About a Woman

Meanwhile, in our time, women are becoming stronger and more independent, which poses serious challenges to the opposite sex.

Country Julia Rempel

 

One of James Brown’s biggest hits can be boiled down to a sentence: «This world, owned by men, would be meaningless without women.» Meanwhile, in our time, women are becoming stronger and more independent, which poses serious challenges to the opposite sex. Yet perhaps, in these matters, there is little sense in antagonism; perhaps women, like men, should be listening to nature, the perennial creator of harmony. Yulia Rempel, the owner of Le Grand Bazarr and the dental clinic Stomatology 31, reflects on the importance of retaining the feminine essence, even in strength.

My childhood ended when my family and I moved to the United States. My parents were having a hard time; I saw it for myself, and I knew it was time I became independent. I went to study at a Jewish school, only because the education was paid for by the state, and I was working three jobs at the same time. Yet I somehow still found time to go for walks, have fun and fall in love. All this at fourteen years old. It’s hard for me to imagine this now. Immigration in general is an extremely difficult process, and, if it weren’t for my family, I don’t know if things would have turned out as they did.

My parents are really on my team. They always supported me, even though the classical Jewish family is typically quite undemocratic when it comes to the education of girls: it’s imperative they go to music school, play the violin, and so on down the list. And I was shaving the back of my head at fifteen, and by twenty, the number of holes in my ears exceeded my age. But despite all my antics, my parents still accepted me. It was like they knew that no matter what sort of metamorphoses I was going through, I wouldn’t allow them to knock me off course. I had a clear goal at the time: to apply for free education at university. For as long as I can remember, I’d wanted to become a doctor. It’d be difficult to say why. Although…

Once, when I was still a kid, I found a hedgehog. It was in terrible shape — it was really in pain. My brother and I tried to get him to eat and drink; we did everything we could to help him. But the next day, the poor thing died right before our eyes. This was devastating to my child mind — I hadn’t been able to save him. I must have said to myself, «I can’t allow this to happen again.»

Frankly, I never sketched out the future in my head; I just did what I thought was necessary. I think heredity played a big role in my decision to become a doctor — many members of our family are involved in medicine. Subconsciously, it just seemed that this was my path, so I took it. But I didn’t plan on getting married. I didn’t dream of white dresses, which almost every girl my age would chase through the pages of fashion magazines, with a veil also in mind. I didn’t build any ideals for myself. Although I am often told that I am like Assol, the character from Crimson Sails; that despite my hard, sometimes masculine character, it’s as though there lives within me a girl, perpetually looking out to sea, hoping to see a beautiful ship on the horizon. Yes, I know that I’ll find him and everything will be okay. In today’s world, I should note, this gets in the way. Childishness, romanticism. For me, «crimson sails» are associated with the achievement of a cleanness and a calm — a balance of one’s state of mind with the state of the external world. Sometimes they’re at odds. And it seems to me that it’s extremely important for each of us to find this balance.

Finding myself in the fashion world, I’ve realised, thanks to constant communication with designers, that I can help people find this balance through my boutique, through the things I buy. The Russian man has great potential in many ways, but, in my opinion, in the realm of fashion, he is still very young. My task is to teach him, to tell him how to present himself to the world. What I’m most concerned with in style is the individuality of the presentation. There are so many high quality, iconic brands! And often our girls like to make an entire outfit out of them, but … lose themselves in it. It’s such an important thing for a woman to be able to express herself through her appearance. And now, I’m looking at the mass market, and there is a lot of the same, with very little individuality. In Russia, unfortunately, there are still very few people who are able to speak about themselves through their image. You could say that I am, to some extent, a psychologist. Psychology doesn’t heal — it seeks out and directs a person towards greater comfort. Here, Le Grand Bazarr is working to help you find a path to yourself through your image. Today’s clothing is not just a piece of fabric covering the body. It reflects the messages that we send to the world in order to harmonise with it. I think that learning to engage with it competently is an important step on the way to that very equilibrium.

And that’s not my last idea. There are so many plans yet to come! Unrealised dreams… Many, probably, will say: «Yul, aren’t you asking for too much? Look, you have everything: you don’t have to worry about money, you have your own business, a husband, children…» But this is a picture of the family — behind it, there are issues, like family health, how the children are raised, the sort of things people looking from the outside in seem not to think about. And I hope that I’d be doing all these things properly, and beautifully.

There is a lot that falls onto the shoulders of women. The role as woman of the house, as mother, as wife, hasn’t gone anywhere, and it was women themselves who wanted to enter the male world. And since women have wanted greater independence, it’s now necessary to figure out how to combine home life with whatever gives them that independence. This isn’t easy, but it’s possible, if there is a desire for it. I don’t quite agree with the position that men and women are equal. «Equality» in this case is relative, and is probably our own invention — we created it and that’s why we strive so much for it. I don’t want to say that either men or women are better or worse. I rather think that everyone is in his or her own place, as conceived by nature. In our family, my husband is the leader, the «leader of the pack», but the «leader» who respects and accepts that there is a strong woman next to him: a mother, a wife, and a businesswoman. Seeing families arranged a little differently, I feel some kind of imbalance, and it seems that that imbalance is able to shake even the strongest relationship. But the greatest happiness in life is connection to those you care about.

I still remember clearly those summer days when I was little, and lots and lots of relatives would come to our dacha. Grandma’s cooking was always delicious, but it was especially so on days such as those. Everyone helped her, and we all cooked together: one of us peeled potatoes, another cut tomatoes, and a third would set the table. Above the large table where everyone sat down together, there was a natural roof from the birches bowing their branches. Those lovely family gatherings I now remember with great warmth. It helps me to remember them in moments when it seems that nothing is going right, when I just want to quit everything.

I honestly believe that for every dark night, there’s a brighter day to come. And of course, I know that right behind that bright day is another dark night. But it’s important to thank the world for the days. When something unpleasant, hurtful, or awful happens, people start to blame the universe, but when everything is going well, they for some reason forget to be grateful. With that in mind, I’ll finish on this note: despite all the difficulties that have ever been laid on my shoulders, I’m thankful that I’m a woman.