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What luxury looks like in Russia now

Milena Lazazzera

28 Feb 2023

With sanctions in place, Russians have found alternative ways to access luxury goods while new players are filling the void left by Western brands.

On 15 March 2022, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Union prohibited the sale, supply, transfer or export of luxury goods with a value of €300 or above into the Russian Federation, and credit cards issued by Russian banks were barred from the international payment system Swift. 

Beyond the sanctions, luxury conglomerates such as LVMH and Richemont suspended their operations in Russia — thus forgoing about 2-3 per cent of the €7 billion global luxury goods market, according to management consulting firm Bain. Yet, as the war has dragged on, Russia’s wealthiest citizens have still found ways to get their hands on luxury products. 

Hunting for a specific piece, Russians have begun asking around and commissioning trusted people to buy abroad on their behalf. With a few phone calls, any traveller can turn into a personal shopper or a daigou, to use the Chinese word for those who buy goods in Western countries on behalf of residents in China. Russian daigou-service platforms have emerged on Instagram and Telegram — a popular social network in Russia. 

Ventures such as Usanadivane and Banderolka via Instagram, and Shopping in Georgia (Shopping v Gruzii) and With love from Turkey (S lyubovyu iz Turzii) via Telegram, offer anything from leather goods from the Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama collaboration to a Dyson hairdryer. All work in similar ways: users create an account and place an order; the desired items on their behalf; and the goods are shipped to the daigou’s addresses, who unpack and repack them for their final journey to Russia. It’s a process that can take up to a month.

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