The Most Resourceful Ukrainian Fashion Designers
On 24th February, a year passed since Russia invaded Ukraine. This conflict has destabilised the lives of millions and led to excruciating hardship as Ukrainian civilians work, whether at home or abroad.
For the creative world in Ukraine, it has been a time of resistance, as brands have been forced to adapt and survive amidst incredible hardship: Blackouts stop clothing production, power cuts prevent communication and creatives reel at the decimation of their country’s cultural touchstones and landmarks.
Julie Pelipas, former fashion director of Vogue Ukraine and street style maven, first founded the platform Better Us in 2020 and managed to make it survive through the pandemic. It was only after Russia's assault to Ukraine that Julie pivoted her brand's mission and founded Given Name Community, an online platform dedicated to directing the global creative industries’ attention towards the thriving creative community in Ukraine and the needs of its members. An indispensable resource, it offers a means for the world to extend aid beyond well-meaning words, and offer tangible support to Ukrainian creatives in need of work. More than a year on, it continues to do so!
On the final morning of London Fashion Week, a trio of Ukrainian designers showed their latest collections in the Newgen runway space of the Old Selfridges Hotel, bringing resourcefulness and optimism to London Fashion Week a year after Ukraine had been invaded. The showcase proved that even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, these designers’ spirits have not been dampened.
Kseniaschnaider, the Kyiv-based label launched by Ksenia and Anton Schnaider in 2011, that had been a main brand of Ukrainian Fashion Week, is committed to sustainability. Because of this, the collections throughout the years all have a distinctive aesthetic that is heavy on patchwork, asymmetry, denim, and sporty silhouettes. This year, they showed the most optimistic collection they’ve ever made.
The resourceful spirit of the Ukrainian war effort can be subtly seen in the collection. The designers have gathered thousands of ties, no longer of use to the men who gave up their previous office jobs to resist the Russian invasion, and upcycled them into a range of skirts and blazers.
For the brand Paskal, part of the thrill of participating in the LFW showcase was to feel surrounded by a community of creatives again. The show was full of butterflies of all shapes and sizes that decorated nearly every surface of her laser-cut tops and dresses and brought a real upbeat spirit to the catwalk.
For Paskal, the butterfly served as a potent symbol of her country’s resilience and regeneration over the past year, as a metaphor of both the fragility and ephemeral beauty of life. The designer has not only used her laser-cutting skills for the runway, but to make netting for the army too.
Ivan Frolov, a Ukrainian designer that’s been in the industry almost a decade, has debuted a collection where his signature heart motif came in further daring cut-outs or bedazzled in Swarovski crystals, with the more playful details balanced out by a number of elegant, demi-couture evening looks that featured dramatic net drapes and meticulously cinched corsets.
His collection’s aim was not only to show the world that his work has not been negatively influenced by the war, but to also remind everyone the war is far from over.
For these designers and creatives, giving up their brands and projects in the face of the war would have meant cowering in the face of Russian aggression. They have instead faced up to the hardships this has brought to their careers and personal lives and are currently trying to make the most of their projects to create a tight-knit community of creatives to adapt and survive alongside them.
Info sourced i-d.vice.com and vogue.com
All images sourced on canva.com