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Courage and Creativity: An Account of the Ukrainian Fashion Week Show

Over a year and a half since the start of the Ukraine War, the British Fashion Council, supported by USAID, continued to honour Ukrainian designers at London Fashion Week, this season with a combined closing show of pieces from Kseniaschnaider, Elenareva and Nadya Dzyak. Hidden inside the maze that is Oxford Street’s Selfridges, lavishly dressed guests and invitees waited patiently inside before ascending the iron-clad stairs leading to the runway. Anticipation could be felt deeply as the fashion community looked both inward and onward for this event; the cameras of paparazzi flashed across the entrance, capturing every movement of celebrity attendees, drawing all eyes closer to fashion week’s finale across their respective social media. As lights beamed with patriotic blue and yellow, an opening statement reminded all viewers of the resilience of the designers of the show, continuing to create in the face of danger and distress. This was reinforced with a letter and bracelet given to all attendees, a welcoming touch and early indication of the attention to detail that each of the designers pertains.


photo by @hollyanders2n

KSENIASCHNAIDER opened the show. With some inspiration taken from AI, much of the collection focused on traditional Ukrainian costumes, notably with their inclusion of Cossack jeans, a trademark staple of the brand. The designers, married couple Ksenia and Anton Schnaider, also focused on sustainable fabrics and textures for their Spring-Summer24 collection, particularly in their use of denim. Collaborating with ISKO, a sustainable denim initiative, they created eye-catching velvet denim pieces: my favourite of these was the scarlet red velvet denim jacket and midi skirt look, paired with patchwork denim ankle boots. The aged look given to most of the denim pieces in the collection was a result of a second collaboration. Lebiu Design, an Italian brand, provided their NanoCork technology, creating the aged look with a recycled finish. Lastly, AdidasXOriginals joined with Kseniaschnaider for “imaginatively unconventional garments, footwear, and accessories,” featuring ‘AdiColor’ patchwork designs, such as the blue and yellow patchwork dress, another patriotic homage to the Ukrainian flag. Decadent with rouched fabric, frayed edges and voluminous cuts, the collection enticed much excitement for future pieces from the brand.


Elenareva came second with a collection centred on two key principles: the complexity of femininity, primarily focused on the concept of ‘Mother Goddess,’ and Trypillian culture, a Neolithic-Chalcolithic archaeological culture based in Southeast Europe. The Trypillian culture, existing seven thousand years ago in the territory that is now modern Ukraine, represents important symbols that characterise Elenareva as a brand, such as the worship of female energy and peace. I deeply enjoyed this distinctive homage to Ukrainian heritage and ancestry that I had not seen previously explored in a contemporary setting. Staying true to their signature looks, much of the collection featured corsets, palazzo pants, transparent chiffon, and silk tailoring, with a neutral, earthy colour scheme. Like Kseniaschnaider, the designer also featured elements of traditional Ukrainian dress, markedly in the repeated use of the Plakhta skirt: the two-piece matching blush pink corset and plakhta, paired with blush pink kitten heels, caught my eye. Made in collaboration with textile print designer Lina Nechipolina, traditional Trypillian patterns were seen throughout the pieces, such as their silk skirt: a softer reimagination of the plakhta, aligned with their feminine inspiration.


photo by @hollyanders2n

Closing the show was Nadya Dzyak, who took great inspiration from the native artist Polino Raiko, a Ukrainian painter known for her house-museum which was flooded and lost due to the blowing up of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power plant. Nadya Dzyak stated that it is vital particularly for Ukrainian designers to “cherish [their] artistic heritage with all [their] love, even if it has been washed away by water,” highlighting the integral nature of patriotism and strength within their collection. Known for her surrealist patterns and shapes, Nadya Dzyak translated elements of Raiko’s artwork into their designs through a range of textures, particularly the ruffled tulle. My personal favourite expression of this concept was the avant-garde tulle flower invisible dress. The particular pleating technique used throughout their designs originated in Kharkiv, further honouring Ukraine. The use of vibrant, pastel colours emulated their optimism for the future of the war-torn country, particularly in their use of colourful denim, processed in a specialised production facility in Odessa. This was notably seen in their purple denim trousers, paired with a yellow tulle top.


The show ended with vast applause for the three designers as they walked down the runway, all wrapping themselves with the Ukrainian flag, emulating the optimistic strive onward that each of the designers is taking in such times of terror. The show was incredibly moving and illustrated exceptional talent throughout, inspiring optimism and courage in all those watching; the opportunity that the BFC has been providing over recent seasons has become deeply significant in the current political climate, highlighting support for Ukrainian individuals and celeb Ukrainian culture, presenting a united front on an internationally renowned stage. I’m endlessly grateful to have been invited.


photo by @hollyanders2n

 

Edited by Megan Shears, Fashion Editor

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