With the war in Ukraine Showing no signs of slowing down and with Russian forces continuing their drone and missile attacks on infrastructure, Ukrainian Fashion Week organizers are already exploring alternative countries for designers to show off their collections in February.
The apparent disconnect or contrast between destruction and fashion may seem stark to outsiders, but Ukrainian designers and entrepreneurs are following Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s saying that business owners and employers continue to operate their businesses in retaliation and maintain as much normality as possible. His wife, Olena Zelenska, continues to champion the fashion industry and the design community.
Determined to maintain their businesses, operations and employee bases as best they can despite the ongoing onslaught, 43 Ukrainian brands went international in the latest episode of Ukrainian Fashion Week. Thanks to the support of nine other national fashion weeks, starting with Malta Fashion Week in July, these designers and companies have been able to shine a spotlight on their spring collections on the track or virtually. The UFW, which has just completed its 51st season, is the oldest fashion week in Central and Eastern Europe, according to Yelyzaveta Ushcheka, head of international communications for the organization.
Instead of celebrating its 25th anniversary this year as planned, Ukrainian designers and brands have been beset by disheartening circumstances. More than 10 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February, seeking safety, protection and assistance, according to the UN. The recent escalation in fighting has severely damaged 40% of the country’s energy infrastructure.
“Brands are still working under missile attacks and air raids. Some designers moved to Europe [temporarily] because they have children. But their businesses are still based in Ukraine and some designers have stayed in Ukraine,” Ushcheka said. “They still make great collections in these terrible circumstances. They show Ukrainian courage and resilience through fashion. But not all Ukrainians give up. They believe we are going to win and we have to keep going and working.
Before the February 24 Russian invasion, hundreds of thousands of people worked in Ukraine’s textile industry, including more than 100,000 in the fashion industry. In 2018, there were 600 designate brands and 300 mainstream brands in the country. However, about 30% of design firms have shut down or temporarily suspended operations due to the war, according to UFW. Most of them should resume “after the victory”, predicted Ulscheka.
Some fashion business owners, like Ruslan Baginskiy, and their respective teams moved and shifted production to western Ukraine. Other brands have returned to Kyiv after a short stay in Lviv or Ternopil, such as The Coat and Frolov. Several brands have relocated for the moment, such as Dzhus in Poland and Elena Burenina in France. Those who never left and are still rooted in Kyiv include Vorozhbyt & Zemskova and Andre Tan. Both companies sewed clothing and equipment for Ukrainian army volunteers, while simultaneously manufacturing their collections. UFW founder and CEO Iryna Danylevska is also in Ukraine.
In addition to seamstresses, there are production specialists, stylists and photographers always at work. “With all the terrible things Russia is doing now, they can ruin Ukraine’s infrastructure, factories and residential buildings. But they can’t ruin everything. And they can’t stop the work of the designate. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing now to get that international exposure and support so their businesses don’t close. War has no right to do that,” Ushcheka said.
Through its “Support Ukrainian Fashion” initiative, the UFW is already appealing for other National Fashion Weeks, seeking to help Ukrainian brands and designers participate in the next series of shows planned for the start of the year. ‘next year. The organization aims to help Ukrainian designers to be present in the four major fairs in New York, London, Milan and Paris. Some Ukrainian designers have done so in a limited way this fall as part of a non-UFW initiative. UFW organizers had inquired about attending New York Fashion Week in September, but the cost of hosting a group show was too expensive for the Ukrainian team to cover. , Ushcheka said.
International support and distribution are more crucial than ever, given the impact of war on sales this year, she said. As Ukrainian airspace remains closed to civilian aircraft for security reasons and shipping delays have plagued many parts of the world for months, Ukrainian brands have greater hurdles to clear than other international brands. . Nevertheless, companies are finding workarounds, through the country’s postal service Ukrposhta and other delivery services. In early September, Ukrainian government officials, the European Commission and the World Bank estimated the cost of reconstruction and recovery in Ukraine at $349 billion.
Apart from Malta, Ukrainian designers have participated to varying degrees in Copenhagen Fashion Week, Central European Fashion Week in Budapest, Berlin Fashion Week, Transylvania Fashion Festival, Fashion Week in Vienna, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid and Brussels Fashion Week, before wrapping up last month at Vegan Fashion Week in Los Angeles. Depending on the location, Ukrainian resources have received varying degrees of financial support. In some cases, all of their expenses were covered, while others could handle everything except public relations and guest management.
“Unfortunately, some fashion weeks have said they can’t support us without money because they don’t have the budget for it. But we’re hoping for international support for the upcoming season,” Ushcheka said. Now we understand that it will be almost impossible to hold this next season safely in Ukraine in February. We don’t know what will happen. We believe next season will be during International Fashion Week.
Some labels have been inventive in their presentations. The Coat made a fashion film at the Pyrohiv Museum of Folk Architecture which was screened during Copenhagen Fashion Week. Gudu, Darja Donezz, Kir Khartley and Sidletskiy were represented in various ways at Budapest Central European Fashion Week. In Transylvania, Apsara, Dima Makeev, Panove and Shèezén organized fashion shows and met representatives of the European Fashion Council, an organization which is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary.
For example, Nadya Dzyak continues to make her signature pisse in Kharkiv, one of the Ukrainian cities that faces daily military attacks from Russian forces. As fighting has intensified in recent days, businesses are facing water shortages, as well as the continuing problem of power outages. “Nevertheless, everyone works in Ukraine. When there is no electricity, they stop. When the electricity returns, they continue to operate. Many manufacturers have purchased generators to be able to operate when there is no electricity. Ushcheka said.
In other Ukraine-related news, United24, an unprecedented platform that connects the Ukrainian government with international businesses to unite people and support Ukraine, has raised $201.7 million with the help of ambassadors such as Demna GvasaliaImagine Dragons, Elina Svitolina, Andriy Shevchenko, Barbra Streisand and Mark Hamill. Balenciaga and Bang & Olufsen are two of the brands that have collaborated with the platform since its launch six months ago.
In addition, an American footwear company Bearpaw has donated 120,000 pairs of winter boots to people displaced by the crisis in Ukraine. The boots are being distributed to families in five regions of the country by the United States for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Bearpaw’s hometown of Sacramento has one of the highest numbers of Ukrainian immigrants per capita nationally — 22,000 as of early August. With winter approaching and sub-freezing temperatures and routine snowfall in Ukraine, Bearpaw wanted to support the Ukrainian community, a company spokesperson said. San Francisco-based nonprofit My New Red Shoes mustered more than 1,000 volunteers to help process the shipment. Through Airlink and its donor and digital freight shipping partner Flexport.org, USA for UNHCR received freight and logistics costs to deliver the boots – worth $9 million to the detail – in Kyiv and Lviv.