In the face of the ongoing conflict, Ukrainian fashion is having a moment
ohemian is fashion’s go-to spring trend and this season, it’s awash with the floral and ethereal. But this season, designers have been mining influence from a more niche aspect: Ukrainian national dress.
The cheesecloth cotton and embroidery template appeared both on the catwalk from Dolce & Gabbana to Valentino, and the high street from Mango to Talitha and Melissa Odabash, with several looks bearing an uncanny resemblance to the traditional costumes worn in the Ukraine.
While the trend, first spotted by Vogue, feels at a schism with the state of affairs – this week, European and Ukrainian leaders are meeting at a summit in Kiev in a bid to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine – it also marks a shift in confidence from Ukrainian designers, who are returning to their roots for the new collections.
Spearheading this shift is Ukrainian designer Lena Ivanova. Describing why she has examined her national dress for influence, she feels patriotism is fundamental to Ukrainian creativity: “We must be mindful of our traditions and try to use something that we have accumulated over the centuries that is really the DNA of the country,” she explains, talking from Kiev. “Traditional Ukrainian dress is very diverse and different in the different regions of the country.” Ivanova, whose eponymous label IVANOVA marries traditional silhouettes and prints with modern tailoring, draws influence from the Carpathian hill tribes costumes for her collections: “The local population (the Hutsuls) always seem very bright and authentic.”
FacebookTwitterPinterestIt’s a pronounced move from the previous seasons; last year, Ukraine fashion week fell in the midst of revolutionary spin and while, staggeringly, it went ahead, the situation naturally shifted on to the catwalk. Documentary-maker Charlet Duboc travelled to Ukraine to make a film about its fashion week for Vice calledRevolution On The Runway. “Fashion week was basically held during the revolution and became a political statement about what was gong on at the time,” she explains, describing how the catwalk was awash with fake blood and flak jackets.
Contemporary Ukrainian designers often use fashion as an opportunity to express their solidarity. Olga Navrotsky has used bullets and wings alongside slogans aimed towards Russian president Vladmir Putin as motifs in previous collections. Ksenia Schnaider, a luxury label, has used the national emblem of Ukraine, the trident, as a motif. But this trend for sartorial protest seems to have shifted with many young native designers choosing patriotism over revolt.
picture: GraziaDressAU red formal dresses
Vita Kin, a Kiev-based label owned by the eponymous designer, is also credited with propelling this look on a global scale. A key designer at Ukraine fashion week, her trademark heavily embroidered primary coloured coloured dresses, jackets and blouses are a neat calibration of old and new. “I was inspired by traditional Ukrainian embroidery patterns, which I adapted and reapplied to create a modern look,” she explains. “This autumn I’m inspired by Ukrainian carpets [‘Kilims’ in Ukrainian]”. Kin counts Anna Dello Russo as a fan, alongside US fashion writer Leandra Medine AKA Man Repeller; both have worn Kin’s vyshyvanka-inspired red embroidered coat-dress.
Against the current political backdrop, which still sees daily clashes between government forces and pro-Russian rebels, Kin maintains that her collections have nothing to do with politics. “I can’t stand politics, and I don’t want my clothing in any way associated with it” she says. “My goal is to create bohemian, picturesque and life-affirming clothing that women feel special wearing. I know I definitely do”.
Fittingly, Ukrainian fashion is finding its legs in the international market. Three Ukrainian designers have been semi-finalists for the coveted LVMH Prize while Anna K, who collections lean towards ethereal fairytales, has broken into the US and European market and presented her AW15 collection in London.
Like Vita Kin, Ivanova sees this new wave of tradition as a chance for Ukraine to reclaim its heritage: “The traditions have so many interesting things, a lot of energy, that you can learn over and over again and use. We constantly try to reconsider and structure these traditions.”
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