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Fashion's First Female Oligarch is 'Despicable'

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

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Commenters on New York Magazine's website are bashing a profile of Goga Ashkenazi, an ultra-rich Kazakhstani oil tycoon and socialite who purchased historic fashion house Vionnet. Other fashion publications like Harper's Bazaar and W have written profiles of Ashkenazi, whose father served in Mikhail Gorbachev’s Central Committee and whose personal connections include friendships with Prince Andrew, Saif Gaddafi (son of Muammar), and Kazakh oil billionaire Timur Kulibayev, who is the father of Ashkenazi's children.

In this particular article by Eric Konigsberg, Ashkenazi shows off her nipple piercing to the editor of Purple magazine at a party at her four-story palazzo in Milan and says things like: "There was more to communism than people realize. We lived very well. I thought everybody did. Our building was all officials and their families—so much fun. We went to weekends in the country, a compound with horses and hunting. All the camps were given out to different ministries according to your status." Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch details the conditions for the less privileged in Kazahkstan, including the use of torture ("perpetrators of torture often go unpunished"), restrictions on the freedom of religion and assembly, forced labor and child labor, and the arrest and detention of government critics.

The most common theme in the comments section is "this article makes me want to vomit" and "One word: despicable."

One commenter writes: "I really think it's time for Eric Konigsberg to answer the question being asked in pretty much every comment, which is - what the point is of this drivel? Why spotlight this heinous person? And why is it so poorly written such that you can't tell whether Konigsberg is trolling us, or trolling 'Goga'? Another says: "So many things happening in the world, even in the fashion world, and NY Mag decides to glamorize an oligarch. Wow. 1% dreck. Vionnet isn't even a thing... It's a joke."

Konigsberg has one defender, who writes: "Thanks for the article. I'd heard of since she took over Vionnet but knew nothing about her. A lot of people seem to think the author should have written an expose. But this is a fashion story and he hit all the major points about her questionable family and behavior. The point is to make clear what she's doing with the name of one of the three or four most important names in haute couture. And he's done that admirably."

Another commenter has this to say about Ashkenazi's efforts as a designer: "On top of it all, the clothes are mostly terrible and have nothing to do with Madame Vionnet."