37th Ukrainian Fashion Week through the eyes of Rebecca May Johnson

The first Ukrainian Fashion Week in pr? T -? – porter format was held back in 1997, becoming an unprecedented event in Eastern Europe, not to mention our country. Since then, we all managed to fall in love and get used to Ukrainian Fashion Week so much that it is impossible to even believe that it once did not exist. The organizers, designers, and other prominent players of domestic fashion practically do not change from season to season, and for insiders who do not miss a single week, this bright event, full of shows, presentations and parties, has become a kind of ritual – pleasant, but predictable. That is why it is always so interesting to hear the fresh opinion of the person who got to UFW for the first time, and if this person is also one of the most popular fashion journalists in London, it becomes doubly interesting. Rebecca May Johnson, who regularly writes for Vogue UK, The Business of Fashion, Monocle, Elle, The Financial Times, Tank Magazine, The Daily Telegraph, and many other well-known publications, was very impressed with Ukrainian Fashion Week. After a few days, returning home and "digesting" what she saw, Rebecca shared her impressions about the design of the shows, the inheritance of Western designers, the organization of the event and the most popular collections from 23-59. And we, in order to preserve the original syllable of a popular author, suggest you read her observations both in native English and in translation (below).


Ukrainian Fashion Week through the eyes of Rebecca May Johnson

I did not know what to expect from Ukrainian Fashion Week when I touched down in Kyiv on Tuesday afternoon. Like most journalists from the UK, my prior knowledge had been dominated by coverage of the Maidan violence last year, when designers bravely persevered, despite staggeringly tough conditions. I have been told that some made bulletproof vests for those involved in the conflict, and have seen images of designers ’work that thoughtfully reflected the political situation: inspiring. After three days of S / S 2016 shows, meeting designers and visiting local stores, I am thrilled by much of what I have seen – though there are some issues too.

On Wednesday afternoon, I noticed a number of women wearing beautiful long coats in navy and orange with a pattern of abstract shapes and flowers. I had also seen the fabric featured on the large poster for the event in the Arsenal. It turned out they were by Poustovit, whose show kicked off the week and who is one of the most established designers of Ukrainian fashion. However, I had a nagging feeling that I had seen that fabric somewhere before – it looks like Poustovit may have been influenced by Stella McCartney Cruise from 2014. I did enjoy Poustovit's easy-to-wear S / S16 collection of clashing Marimekko-like florals and polka dots – though the idea of ​​a 'Mamma' collection with the word graffiti-ed onto garments must be a nod to the Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2015 'Mamma' show. Then, yesterday, after I’d left town, I caught sight of another pattern concept that resembled McCartney’s, this time in Andre Tan’s show. Where McCartney’s pattern made polka dots from images of Mexican wrestling masks, Tan used colorful emoticons – the effect was startlingly similar.




Poustovit ss 16

Fabric development

To survive on the tough international market, it is essential for brands to have rigorous and distinctive fabric development processes in place to stand out from the crowd. If you’re going to do prints, rework them repeatedly until you have made something remarkable, and if you’re going to do simple, then make sure the fabric is astonishingly good quality, and with an unexpected finish. Artemklimchuk’s collection for S / S16 suffered from a lack of imagination when it came to fabric and cut, and cotton poplin in pallid shades of pink and blue failed to get pulses racing. Yulia Polischchuk’s models were done up to look like air hostesses with hats to match in a show that was too plain, and cut from dull cloth. Likewise, Nadya Dyzak’s graphic prints, that dominated her collection, were too simplistic and should have been developed further.

All about the edit

When it comes to a really good runway show, it’s all about the edit – sure, you may have 100 looks you could show – but which selection will tell the strongest narrative? One notable area for improvement across the shows I saw last week was their length – a good 10 looks could have been removed from some. More is not always more: it is better to produce a brief show of 12 looks that are well-conceived, well-styled and well-cut and that leave the audience wanting to more, rather than wondering when it will end.

The designers that really stood out for me (though I missed some gems on Saturday and Sunday after I left town) were those that really took care over the conception and styling of their collections.

