Soaked in soothing lighting and the sounds of champagne corks from waiters and two jazz musicians playing in an adjoining room, a few Ukrainian designers and a dozen industry supporters mingled at the clubby Ned Hotel in the Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood on Sunday night. This scene could not have been more contrary to their war-torn homeland, where they try to maintain their businesses.
Seven months after the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops, six designers presented their collections on Tuesday before venturing to London, Paris and Milan. There was also a stopover in Berlin for some. Designs by Elena Burenina, Bobkova, Frolov, Litkovskaya, Kovalska and Gudu were presented, but not all designers were able to travel to New York. Fueling the Ukrainian economy is a decree by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska that several industries are trying to comply with.
Around 7.2 million people fled the country for other parts of Europe and around 8 million people were displaced to other parts of the country.
Lilia Litkovskaya, whose designs are often worn by Ukraine’s first lady, described her decision to leave Kyiv on February 24 to ensure the safety of her three-year-old daughter. “My husband stayed in Kyiv. I didn’t want to leave,” she said.
Once she, her mother and daughter settled in Paris, the designer decided it was time to get back to work, prompted in part by a large order Selfridges placed two days before the Russian invasion. . She reconnected with her team, including those who had moved to other parts of Ukraine, and temporarily transferred production to a major wedding dress manufacturer. “I think it’s very important to save the future of my team,” she said.
Litkovskaïa is working again in Kyiv and her founder divides her time between there and Paris, where her daughter lives. Encouraged by the progress made by Ukrainian fighters in recent days, she said: “I believe in my country. I believe in the United Nations. And I believe that the goal of every Ukrainian is victory.
During Paris Fashion Week, she will present a fashion show on the merry-go-round in the Tuileries Garden. “Everyone in Ukraine can remember their childhood and think back to that peaceful time. I would like to show my Ukrainian vision and contemporary Ukraine,” she said.
Litkovskaya said her collection is co-authored by those who wear it. Removing her blouson jacket with a satin tie belt at the side to show how she intentionally covers her name on the inside tag, she explained, “The clothes on the sheds are nothing. But the people who buy it, continue the story.
Global Fashion Agenda CEO Federica Marchionni explained why she wanted to be at Sunday’s event: “From the start of the war, you really understand the importance of solidarity and how the Ukrainian people need to feel he is not alone.
Ivan Frolov arrived in New York from Los Angeles via London, where he had been to check the production of samples. Angel for Fashion founder Jen Sidary was instrumental in coordinating production for the seven-year-old brand. When the war started, he canceled all pending orders to save money. He left Ukraine on September 3 after gaining approval from the Ministry of Culture, which allowed people who work in the arts to leave temporarily for cultural events in other parts of the world. “September is high season for many arts events. This month of September is very important. We need orders from buyers [for] the livelihood of our entire team and the life of our brand.
All 35 employees are still on the payroll at the same salary they earned before the war. “They are my biggest inspiration this season. It has nothing to do with fashion, or the artistic world, cinema, books, artists or painting. My team is my only source of inspiration this season. Mentally it’s very difficult when you’re in the middle of a war to create something beautiful,” Frolov said.
To that end, he noted that Frolov has two initiatives to help raise funds to help those affected by the war. “We are here to support our country’s economy and show our brand in the best way. All of our production is still in Kyiv,” he said, adding that his entire team, except for two employees who were traveling with him, are in Ukraine. As one of the brands represented by Tomorrow Ltd. this season, Frolov will also travel to Milan, Paris and London.
Although Kyiv’s main department store, Tsum, has reopened, sales there have understandably changed since the invasion. Frolov continues to sell direct to consumer. As to whether Frolov felt guilty for being so removed from the situation in Ukraine, he glanced at guests in The Ned’s library and said, “Our forces and our army are fighting for freedom. of the whole world. These people here, having cocktails and going to their special events, cannot understand what is happening in Ukraine. But it’s good. I wish no one in the world ever had to understand what we’re going through.
Fueling the economy in Ukraine is a form of combat, Frolov said. “In order to continue to grow and save our brand, I have to be here and go to fancy cocktail parties and talk to people about the war. It’s very important because it’s going on.
Although he is not obligated to participate in the war, this could change. “Right now, I feel like I can do more if I continue to be a designer, do my best, and grow my business. This may give me the opportunity to donate to the military. [through designated sales] and support the country’s economy. After the war, we will have even more problems with the economy and the soldiers, who have lost their legs and hands,” he said, adding that he saw such wounded soldiers walking past a hospital during his daily commute to work. “It motivated me and my team to keep working and to keep fighting. Everything is fine for us: we still have hands and legs and we can go to work to do our job as well as we we can.
Frolov, 28, also speculated about his combat effectiveness on the front lines. “I still don’t know if I’m ready to kill someone even if I was the most angry person. I don’t know if I have the power to kill someone.
The fact that this Ukrainian initiative has come to fruition is an act of goodwill by several individuals and companies. After attending Kyiv Art and Fashion Days last year, Parsons School of Design program director Keanan Duffty spoke with event organizer Sofia Tchkonia shortly after the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops, to inquire about the safety of Ukrainian designers he had met last year. . From the start, he intended to figure out how Ukrainian designers and their companies could be represented at New York Fashion Week.
Kristina Bobkova and Valery Kovolska were the other designers who came to the United States for the event. Sunday night’s meeting included many of the people who had helped make this happen, such as Parsons President Emeritus Kay Unger, Coresight Research founders Deborah Weinswig and Mazdack Rassi. Tuesday’s presentation took place at the Mastercard offices in Manhattan.
Duffty said: “One of the first people I called was Kay Unger and she immediately said yes. One of the people she introduced me to was Deborah, who jumped in.[and arranged for] the opportunity to show Mastercard. She also introduced us to FashWire CEO and Founder Kim Carney, who was incredibly generous. I contacted Tommy Hilfiger who was very nice and helped with some of the travel and hotel rooms [costs]. Kay contacted us with Donna Karan, who was extremely generous.
Hilfiger planned to attend Tuesday’s event and Karan planned to hold an event for Ukrainian designers on Wednesday evening. Public relations manager James LaForce provided his office space for the designers to do their castings and fittings on Monday. After acknowledging his wife Nancy Garcia, an event producer, for her help, Duffty said: “When I had this idea, people said to me, ‘Why is it important to support fashion when there is a war in Ukraine? People are dying. The children are suffering. Why not donate to these organizations? That’s an excellent question. My answer would be that art and creativity are really important to all of us because they make us human. They allow us to express ourselves. That’s why it’s important to show all your creative talents and show solidarity.