SLAVA ZAITSEV stares dolefully at the chalky walls of his office in the Dom Modi, one of Moscow's premier fashion houses.
Picking up steam, the Dom Modi's artistic director unleashes a tirade against a system he claims has yet to appreciate him. Worse, he has not been supplied with the raw essentials of his craft: not the textiles, nor the linings, not even the buttons or the shoulder pads that underpin a proper collection.He blames lethargic, indifferent ''functionaries'' for a variety of slights, noting that the Ministry of Services, which supports his fashion house, also oversees the nation's laundries, shoe and clothing repair shops and public baths. Until recently, ''the Saint Laurent of the Steppes,'' as he has been dubbed by admirers and detracters alike, had to fit his designs on a dressmaker's dummy dating from World War II.The Ministry, Zaitsev complains, thwacking the table for emphasis, has not seen fit to provide him with the minimal trappings of success. Rail as he may, Zaitsev's protests only highlight the fact that he is currently basking in a permissive, even indulgent, climate.He had envisioned an alabaster studio with white-on-white furnishings. As part of his program of reform, Soviet leader Mikhail S.Gorbachev is encouraging the production of consumer goods, including clothing.His name, in large Roman letters and the shorter ''Slava'' form, hovers above the Moscow fashion theater where his collections are shown, once a day, three days a week, to the wives of high-ranking officials, to artists, entertainers, housewives -anyone who will pay the 3 ruble (about $5) admission fee.
In a typical Zaitsev presentation, models stalk down the runway in synchronized, squadron-style formations, wearing calf-length dresses adrift in diaphanous panels.
Zaitsev says his customers find his swingy, generous cuts liberating: ''In the past, Soviet women were squeezed into their clothes.'' Nearby, at the Dom Modeli - the flagship of the Soviet fashion industry and Zaitsev's chief competitor -well-heeled private clients, reporters, manufacturers' representatives and ordinary citizens throng a chandeliered auditorium, settle on the velvet-cushioned chairs that line the runway and murmur their approval of the season's new looks. At its most current, Russian fashion is voluminous and steeped in a romantic nostalgia.
Supplies are scanty, to be sure, and Zaitsev's office could be fancier.
But he travels to the West; indeed, last October he visited New York, where he showed his collection at the Waldorf-Astoria.
Undeterred by critics who called his fashions overwrought and out-of-date - reminiscent of Western fashions of several seasons earlier - the designer plans to return this year with a pared-down, sexier collection.
Viyacheslav Zaitsev, 50 years old, was the first Soviet couturier permitted by the government to put a label in his clothing.