On October 18 at the Saatchi Gallery, London will get to see Ukrainian fashion up close for the very first time. This event takes place in partnership with Ukrainian Fashion Week (UFW). We caught up with Iryna Danylevska, chair of the UFW organizing committee and curator of the fashion show during The Days of Ukraine in the UK. Iryna Danylevska is the female icon of Ukrainian fashion thanks to whom Ukrainian designers are known in the world today. She talked to us about the soul of Ukrainian fashion and gave us a sneak-peek at what we can look forward to in this fashion show in London.
Tell us briefly, what’s Ukrainian about Ukrainian fashion?
No matter how much we globalize, the fashion of each country has its recognizable characteristics. This is what keeps the world of fashion moving forward—otherwise, we risk finding ourselves wearing a global “uniform.” What Ukraine has brought world fashion, I think, is its emotionalism, its particular conceptual, intellectual womanliness. The “soul” of Ukrainian fashion is in its thousand-year old culture. However much individual designers might declare themselves cosmopolitan, their roots, their source is here, in Ukraine. And it’s not a matter of decor, cut or specific colors, or the symbols of Trypillia or the experiments of Malevich. It’s a matter of the global and Ukrainian context that we all live and work in. In short, we have Ukrainian designers.
Does this mean that you’re going to show mostly fashion with ethnic motifs in London?
Fashion is a unique cultural product. It doesn’t need translation. This is what our designers will be saying on the podium: that we are a European country. As the chosen ambassadors of Ukrainian fashion, these designers will not only show their latest collections, but will prove, once again, that Ukraine’s enormous fashion potential is based on a melding of the contemporary and the historical, on the exceptional “Europeanness” of Ukrainian fashion, which nevertheless has deep ethnic roots.
Whom exactly will our London audience get to see?
You’ll see some of the biggest names in Ukrainian fashion design: Lilia Poustovit, Lilia Litkovskaya, Svitlana Bevza, and the tandem KAMENSKAKONONOVA, Natalia Kamenska and Olesia Kononova. Each of these women has represented Ukraine at international fashion events many a time. And all of them have been named the best designer in Ukraine at the Best Fashion Awards—the top prize in Ukraine’s fashion world.
Most people who talk about Ukraine’s cultural achievements have in mind music, painting and literature. How did fashion become part of this cultural event, Days of Ukraine in the UK?
You’re right. Fashion hasn’t quite become a visiting card for Ukraine culture... yet. But European fashion circles are already talking about the “phenomenon of Ukrainian fashion.” I mean, there are plenty of successful, stable European countries that don’t have such a powerful fashion movement. The academic school of soviet times gave birth to the first wave of designers—Lilia Poustovit, Viktoria Gres, Tetiana Zemskova, Olena Vorozhbit, and Oleksiy Zalevsity—which made it possible to talk about Ukrainian fashion at least nominally. In the 17 years since we started Ukrainian Fashion Week, more than one new generation of talented designers has appeared, who are known, not just within Ukraine, but far beyond its borders. I know from personal experience that their models have impressed European professionals. Now our designers are laying the path to world markets. I think it’s just a matter of time before they break through. Projects like The Days of Ukraine in the UK organized Firtash Foundation to help this process.
What makes London the right place to show Ukrainian Fashion?
Each of the world’s four fashion capitals—New York, Milan, London and Paris—has established a particular reputation. And in this quartet, London holds the banner as the most creative. London’s Fashion Week is the place for experimentation and for demonstrating crazy ideas. Having made it to London with fragments of their new collections, our Ukrainian designers will get the most appreciative and, in my opinion, the most appreciative and sophisticated audience. For creative Ukrainian designers to show before experienced and demanding London society—that’s a conversation of equals. It’s in London that viewers will be able to evaluate, not only their commercial prospects or the size of their advertising campaign, but their creative potential.