled off the firm’s production line at Goodwood in Sussex and was shipped to Russia via a third country last autumn
Three are now in this showroom. Another two in other Moscow dealerships.
Rolls-Royce’s Russian outposts, which are run by what the British firm calls an ‘independent partner’, are still able to access spare parts, Igor said.
All that has really changed since the war broke out is that local buyers of new Rollers are unable to get official warranties.
Embarrassingly for the company — which is owned by BMW — not one of those vehicles should be in Moscow, had its company policy been properly followed.
Last March, it announced that new vehicles would no longer be supplied to Russia, saying sanctions law would forbid such exports.
During the summer, it said the only reason showrooms there were staying open was because they ‘are committed to managing existing client relationships’.
Quite why anyone would wish to be ‘managing existing client relationships’ in a country whose elite are financing Putin’s illegal war was always open to question, and the Mail’s discovery that a large quantity of brand-new vehicles are now on sale there will raise serious questions over its ability to manage a vaguely ethical supply chain.
It now remains to be seen whether Rolls-Royce will continue to do business with both the Russian ‘independent partner’ who is so flagrantly undermining its reputation and the (for now unnamed) third party who helped them access the vehicles in the first place.
Rolls-Royce is now trying to establish how the five vehicles ended up in Russia.
‘Any new cars currently on sale in Russia were either built and delivered before March 2022, when Rolls-Royce stopped building cars for the Russian market, or they have been imported into Russia illegally by third parties,’ it said.
‘Should any dealer be found to be selling illegally imported cars, an immediate cease and desist notice would be issued by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited as per our normal dealer agreement terms.’
Founded by Vivienne Westwood’s son Joe Corre, the purveyor of upmarket lingerie is controlled by Mike Ashley.
Russia is its biggest market, with no fewer than ten stores selling overpriced scanties bought by Putin’s henchmen for their wives and mistresses.
Online sales are buoyant, with a Russian website offering next-day delivery. Large amounts of new stock continue to find their way there.
The Russian franchise is owned and run by London and Monaco-based Azerbaijani businesswoman Aizel Trudel.
The firm has previously denied shipping fresh stock to Russia but now appears to have abandoned that claim. It instead argues it’s unable to ‘drop out of contractual arrangements’ that require it to continue supplying Russian stores with products.
Campaigners give that argument short shrift, pointing out that almost every other British firm has now managed to exit.
‘Having a legal franchise agreement is zero excuse for continuing to supply products to Russia,’ says the Moral Ratings Agency.
‘No one has the duty to dance with the devil. It either needs to exit the franchise agreement or break it on moral grounds which we call ‘moral force majeure’.
‘No one should support a regime like Putin’s or make money while doing so.’