By Janet Kelly
WATCHING Putin’s War play out on TV leaves me angry, frustrated and feeling helpless. So, when my Ukrainian-born friend Yuliya suggested posting a story about fashion designers in her country, I was all in. (Instead of presents for her birthday a few weeks ago, Yuliya requested her friends send money to Ukraine.)
In light of a cruel and devastating war, the thought of buying clothes may seem, er, the slightest bit frivolous, no? But in fact, another way to help during this crisis is supporting designers whose livelihood and that of their employees depends on their businesses staying solvent.
From well- to lesser known names and talents, we’re looking at 10 Ukrainian fashion designers to keep on our radar. According to an article, “Last Month They Made Designer Dresses. Now They’re Making Combat Boots” in last week’s Financial Times, two brands—Sleeper and Anna October—have set up production facilities in Turkey and Estonia, respectively. Svitlana Bevza is in search of factories in the EU to restart her production. In the meantime, many companies are donating a portion of their income to relief organizations, such as the Children’s Emergency Fund and the Red Cross.
The clothing runs the gamut from embroidered, billowy bohemian blouses (above) to modern minimalist jumpsuits, black-tie pajamas, fetching fedoras, laser-cut dresses and slinky, colorful knits.
Innovative, environmentally conscious and a resilient spirit characterize these Ukrainian designers. Names to know and support:
From Tamara Davydova’s Minimalist line, produced in NYC’s garment center, a Japanese denim jumpsuit (left) with a zipper and drawstring waist is a one-and-done kind of piece I’d be happy to wear on repeat. Ditto her fluid silk halter dress (right), made of a viscose satin, although I might want to close that slit a teensy-weensy. A turquoise knit sailor top and skirt (center) is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, collected from the ocean bottom. The outfit was on Bevza’s spring 2022 runway.
Founded in 2014 by Kate Zubarieva and Asya Varetsa, Sleeper’s nightwear-turned-partywear is made locally in Kyiv. Cut from lightweight crêpe de chine, this vintage-inspired pajama set (left) is detailed with the brand’s signature ostrich feathers, which can be detached when you want to keep things simple. It’s $320 from Shopbop. Pretty-in-pink Lulu Slippers (right, $290) are like warm ballet flats with a shearling top, cashmere pompoms and leather soles. They’re too cute not to be seen outside.
The design duo behind KseniaSchnaider led the way for sustainable upcycling in Eastern Europe. To aid the families of its 30-person team, the brand has issued “support cards.” The line is best known for its denim pieces, including this $650 patchwork blazer (left). Former LVMH Prize finalist Anna October, whose eponymous womenswear label is sold at Farfetch, Ssense and Moda Operandi, donated 1,000-plus yards of fabric to the army for blankets and camouflage nets. Combine her intricately knit pale-yellow cardigan (right) with light satin dresses or skirts to think spring, no matter the weather. Her website advises that all deliveries will take up to three weeks, due to martial law in Ukraine.
Designer Julie Paskal used her architectural training to launch her fashion line with its sculptural silhouettes and laser-cut techniques to construct delicate dresses, such as this Heart Appliqué Dress (left) at Neiman Marcus. On her Facebook page, Paskal urges support for Ukrainian designers “to contribute to the economy.” Uliana Vasylenko, a seller on Etsy, says the airports in Ukraine have restricted operations, but you can still try your luck at buying this glass beaded necklace ($47) in the colors of the country.
Belarus-born Anastasiya Rozova, co-owner of Chereshnivska, uses unique cuts and colors 0n recycled materials to remake wardrobe basics. An oversize, exuberant-print shirt (left) is $160.47 from Not Just a Label. The site notes that orders will be fulfilled from limited stock and that all proceeds will be used to supply food and essentials to their employees in Lviv, Ukraine. References to the sea as in this sailboat necklace (above, right, $71.21) were sprinkled through Bevza’s spring/summer 2022 collection, highlighting her commitment to sustainability. Ruslan Baginskiy, whose design inspiration comes from Ukrainian national costumes, old family photos and vintage fashion shoots, tweaks traditional shapes into modern looks. This pearl-embellished fedora (below, right) is available at Farfetch for $340.