Held for the very first time in November 1997, Ukrainian Fashion Week was the first real, runway-based, event dedicated to fashion within Eastern Europe. With more than 50 shows -as well as presentations- on its calendar, this dynamic fashion week keeps introducing a new wave of Ukrainian designers within the heart of Kyiv, its vibrant capital city.
Trying to understand the essence of Ukrainian fashion is no easy task, despite brands such as Litkovskaya, Paskal and Vita Kin enjoying international growth and success. If simplicity and construction appeal to the industry’s most prominent names, a subversive touch is also part of the local fashion jargon, avoiding sartorial clichés and promoting individuality. More cerebral and conceptual than their Russian or Georgian peers, Ukrainian designers like to play with contradictions while avoiding gimmicks and gratuitous effects.
This season, the best collections turned gender on its head, underlining the strength of ambivalence and exchange. Womenswear toughened-up -mainly through sharp and oversize tailoring- while menswear became tactile and more delicate, with transparency and embroidered motifs catching the eye. Artem Klimchuk did not disappoint with his precise and confident show. He has an actual following in Ukraine and his menswear looks were the best, emphasizing a subtle balance between soft and hard. At Flow The Label, Viktoria Balaniuk focused on intricate cuts and androgynous styles, from utility-inspired overalls to beautifully-cut pantsuits. Her dresses had an innocent country girl feel, fastened with contrasting lacing. A similar focus on cut and minimalism defined Przhonskaya’s striking collection, which illustrated the subdued and controlled appeal of Ukrainian fashion best. Sticking to a few fabrics only, such as checked wool, faux-fur, patchwork tweed and jersey, Helen Przhonskaya proved that modesty dressing can be directional and sensual. Eccentric statements are, in fact, not what you will find in Kyiv, but new designers showed they also have a sense of humor. SIX, launched in 2017 by Julia Bohdan, delivered a sleek and inspiring show, where she managed to make beige alcantara and crocodile print satin desirable. Pants were wide and high-waisted, while jackets remained manly and loose, advancing the ongoing male/female discussion. Asked about the complex nature of Ukrainian fashion, Lilia Litkovskaya offered her own analysis: “There is definitely a specific taste in our culture, which you can also find in fashion. Respect for quality, beautiful fabrics and a sense of irony may define some of the designers here. I properly launched my brand in 2009 and went international from the very beginning. I was honestly surprised to see how instinctively and positively people responded to what we did.” We can only wish the newest names on the calendar as bright -and promising- a future as Litkovskaya has enjoyed so far.
/ Review by Philippe Pourhashemi /