Adam Katz Sinding, the streetstyle photographer from website Le21eme, who attended the week, briefed me that Bevza would be a good’un – and it was. The show was a highly polished 90s production complete with grungy shoegaze soundtrack including the gorgeous ‘For Love’ (1991) by recently reformed Lush, that had everyone tapping their feet. Styling was as precise as hell and conjured a deconstructed 1990s ‘working-woman’ dreaming of her teens. Polished garments with low office heels in burgundy suede were undercut by dress hems that had been let out with the crease still showing and a raw edge, chokers round the neck and stickers stuck to faces – a nostalgic nod to pre-digital teen culture of secret diaries and stickers, now overtaken by emoticons and Snapchat. * note to other designers – not only did Bevza’s shoes fit the aesthetic of her collection, models could walk in them – almost every other show used stilettos that some models had to remove to avoid breaking ankles. The palette of white (Bevza’s signature hue), gray, beige, mustard, lilac and midnight blue velvet was on point, and the essential curve ball of the collection was provided by the last few dresses in a shaggy faux fur. Standouts included a white, calf-length crepe dress with fringing provided across the d? Colletage by frayed edges and a let down hem. It was a coherent, total production that drew you in using music, accessories and styling that matched the clothes: Bevza is a real pro.

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Straight after Bevza on Thursday came Ivan Frolov’s emotional and exciting show in the theater of the former Soviet teaching headquarters, providing the next high of the week. The invitation came in the form of a silk handkerchief covered with a print of hand drawn symbols and was a clue to Frolov’s inspiration: the secret code of gay culture developed in a climate of intolerance. The ‘hanky code’, which arose in New York in the 1970s, uses different colors and placements of silk handkerchiefs to denote sexual fetishes. The fabric and colors of the silk handkerchiefs became whole garments across the collection that mixed sheer lingerie and handkerchief dresses with jewel toned suiting for men and women. The first look of a sheer black, calf-length diamante studded dress with semi-sheer peach tone flares underneath on a model with a shaved head set the tone for a risk-taking show that, while less polished than Bevza's, was perhaps more memorable . The other international visitors and I emerged feeling exhilarated and hopeful. Frolov is very talented: I hope he receives the careful and critical creative and commercial mentoring he needs to move on up.

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Last but certainly not least is Litkovskaya. I managed to visit her studio just before catching a flight back to London, and boy was I glad I did. Lilia Litkovskaya, who grew up in a family of soviet-trained tailors, is seriously good: no wonder she is catching the eye of buyers at cutting edge retailers the world over and is currently in her fifth season at Opening Ceremony. We saw a white lace trench coat whose delicacy was given a counterpoint by its rubberised finish, pants in muted blue leather that looked like denim, easy-to-wear asymmetric day dresses and a long tobacco leather coat that looks like an instant classic. The collection was full of well-made twists on wardrobe staples – that look as good on the inside as they do on the outside – as well as directional pieces in standout fabric. Litkovskaya goes to Premi? Re vision textiles fair in Paris to hunt for her cloth, and told us of pleading with a specialist French fabric manufacturer that usually only works with big French luxury brands to buy a quantity of a sequin fabric in a small volume that they would not normally permit. She had to make the case that her work was good enough for them to let her use it. The result? The S / S16 collection features a remarkable sequin fabric whose color and texture change when touched that was worked into dresses, jumpsuits and shirting – giving it that point of difference. Litkovskaya, who is self-funded, has built her business slowly, and eschews front row celebrities in favor of a small, professional audience of press and buyers. She and her team play the long game and have expanded as she gains more stockists. She doesn’t have big advertising budgets, and works with emerging Ukrainian artists, photographers and models to create videos for collections to produce innovative branding that looks beyond fashion. Her creative rigour and resourcefulness sets a good example to the designers coming up beneath her.

