Faced with the onset of war and a large-scale invasion by Russia, Ukrainian designers and other fashion executives offered a stark view of their experience on Thursday.
In retaliation for the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the US administration, 27 members of the European Union, Australia and other countries announced plans Thursday afternoon to hamper the Russian economy.
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President Joe Biden revealed new sanctions against Russia. Addressing how Putin’s military efforts threaten freedom everywhere, Biden said, “Aggression cannot go unaddressed, if it did, the consequences for America would be far worse. America stands up to bullies. We stand up to bullies. We defend freedom. It’s who we are.
As Russian tanks continue to roll into Ukraine and bombs are dropped in various cities, traffic has intensified in Kyiv, with many residents seeking refuge in neighboring countries.
As more US military troops were deployed to Germany in response to the invasion of Ukraine, major retailers like H&M and Adidas were watching the situation closely. H&M has closed its nine stores in Ukraine until further notice, according to a company spokesperson.
Some fashion designers based in the capital Kiev, such as Alina Kachorovska, had taken refuge in underground metro stations to avoid airstrikes. Other designers, like Ivan Frolov, the creative force behind the Frolov label, had evacuated Kyiv en route to Poland. But that didn’t happen due to mandates put in place Thursday night that prevent Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country. Only women and children are currently allowed there.
Jen Sidary, a global fashion brand strategist who is showcasing six Ukrainian brands in New York this week, said she has been in “constant contact” with Frolov and other designers since the airstrikes began. Besides Kachorovska and Frolov, Elena Burenina, Chereshnivska, Paskal and 91 Lab are the brands that Sidary works with.
Burenina and her team were sheltering in place in Kiev. Frolov, her boyfriend and a few friends had packed their bags and were driving on back roads to avoid major cities in an attempt to get to Poland. “There is some pretty horrific coverage right now that the Kremlin will target members of the LGBQT community. Hopefully Ivan will reach the border at 2:30 am Kyiv time. I text him every hour,” Sidary said.
However, this hope has disappeared, due to the new mandates.
Eponymous shoe designer Alina Kachorovska, whose grandmother started making shoes in Ukraine in 1957, had just returned to the land of Lineapelle in Milan. “She was very happy about it because she has three children,” Sidary said. “At 4am EST, Alina was in her design studio right after the bombing. These Ukrainians can’t stop working. I’m in awe.
Noting that Kachorovska’s design studio is not located in a secure building, Sidary said she moved to take shelter but “stays strong with her family.” Acknowledging reports that Putin plans to repeatedly hit Kiev and overtake the capital, Sidary said, “I think we have to be prepared for what is to come.
In an email Thursday afternoon, Public Kitchen founder Anastasia Ivchenko said she and her business partner Eugenia Skibina and most of their team members remain in Kyiv. The PR company works with Ukrainian fashion brands such as Ienki Ienki, Katimo, Anna October, Jul and Oberig. Some Public Kitchen employees have decided to relocate to the west of the country for security reasons. When military sirens signal potential airstrikes in Kyiv, public kitchen workers go to the nearest underground bomb shelters, Ivchenko said.
Awakened at 5 a.m. by the sound of explosions, Ivchenko said it was very difficult to speak of any calm. “Ukraine is the geographical center of Europe, a country with an extremely rich history and culture with a surprisingly strong spirit and a creative economy that breaks all the patterns of ideas about Eastern Europe”, she said. “The war in eastern Ukraine has been going on for eight years, but today Russia attacked us on a large scale, including in Kiev, where our team, most of our customers and our friends live.”
As recently as Wednesday, despite the threat of military action at the time, Ienki Ienki employees were eager to discuss how the brand had spent six months designing parkas for scientists at the research base Vernadsky working at the National Antarctic Science Center of Ukraine. Ienki Ienki presented his collection in Milan on Wednesday as planned.
Skibina said they are keeping “cool heads and fiery hearts” and staying in touch with family and friends as a show of support. “We support each other. That’s all we can do now. We don’t give up and we do what we have to do – we tell the world about Ukraine, all its diversity of talent, its rich culture and its amazing people. she says. “There are many of us here. And we need the support of the world, while our country is on the front line.
After being in touch with her family in Kyiv on Thursday, Ukrainian-born fashion designer Nataliya Ivantsova, who runs her iconic Miami company, said they were hiding bombs in underground subway stations and old buildings, including those that had been used as shelter. during the Second World War. Noting how the airstrikes were happening from east to west in Ukraine, Ivantsova said Ukraine “can be attacked from all sides from land, sea and air.”
Some of his relatives, who live in Kharkiv, suffered an explosion right next to their house, forcing them “to take the children and flee to nowhere”. Located in the northeast of Ukraine, the city has more than 1.4 million inhabitants. They also say that Kharkiv is “so blocked that it is difficult for them to even get out of the city”, she said.
Having heard from friends in Ukraine who are actively involved in charity, Ivantsova tries to figure out how to get Ukrainian residents what they need through other friends, who work in diplomatic relations. “I was told today that even the hot water was not working. We have to figure out how things can be shipped to Ukraine because now they say a lot of airports [there] will be bombarded. Some of them have already been bombed,” she said. “We just need to figure out what we can do.”
Although the designer does some manufacturing in Kyiv, now is not the time to think about changing operations there in any way, she said. Many stocks are available in the United States and the company uses other factories, including one in Mongolia, so as not to be dependent on any factory.
“My family is fine but you don’t know what might happen next,” Ivantsova said. “The whole country could easily be on fire.”
As of Wednesday, the founders of the Gunia project, Natalia Kamenska and Maria Gavrilyuk, planned to stay in Kiev. A spokeswoman for them said on Thursday that communication in Kyiv is periodically lost due to airstrikes. She said Kamenska and Gavrilyuk would comment on Friday, adding that “today is so emotional and now the main thing for us is to survive the night.”
Sidary was among more than 100 people who attended a rally in Times Square on Thursday to protest the war in Ukraine. “After that, everyone headed to the Russian consulate,” she said. “We came back to the showroom. We still have retailers placing orders.
Recalling a call with Burenina on Thursday, Sidary said she advised the company’s employees were all safe. “She wanted to tell me that if I take orders for her brand, she will produce them and make sure retailers get their orders. It’s amazing how hard these people work. That wasn’t really why I called them.
Noting how Russia clearly wants to overtake Ukraine and harm the country’s economy, as evidenced by frozen assets and banks, Sidary said she has brands trying – so far without success – to send money to Ukrainians to donate. “They can’t even access their money,” Sidary said. “I think supporting Ukraine in every way possible is what we should be doing.”
Across the border from Ukraine in Russia, a spokesperson for fashion-oriented department store Tsum said on Thursday that “so far nothing has changed in terms of business operations” at its Moscow and St. -Petersburg. The company also has multiple pick-up points in six cities across Russia as well as Belarus, which also borders Ukraine. Personally, the spokesperson said: “This is a very worrying situation. We are all surprised. We watch, of course, all the meetings and check all the situations. People don’t agree. Of course, it’s not our decision. We want to live in peace and live in love.
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