As Ukraine’s creative community currently faces many challenges due to the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine War, Coresight Research, Mastercard, the Parsons School of Design and Retailers United (a charitable organization helping retailers impacted by the pandemic), showcased six Ukrainian fashion designers as part of Kyiv Art & Fashion Days at New York Fashion Week.
The event took place on September 13, 2022, at the Mastercard Tech Hub, Mastercard’s recently remodeled New York City offices. It provided the designers a chance to present, promote and sell their designs via both static presentations and a panel discussion.
In this report, we present key insights from the panel discussion and profiles of the six participating designers.
Kyiv Art & Fashion Days at New York Fashion Week: Coresight Research Insights
Event and Panel Discussion
Deborah Weinswig, CEO and Founder of Coresight Research, moderated a panel with leaders in the creative and digital communities:
- Sue Kelsey, EVP of Global Product at Mastercard
- Mickey Boardman, Editor at Large at Paper Magazine
- Liana Satenstein, Senior Fashion Write at Vogue
- Ivan Frolov, a Ukrainian designer and Founder of FROLOV
The 30-minute panel discussion educated attendees about the challenges facing Ukraine’s creative community and how the international community can provide support during this challenging period, through direct commerce, philanthropy and sustainability.
As 99% of businesses in Ukraine are small or medium-sized businesses, it is important to support them through direct commerce. Outside of the event, purchasing pieces from Ukrainian designers’ and brands’ websites was identified as a great way to support creatives from the country. Kelsey stated that Mastercard would seek to assist Ukrainian commerce with payment support. As the Russia-Ukraine War has eroded infrastructure, digital infrastructure for payments is a crucial lifeline for small and medium-sized businesses.
In terms of philanthropy, especially monetary donations, panelists discussed how international benefactors can support through the UNITED24 fundraising platform—the official platform for charitable donations to Ukraine, launched by President Zelenskyy. Philanthropic efforts are also occurring within the country itself: Frolov discussed how his brand reopened its production facilities a few weeks into the Russia-Ukraine war to produce military clothing and equipment.
By purchasing sustainable, long-lasting pieces from Ukrainian designers, such as the designs presented at the event, the international community can help preserve the crafts and culture of Ukraine. Frolov discussed how his designs are made to be worn in multiple different ways, regardless of the season, making them more sustainable; he also offers free alterations and repair services to his customers.
The Six Ukrainian Designers: Profiles
Founded in 2000 by Kristina Bobkova, a permanent member of Ukrainian Fashion Week since 1998, Bobkova is a fashion brand based out of Kyiv. The brand describes itself in three terms—“gentlewomen, Japanese mastercut and confident femininity”—and says its goal is to create always relevant pieces, regardless of the time of year or occasion.
To create the brand’s gender-neutral pieces, the designer often rethinks men’s clothing pieces, such as repurposing a traditional men’s shirt design into an asymmetrical dress. Recently, Bobkova has focused on creating footwear, handbags and handmade accessories for the “smart, creative, but practical woman.”
Fashion brand Elena Burenina, founded in 2006 and named after its founder, is currently headquartered in Paris, France. The brand aims to deliver premium pieces that feature special attention to detail, and its pieces are currently exhibited in concept stores worldwide, including in Canada, China, Italy and Ukraine. The designer states that her design motivators are “the desire to be loved, confident and open to new achievements.”
According to the designer, Elena Burenina’s clothes are meant to emphasize the dignity of the wearer through a balance of professionalism and delicate design. In Elena Burenina’s pieces, distinguished by their high-quality materials and subtle-yet-vibrant accents, the designer says she explores contrasting ideas, such as male and female, strength and softness, and structure and fluidity.
FROLOV is a couture ready-to-wear brand headquartered in Kyiv. Before launching his brand in 2015, Frolov was a resident at the 2014 Ukrainian Fashion Week, during which Vogue Runway covered his pieces.
The FROLOV brand combines comfort, innovation, provocation and social responsibility through its corsets, lux fabrics and detailed embellishments. Frolov aims to raise awareness about important social issues through his designs, including those related to human sexuality and the LGBTQ+ movement. As the designer explained, “Sometimes people pronounce FROLOV as ‘for love’—and there is no mistake, [because] the first thing we create as a brand is a love, and everything we do is with love.”
The designer says FROLOV pieces are meant for those who value self-expression, love experimentation and view fashion as more than just clothing. Various celebrities have worn FROLOV designs, including Doja Cat, Dua Lipa, Rita Ora, Coco Rocha and Gwen Stefani.
Founded in 2015 in Kyiv, Gudu is a Georgian-Ukrainian fashion brand aiming to empower women through tailored looks that emphasize femininity. According to its creative director, Georgian designer Lasha Mdinaradze, “The woman is always in the very center of my attention; I wish to create outfits for her that would reveal her gentle power, personality and passion all at once.”
Mdinaradze describes Gudu’s aesthetic as “self-sufficient,” meaning the looks do not require accessories. The brand’s pieces stand out due to their silhouettes, which accentuate the female form.
Ukrainian designer Lilia Litkovskaya started her brand, Litkovskaya, in 2009. In addition to holding a master’s degree from Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, one of Ukraine’s leading technical universities, Litkovskaya comes from four generations of tailors and aims to preserve her ancestral craft through her gender-neutral designs. Litkovskaya’s designs have sold worldwide and received significant attention at various events, including Paris Fashion Week.
The brand describes its aesthetics as “masculine shapes carried on feminine shoulders,” and its pieces feature expert tailoring and prominent silhouettes. In the spring of 2022, while showing her newest pieces at Paris Fashion Week, Litkovskaya showcased the designs of 45 other Ukrainian designers who could not make it to Paris at her Tranoi Trade Show, seizing the opportunity to raise awareness about the Russia-Ukraine war.
Valery Kovalska is a Ukrainian designer of ready-to-wear fashion. Kovalska’s fashion career began in college when she became a stylist for her friends. She now attributes part of her success as a designer to her experience as a stylist, as she came to understand how people perceive their bodies and how their moods impacted their clothing preferences. Since launching her self-titled brand in 2013, Kovalska has received international media attention and has participated in fashion weeks in Kyiv, London and Los Angeles.
The designer currently has two labels: Valery Kovalska and KO Studio. Kovalska describes her pieces as extravagant, feminine and comfortable. Her designs represent a mix of classical tailoring, unique design prints, pleats and deconstructed architectural cuts, all of which are united by skilled handiwork. Kovalska states that she does not design for a specific person in mind, but instead aims to make women worldwide feel comfortable and empowered, no matter if they need something for a black-tie occasion or simply an everyday wardrobe staple.
Coresight Research would like to give special thanks to everyone who made Kyiv Art & Fashion Days at New York Fashion Week possible, including Mastercard, the Parsons School of Design and Retailers United, as well as the following individuals: Brendan Cannon, Chris Constable, Keanan Duffty, Nancy Garcia, Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan, Emilie Kroner, Lia Mausolf and Kay Unger.