The 34th Ukrainian Fashion Week (UFW) begins today in Kyiv as thousands of Russian troops practice military drills across the border and Crimea heads into a referendum on whether to join Russia. The biannual event, which runs from March 14 to 20, will feature 46 designers and 38 runway shows, mostly held at the swanky Mystetskyi Arsenal museum.
A week of champagne and catwalks stands out in surreal juxtaposition to the ongoing unrest and bloodshed. But like everything else in Ukraine, the fashion industry has also been deeply impacted by the last four months. Most clothing designers supported the Euromaidan movement.
In the lead-up to Fashion Week, a number of them split their time between ordinary tasks, like prepping their Fall/Winter 2014-15 collections — and extraordinary tasks, like protesting in the streets and volunteering at hospitals and information centers.
“We have all been in the war,” said designer Olga Navrotska at a March 13 press conference at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “We only returned to creative work during the periods of ceasefire.”
Some designers even developed bullet-proof vests. Designer Ivan Frolov explained:
“We began preparing the collection for the UFW at the time when first victims were shot at Maidan. None of us could work. At this time we, the designers, were contacted with a request to make bullet-proof vests.
We were assisted by the Afghanistan war veterans who helped us properly position the bullet-proof plates. A lot of tailors were making bullet-proof vests: Artem Pavlov, Yasya Khomenko, Anastasiya Volokita, Tetyana Gorishyna and others.”
For some the protests created logistical obstacles. Designer Anna Bublik, a UFW regular, was forced to cancel her show after violent clashes prevented her from accessing her office. Meanwhile participants from Georgia and the UK have pulled out entirely, reports the Kyiv Post.
Ukraine's Fashion Week typically draws about 25,000 people but this year there will be a lower turnout and far fewer journalists in attendance. Organizers opted to proceed anyway to showcase Ukrainian talent for the European and broader international community.
Spectators will see the influence of Euromaidan in at least some of the designs. Designer Iryna Pvlyk stated:
“We are not just inspired by the events; we have been actively participating in them…. Many of the collections reflect not only the events that took place but also our personal emotions.”
Increasingly, those emotions are tuned to fear of Russian military aggression. Volodymyr Nechyporuk, another UFW founder, said, “We also want to use [the collection] for delivering a message to the whole world: ‘stop the destructive machine that is heading towards Ukraine.’”
To see the full schedule of Ukrainian Fashion Week events, visit its website here.