In the run up to flying to Kyiv in the name of fashion, “I’m heading to Ukrainian Fashion Week” was met with many a puzzled face. “Ukraine has a fashion week… Since when?,” friends asked. The answer is over two decades – 22 years, in fact. And, much like the schedule in London and the rest, the shows come around twice a year. With a roster of 100-odd designers, you can deduce the maths: that’s lots of clothes on show.

The zeal for travelling three hours east this season was to see first-hand the buzz around Ukrainian talent that’s reverberated to home soil. Thanks to the output from Kiev-based designers like Anton Belinsky, Paskal and Ksenia Schnaider – who offer up social critique, deconstructed aesthetics and a lesson in art history – this post-Soviet state has been creeping up in both our Instagram feeds and consciousness; the former, naturally, informing the latter. 

However, all three brands weren’t part of the Ukrainian Fashion Week festivities. Instead, it’s Paris they gravitate to. Anton Belinsky, who was nominated for LVMH prize in 2015, first showed on the official Paris Fashion Week schedule in AW17, alongside architecture graduate Julie Paskal of Paskal, who you’ll find stocked in Harvey Nichols and Dover Street Market. Meanwhile, Ksenia Schnaider, by designer Ksenia Marchenko and Russian graphic designer Anton Schnaider, have their sights firmly set on Parisian shores. Later this month, the duo – who are best-known for their jean innovation (remember those asymmetrical jeans that broke the internet?) – will be pitching up in the capital to showcase their Spring/Summer 2020 collection. Ksenia, who I spoke to while in Kiev explained, “Of course I love my home town but it’s too small for me and my ambitions; we’re now an international brand so it’s important for us to show there.”


Ksenia Marchenko on Ksenia Schnaider's aesthetic. 

With that all being said, I was intrigued to uncover what the official Ukrainian Fashion Week schedule held. A scan of the line-up before setting off proved I, on behalf of the team, had a lot of scouting to do; between us, no more than five names rung any bells. Among them, Poustovit by designer Lilia Poustovit, Lake Studio by Anastasia Riabokon and Olesya Kononova and Theo by Theo Dekan.


Poustovit. 

Held at Mystetsyi Arsenal, the architectural monument that is Ukraine’s flagship cultural institution, the majority of the happenings were housed in the complex – much like what 180 The Strand is to London. A handful, like aforementioned Lake Studio and newly-discovered Jean Gristfeldt, opted to pop-up around the city. For Lake Studio – who have been showing on the schedule since 2014 – chic women (with heavy eyes and sleek, parted hair), took to the once derelict-turned-cultural hotspot, ‘River Station’ that overlooked the Dnipro River. Clad in ankle-grazing metallics, wrap dresses with nods to East Asian influence, and voluminous dresses of the sheer variety, complete with sandals that appeared to rival the comfort of clouds, a timeless take on dressing proved the brand’s modus operandi.


Lake Studio.

Elsewhere, Jean Gritsfeldt – who first showed his collection on the schedule in 2012 – chose to take us to the races to unveil his Spring/Summer collection, Centaurs’ Racing. Following a display of dressage at the Equides Club, his abstract imagination mashed up medieval mythology and Ascot to yield designs that introduced rope and chain motifs on a bed of kaleidoscopic prints; futuristic shades and artificial manes tied the looks together. Natch.


Jean Gritsfeldt.


Over at the main arena, those on my radar – Poustovit and Theo – both surpassed expectations. Liliya Poustovit of her namesake – whose been a mainstay on the Kiev fashion scene since the late 90s – looked to the village of Saint-Paul-De-Vence for inspiration, where artists like Picasso and Matisse used to frequent; the infamous hotel, La Colombe d’Or, to be precise. Bright combinations realised on billowing dresses, the result of her reverie. A world away from that of Poustovit and the South of France, Theo went XXL on the power shoulders and structured silhouettes to fashion forever pieces, designed to bank double-takes and “where did she get that?” remarks. Meanwhile, A.M.G. by Aliona Bettyar was another brand that piqued my interest in a big way for its tailoring prowess; a 70s-esque wide lapel shirt teamed with a full beige tailored leather look, my highlight. 


A.M.G.

Despite the schedule spanning across five days with panel discussions on sustainability, a fashion film festival and myriad presentations, it was only a whistle-stop 48 hours I spent in Kiev. The 48 hours were, though, enough to get a feel for the zeitgeist of Ukrainian fashion and where it’s going. With progressive ideas and international appeal, I expect to hear more from the likes of Poustovit, Theo and Lake Studio. Keen, I certainly am, to see where the imaginations of these brands will take us next… 


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