Ukrainian brands Bevza and Di Stavnitser showcase elegance and resilience in Paris
If there is one word that describes all Ukrainian brands, it is resilience. Having been forced to cope with the war that is now approaching its one-year anniversary, many fashion brands have faced the challenge of fighting for survival and reinventing their businesses, creating their collections while in refuge abroad or while having to listen to the sound of sirens and bombings nearby, as designer Lili Litkovska explained just a few days ago after her fashion show.
Bevza's Paris debut
A regular at New York Fashion Week for the past 12 seasons, the Ukrainian firm Bevza, founded in 2006, made its first intimate presentation in Paris, in order to reach out to its European customers.
"We are in a period of transition. I didn't want to organise a fashion show but rather an intimate gathering where we could talk and exchange ideas. After the last year spent in Ukraine, this collection is a dialogue between life and death, reflecting the desire for freedom in the world," explained Svitlana Bevza, founder and designer of the brand.
The presentation showcased black and white garments, such as minimalist dresses featuring hand-embroidered feather wings, satin cut-out dresses and structured tailored looks.
Based in the center of Kiev, near the President's office, the brand gradually resumed activity two months after the outbreak of the war.
"We have kept our production in Ukraine and continue to manufacture prototypes in the capital. It is a way of trusting and claiming the quality and tailoring know-how we have in our country", said the entrepreneur proudly, underlining the positive attitude of the factory workers since its reopening last summer, which made it possible to "maintain wages and ensure a certain mental stability" for people who spend a lot of time in shelters to protect themselves from bombings.
"People were coming in eagerly, saying 'we cannot just sit idle, we need a job'," she said of the "Ukrainian mentality in the face of survival." This has involved a rapid adaptation to an extremely harsh environment. The company currently employs 20 workers.
"Many factories bought power generators, others transferred production to protected locations and, quickly, we started to keep each other informed via telegram to find out what is happening or what the threats are. At first, when we heard sirens, we quickly ran to protect ourselves in the basement; whereas now we have adapted and, when there is no clear danger, we continue working," said Bevza about the extreme circumstances. "It is not that we have become accustomed to it, but those of us who still live in Ukraine have no other choice," she explained.
According to the founder, the brand has received "huge support" from customers and buyers, who have been patient in receiving their orders without cancelling them during these difficult times. Today, the brand retails its garments through its own online store or points of sale like The Frankie Shop and Printemps, in France; Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, in the United Kingdom; or Bergdorf Goodman and Intermix, in the United States; in addition to having a presence in markets such as China, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon or Turkey. The company is also available online through the Canadian online retailer Ssense and the U.S.-based retailer Moda Operandi.
"It may seem incredible, but the business has continued to do very well despite these circumstances. The results have been very positive," beamed the entrepreneur, who arrived in Paris after a 24-hour trip from Ukraine via Poland.
Di Stavnister's birth
Launching a brand in the midst of war? What many may consider madness, fashion entrepreneur Diana Stavnister has found the most logical response to a dark and uncertain context. Lover of vintage fashion and collector of objects from her travels around the world, the founder of the brand arrived in Paris to present her debut collection now available for pre-order.
The premium label offers minimalist pieces with clean lines and focuses on the unique character of the garments, which are finished off with mismatched vintage buttons or jewelled details as well as meticulous finishes made from men's handkerchiefs. The brand uses deadstock fabrics that have been left over from reputable luxury brands such as Armani or Valentino to construct its garments.
Classic tailoring combined with avant-garde designs, such as revealing backs or shoulders and puffed sleeve pieces that can be paired with different type of garments, were part of what the designer, currently based in Cape Town, considers to be "a complete and timeless closet of basic and essential pieces." The handcrafted garments are for now produced in a workshop in Poland, which the entrepreneur hopes to move to Ukraine once the war is over.
"I like to live in a beautiful world surrounded by beautiful things, I am passionate about aesthetics. The community I have created around my vintage projects was waiting for me to launch my own firm. I really wanted to launch a project dedicated to strong and independent Ukrainian women," said Stavnister about the launch of her eponymous brand. "Even though we are in times of war, women want to dress and feel beautiful. This collection pays tribute to that will and tries to remind us that better times are coming soon," she continued, stressing that "Ukraine has hope and believes in continuing to fight."
"We have to show the world that we are strong and that we want to continue living and doing things. Fashion is a great way of expressing this determination," she concluded.
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