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Overall I thought that Ukrainian fashion week was a fantastically well-run event, with a lot of talent on show. Shows started on time and went without a hiccup, there were many things to see in the exhibition area, and the Arsenal is a fantastic venue. The next step will be building a strong, year round talent development program to ensure that young designers receive the creative and business mentorship they need to make the move from fledgling talent making clothes to financially sustainable, international brand that bring buyers with their order books. Many designers at Ukrainian Fashion Week survive with orders from wealthy individual clients – but such commissions are time-consuming and perhaps distract designers from taking the long view about how to build themselves as a brand. Not so many years ago London Fashion Week was not visited by big international buyers and press: the British Fashion Council had to make the case that as well as being fiercely talented creatively, designers in London could deliver product when it mattered. It is important to be aesthetically distinct – that will always be the primary reason a buyer will want to invest – but it's also important to understand your brand's place in the market, and that orders must be delivered on time, to a reliable quality and for the right price.

Ukrainian Fashion Week through the eyes of Rebecca May Johnson


When I arrived in Kiev, I did not know at all what to expect from Ukrainian Fashion Week. Like many journalists from the UK, my knowledge of Ukrainian fashion was formed mainly under the influence of bloody events on the Maidan last year, when designers had to literally fight for survival in the most difficult conditions. I was told that some of them made bulletproof vests for the fighters involved in the conflict, and I also saw photographs of designer works reflecting the political situation in the country from a philosophical point of view – these were really inspiring things. After 3 days of showing spring-summer collections next year, meetings with designers and visiting local shops, I was really delighted with what I saw, although I cannot but mention problematic issues.

On Wednesday evening at the Mystetskyi Arsenal there were many women dressed in beautiful long coats of blue and orange with abstract and floral accents. Also, I saw similar fabrics presented on the big poster of the event. It turned out that it was a collection of Poustovit, which is one of the most successful designers in the Ukrainian fashion, and the show of which opened for a week. However, I had a strong feeling that I had already seen these fabrics before – it seems that the designer was influenced by Stella Mccartney and her 2014 collection. Although I really liked the Lily's easy-to-wear collection with disharmonious Marimecco-style flowers and polka-dot clothes. And yesterday, after leaving, I realized the parallels of the Andre Tan show with other Mccartney concepts. Where Stella used polka dots from Mexican masks, Tan used colorful emoticons, but the effect was strikingly similar.



Poustovit ss 16

Fabric production

In order to survive in the competitive conditions of the international market, it is important for brands to have a thorough and special fabric manufacturing process. It is vital to stand out from the gray mass. If you want to work with prints, modify them again and again until you get something remarkable. And if you decide to do something simple, make sure that you use fabric of excellent quality. The collection of Artyom Klimchuk spring-summer 2016 is imperfect due to a lack of imagination through the prism of fabrics and patterns, and poplin in faded shades of pink and blue did not surprise anyone. Models Julia Polishchuk looked like a stewardess with hats, it seemed to me uncomplicated and boring. It’s the same, however, as with Nadi Dzyak, whose graphic prints, which dominate the collection, were too simplistic and clearly required refinement.

All about design

When it comes to a really good show of the collection, everything depends on the design. Of course, you can have at least 100 images that you could just show, but what will be your choice to emphasize the main idea? After watching the shows, I can name one main area that needs to be improved – their duration. About 10 bows, each of the designers could safely not show. More is not necessarily better. It would be much more harmonious if the shows were short and consisted of 12 images that are well organized, stylized and tailored. Leave the audience waiting for more, and that would be better than getting her to watch her wonders when the show will end.

Key points

The designers I can highlight (although I missed some exits on Saturday and Sunday since I left the city) were the ones who really took care of the concept and style in their collections.


Adam Katz Sinding, a street-style photographer for Le21eme who visited Fashion Week, told me that Bevza would be incomparable, and he was not mistaken. The show was stylized in the 90s with a bustling soundtrack in the style of shugeys, including the spectacular composition ‘For Love’ (1991) recently returned to the stage of the group Lush, which enthralled everyone. Everything was very stylish, the image of a working woman from the 90s, nostalgic about her youth, was in the air. Strict low-heeled clothing in burgundy suede contrasted with the hem of the dresses that were sewn to the front with stitches to the outside, standing collars and stickers on their faces – a nostalgic message to the digital teenage culture of secret diaries and stickers absorbed in emoticons and snapshots of modern life. Note to other designers, the shoes Bevza used did not just match the aesthetics of her collection – models could walk in her – almost all other displays used stilettos that the models simply took off so as not to damage their ankles. The white palette (Bevza's main style), gray, beige, mustard, lilac and velvety dark blue were very relevant, and the main highlight of the collection was presented in the last few dresses with faux fur. The white crepe dress to the lower leg with a fringing around the neckline with torn edges and a lowered edge was especially distinguished. It was a consistent, monumental production, catching the viewer with used music, accessories and style: Bevza is a true professional.


