RUSSIAN HIGH ROMANCE A LA ANNA KARENINA INTERPRETED BY RUSSIAN-BORN HIGH-STYLE DESIGNER CLARA KASAVINA

Smoldering passion, an illicit love affair and the cultured characters of 19th century Russian high society are the stuff of Tolstoy’s genius novel set in St. Petersburg and in opulent dachas outside the former capital city. It’s the stuff, too, of Hollywood, which has produced at least a dozen cinematic versions of the novel. The newest, starring Keira Knightly and Jude Law, opens November 8. Already popular retailers are launching Anna Karenina collections to include “luxe fabrics, embellishments, lace, sparkle and a touch of romance.” These same elements imbue Clara Kasavina’s Fall/Winter 2012 Collections of red-carpet-ready evening bags and stunning fashion jewelry. Case in point: Clara’s unabashedly luxurious, gold and ruby crystal Leane Minaudiere:

Below is Keira Knightly as Anna swathed in sable hat and boa, riding in a sleigh or sledge under gaslight on a snowy St. Petersburg eve. Clara, born and raised in the former imperial capital of Russia, suggests her Peter the Great egg-shaped minaudiere as the perfect sparkling “icy” accessory for a romantic winter outing.

Greta Garbo, gorgeous in a snowy-white satin gown graced with bows, full-length white kid gloves and gardenias in her hair, is the picture of elegance and amorousness as Anna Karenina at St. Petersburg’s French theatre with her paramour Fredric March playing Tsarist officer Vronsky. Clara pictures “Anna” clutching her flirty floral hand-sculpted Rosalie Minaudiere, studded with Swarovski Elements and closed with a floral magnetic clasp.

Greta Garbo starred in two separate silver screen adaptations of Anna Karenina – one made in 1927 (under the title “Love”) and the second in 1935. It was said Garbo’s beauty was so flawless and her face so fabulous, she had no bad angles. Clara Kasavina’s chose her adorable “Mink Galaxy clutch" for “Anna” to wear with the fur-collared coat and marabou-feathered hat featured in the film. The bag’s metal frame is encrusted with Swarovski crystals and crowned with a sparkling crystal clasp, a little touch of luxury to flaunt strolling St. Petersburg’s Nevsky Prospect or Upper Madison Avenue.

When first published, Anna Karenina was put down by critics as “a trifling romance of high life.” Yet, the greats felt differently: Dostoyevski deemed it “flawless as a work of art”; Nabokov admired the “magic of Tolstoy’s style”; and Faulkner declared it the “best novel ever written.” In a 2007 TIME Top Ten poll, 125 contemporary authors agreed with Faulkner, choosing Anna Karenina as “the greatest novel ever written.”  Clara Kasavina and husband and design partner Misha Berger respond naturally to this stirring novel as seen in their brilliant necklaces and earrings that could easily grace any of the beautiful women who have played Anna in scenes from ball to boudoir.

Vivien Leigh, best known for her role as Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, reprised the role of Anna in 1948. As the filming was under way, world-famous English fashion and portrait photographer Cecil Beaton shot Leigh as Anna for VOGUE magazine. “This flower-bedecked pink outfit and fingerless lace gloves requires the prettiest, most romantic bag to match Anna’s pensive mood,” says Clara.  “I think my floral Melissa in Fuchsia would suit it well.”  This adorable puff lamb leather bag is capped by a little enamel floral clasp pave-ed with crystals.

All the romance, opulence, and passion of Anna Karenina are inherent in Misha Berger’s magical Samira minaudiere and Clara Kasavina’s playful Larissa, both brilliant, collectible objets de luxe, that could only have been designed by those with artistic Russian souls.

Written by Peggy Healy