Is Snowden’s Future on the Fashion Runway?

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Former spy Anna Chapman debuts her line of dresses and bookish purses.

What do spies do for a living after they quit being spies?

They have to make a living like anyone else.

Edward Snowden knew enough to make himself scarce after revealing enough of the National Security Agency’s dirty laundry to start a major scandal.

Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t able to keep his career as a consultant to super-secret national intelligence agencies on track afterward, though. So, after a couple of stops in countries that frown on extradition to the U.S., Snowden ended up in Russia, working in tech support at a technology company that remains unnamed but is widely supposed to be VKontakte, the Russian version of Facebook.

Anna Chapman – the ridiculously photogenic Russian deported after being arrested by the FBI for her alleged involvement in a Russian spy ring operating in Manhattan – went into the fashion business. She launched a line of women’s casual clothing Jan. 9 at the Dosso Dossi Fashion Show 2014 at the Turkish resort of Antalya, according to Russian news agency RiaNovosti.

She inspires the look and has input on the designs, but the actual designing is done by designers from Russian fashion colleges, according to RiaNovosti.

Few pictures of the outfits have been released. Published photos show a series of sleeveless dresses and handbags designed to look like books from famous Russian authors. Chapman herself hasn’t commented publicly; quotes about the clothes are attributed to a spokesperson for FundServiceBank, for which she has worked as an since 2010.

A statement from FSB said Chapman became interested in fashion after returning to Russia in prison clothing she hated. “She disliked these alien clothes and Anna went on to search for a Russian dress that would please her soul. She kept looking for it but did not find,” it said.

Fashion writers for Britain’s Daily Mail describe the dresses as “unimaginative and poorly constructed.”

Her fashion career may have begun in 2011, when she offered to redesign the uniforms worn by Soviet cosmonauts – an offer that only made sense because FundServiceBank (FSB) is affiliated with the Russian space agency Roskosmos.

Chapman appears not to have commented directly even on that incident. The story first appeared in RiaNovosti as an anecdote passed on by Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who flew twice in U.S. space shuttles, twice in Soyuz spacecraft and spent two long missions on the space station Mir. (The Register picked up that February 2011 story.)

It’s not clear how serious the fashion thing really is. Chapman has listed her primary employer as FSB since 2010, soon after she was deported from the U.S. and was welcomed back to Russia by officials including Vladimir Putin – who led a “patriotic sing-song” at the welcome, according to the DailyMail.

Even in post-Soviet Russia, however, and even for the beautiful daughter of a former KGB officer, there are limited career opportunities in a resume that includes being stung by the FBI in a relatively low-level fake-passport scheme.

In addition to her unspecified work for FSB, Chapman did the usual accidental-celebrity thing for a couple of years – posing for photo shoots, doing interviews and a book all designed to exploit her infamy before it faded completely, according to Biography.com, which lists her place of birth as Volgograd, her Zodiac sign as Pisces and her Occupation as Spy.

Chapman hosted a TV show called Mysteries of the World with Anna Chapman, and worked for the magazine Venture Business News. She got famous in a small way again after proposing marriage via Twitter to Edward Snowden, who was living at the Moscow Airport while waiting for Russian officials do decide whether or not to let him farther into the country. (Twitter trivia: @ChapmanAnna has 18,141 followers, but follows only 14 and has posted only 33 tweets.)

She also walked out of an interview with NBC News’ Richard Engel after he asked her about the proposal rather than talking only about the TV program she was there to promote.

“I’m a very private, discreet person and I still don’t do many interviews because I just don’t like to share,” NBC quotes her as saying. “I don’t believe that people would be interested in knowing about somebody’s life.”

Snowden has not commented on the record about the tongue-in-cheek proposal and, so far at least, has not been reported to be designing any clothing of his own.

Image: Anna Chapman/FSB

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