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On Thursday, immediately after Bevza, Ivan Frolov's show followed – an emotional and delightful show against the backdrop of the scenery of the headquarters of the former USSR. The invitation was made in the form of a silk scarf, covered with handmade embroidery, and became the key to the inspiration of the designer: it depicted the secret code of a gay culture developing in intolerance. The Hankey Code, which arose in New York in the 70s, uses a variety of colors and spaces to denote sexual fetishes. The fabrics and colors of silk handkerchiefs were not just elements of clothing, but clothing directly, which included both thin underwear and shawl dresses with jewelry for men and women. The set tone of the collection was clear at first glance: a black studded dress with rhinestones to the lower leg with translucent peach tones on the bottom of the model with a shaved head. The show was risky and, despite not so scrupulous preparation, more memorable than Bevza. Other foreign guests felt joy and excitement like me. Frolov is very talented: I hope that he will learn how to successfully combine creativity and commerce in order to continue to develop as a professional.

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The last on the list, but not in quality, whom I want to mention is Litkovskaya. I managed to visit her studio right before flying home, and I was very happy about it. Lilya Litkovskaya, who grew up in a family of Soviet tailors, is very good: it is not surprising that she was noticed by buyers of leading stores around the world, including the well-known retailer Opening Ceremony. I saw a white coat with lace, the sophistication of which was emphasized by a counterpoint in the form of a rubber trim, dull blue leather trousers that looked like denim, asymmetric easy-to-wear day dresses and long tobacco-colored coats that looked just amazing . The collection was full of various essential wardrobe items that looked inside as good as the outside, made from beautiful fabrics. Not so long ago, Lily visited Premi? Re Vision in Paris in order to negotiate with a specialist in the manufacture of fabrics in France, who usually works only with large French brands. She had to prove that her work was worth it. Did she succeed? The spring-summer 2016 collection proves that yes, it includes remarkable fabrics with sparkles that change color when touched, and were used in dresses, overalls and shirts, making them noteworthy. Litkovskaya financed herself and built her business slowly. Instead of celebrities, she chooses a small but very professional circle of buyers and representatives of the press. She and her team play a long game, expanding the circle of sellers and developing their business. She does not have a large advertising budget, and she works with beginner Ukrainian artists, photographers and models to create video displays of collections and a brand that is out of fashion. Her creative rigor and resourcefulness are a good example for designers who do not reach her level.

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In conclusion, I would like to note that Ukrainian Fashion Week was a fantastic event with excellent organization and many talents on the catwalk. The shows started on time and went without sudden breaks, many things could be seen in the exhibition center and in general, Arsenal is a great venue for events. The next step will be to develop a one-year training program for young designers so that they receive mentoring in the fields of creativity and business for the subsequent movement forward – from an inexperienced talented designer who produces clothes, to a financially successful, international brand. Many designers literally survive thanks to the orders of wealthy customers, but such orders are inconsistent, time-dependent and, perhaps, only distract from the development of a more detailed plan for their development as a brand. Not so many years ago, London Fashion Week was not visited by serious international buyers. Британскому модному совету пришлось доказывать, что дизайнеры в Лондоне не только талантливы, но и смогут поставить продукт при необходимости. Очень важно выделяться с эстетической точки зрения – это всегда будет первой причиной, по которой покупатель захочет инвестировать – но также важно понимать место Вашего бренда на рынке, и заказы должны доставляться вовремя, в надежном качестве и за приемлемую цену.

Фото: Adam Katz Sinding



Tags: Arsenal, bevza, fashion, frolov, litkovskaya, Rebecca May Johnson, UFW

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