Ukraine's creative scene is bursting with fresh talent – here’s who to keep an eye on
What’s the secret behind the rise of a local fashion scene? It could be a generational shift, a critical mass of young talent in the right place at the right time, an influential educational institution, or perhaps a flourishing underground scene. Fashion has the tremendous power to put places on the map – just look at Antwerp during the 80s. These days we talk a lot about the rise of the new fashion capitals beyond Paris, London and New York, and in an industry driven by the internet and social media, the old hierarchies cease to make sense anymore. Simply put: there’s much more out there to be discovered.
The rise of Kiev’s fashion scene is an unlikely one: Ukraine is going through a tough economic crisis and institutional support in the creative sector is almost entirely non-existent. Yet, somehow, in less than ten years, the city has seen the stellar rise of fashion talents. Admittedly, Ukrainian fashion gained a lot of attention on the back of post-Soviet hype, but its designers’ messages, particularly after the revolution of 2014, couldn’t have been more different. Rather than exploring the past, they focus on the search for national identity and independence, and overcoming the trauma of the Soviet years to write a brand new history for a new generation. Fashion in Kiev today is part of an emerging youth culture, alongside fresh rebel photography talents such as Synchrodogs and Join the Cool, and its burgeoning rave scene.
For AW17, Paskal and Anton Belinskiy were part of the official Paris Fashion Week schedule – a major breakthrough for an area which proves that it’s so much more than poor, sad kids in front of towerblocks. From minimal womenswear to subversive sexuality, a mixture of good and bad taste, innovative denim, gender fluid garments and maximalism, here are the designers shaping Ukraine’s current fashion scene.
Architecture graduate Julie Paskal draws inspiration from shapes which surround us in daily life, both in urban environments and nature. Her high-tech florals, innovative laser cutting techniques and texture juxtapositions make up for playful yet contemporary womenswear. Paskal is perhaps the most successful Ukrainian designer to date, with over 50 stockists globally including retail heavyweights like Colette, Dover Street Market and Harvey Nichols.
Nominated for the LVMH prize in 2015 and endorsed by VFiles, Anton Belinskiy is a driving force for Ukrainian fashion. The self-appointed ringleader of Kiev’s new fashion talents at One Day Project, he represents not just himself but the whole generation of upcoming Ukrainian creatives. In his work he channels cultural rebellion, youthful romanticism and social critique – his latest collection, titled Exchange, features rows of numbers which could be seen in currency exchange bureaus all over Kiev, a witty take on economical crisis and global inequality.
Yulia Yefimtchuk is perhaps the only cutting-edge Ukrainian designer citing communist and socialist iconography amongst her key inspirations. The abundance of bright red, references to bold shapes of constructivism and avant-garde art are, for her, more about the hopeful idea of utopia rather than the history of oppression. Yefimtchuk’s workwear-style designs could easily make a perfect unisex uniform for the generation.
Emerging label Drag&Drop run by sisters Anna and Yulia Grazhdan is set to dismantle stereotypes of Eastern European women and challenge the representation of female sexuality in fashion. In their AW17 collection, they used materials often associated with bad taste and trashy sex appeal – such as snakeskin, lace and velvet – in designs which were not just ironic, but also comfortable and liberating for the body.
Sasha Kanevski established his eponymous brand in 2010 and channels the free spirit of the Kiev rave scene, but with a global appeal. Functionality, transformable details and high-tech materials give his unisex garments a contemporary feel. Kanevski’s shows are always highly anticipated, with his collections presented by models and creative Ukrainian youth alike – at times jumping out from cars or inside a fighting arena.
Minimalist Svetlana Bevza is a go-to designer for a post-Céline combination of comfort and boldness. Her work is characterised by purity, monochrome, clean lines and graphic cuts – from minimal dresses and tailored trousers to silk hoodies. For AW17, Bevza channelled her personal history through flower patterns from archived Ukrainian headscarves turned into digital prints and also references to her mother’s wardrobe in the 90s.
Masha Reva has been working in fashion for a few years as an illustrator, printmaker and womenswear designer, and is also a graduate of the prestigious Central Saint Martins MA fashion course. As an artist, she worked on a range of projects involving the struggle of Ukraine’s new generation for independence during and after the revolution. Her latest collection integrates her drawings into physical garments through the technology of heat-pressing thermal film into the material with a range of powerful statement pieces as a result.
The Ksenia Schnaider label was set up by Ukrainian fashion designer Ksenia Marchenko and Russian graphic designer Anton Schnaider. Anton is responsible for the label’s signature camouflage prints and Ksenia for the clothing design. Recently they’ve also experimented with ripped, distressed and cut off denim and slicing and reworking vintage sportswear.
Subrosa’s designs reflect the new generation’s desire for freedom and gender fluidity in the way they dress; the black velvet jumpsuit with one arm cut off is probably great to skateboard in, and a powder pink flared pantsuit could be easily worn by a boy or a girl. The functionality of sportswear is combined with Gucci-esque flamboyance and quality material — it’d fit perfectly into the most eclectic contemporary wardrobe.
Unlike most of his peers in Kyiv, Frolov serves up outrageous maximalism combining see-through lurex and lace, velvet and translucent shiny materials. At the same time, his take on luxury and sex appeal is subversive; its deconstructed, unisex aesthetic can be easily thrown together with a casual hoodie or t-shirt.