Russian it-girl and billionaire Aleksander Lebedev’s wife, Elena Perminova, is known for her impeccable (and unexpected) style, with an army of followers watching her every outfit and every move on Instagram–from relaxing summer days on their 18th-century estate in Umbria to a private jet trip to Paris to take the kids (the couple has three children) to Disneyland.
But it wasn’t always all rainbows and Louboutins.
Born in Siberia, Perminova was forced to sell drugs at night clubs at the age of 16. The trade got her in trouble, and that’s where Lebedev came in: a member of the Russian parliament at the time, he helped get the 16-year-old Elena out of jail.
Like in any proper fairy tale, it all ended in romance and marriage.
But Perminova is much more than a really, really well-dressed it-girl. Using her influence, she started SOS by Perminova, an auction that sells (may we say incredible!) fashion to raise funds for medical treatments for children in need. On @sos_by_perminova Instagram, next to Celine and Dior posts, you’ll see live updates about exactly where the money is going, how much the procedures cost, and how kids are recovering. Talk about fashion for change.
What about Perminova’s envy-worthy personal style?
“My day-to-day wardrobe is rather modest; I prefer to collect books rather than clothes,” she tells Harper’s Bazaar.
Clearly, she got in touch with her style gene early on. “When I was nine, everyone wanted to be a princess at Christmas, but I dressed as a baby chicken. I realized it was important to have a personality. Otherwise you’ll be lost in the crowd.”
“On my very first trip to New York, Alexander said, ‘Please go to Bergdorf and buy something,’ but I was so impressed by the clothes, I couldn’t make up my mind,” she recalls. “So I bought jeans and wore them with his hooded sweatshirt and his huge Stephen Webster cross. [While I was] walking around, everyone looked at me—and I started to understand what I wanted and how this outfit was best for New York. But I could’ve bought a Dolce gown!”
Here are some of our favorite of Elena Perminova’s style moments.