While Ukraine has no famous designer schools and studios, unlike New York or Paris, local designers create and develop their own brands, relying on intuition, talent and persistence. Their latest collections were displayed during the annual Ukrainian Fashion Week, which ended in October. In case you missed the show, here is a list of the 10 most popular Ukrainian fashion designers:
Aina Gasse is best known as a designer for Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. However, even before Gasse became famous, she was making garments for the wives of businessmen, politicians and female celebrities. A decade ago, she took a loan from a bank to start her own business and opened her namesake atelier. Since then, Gasse has won several designer awards at Ukrainian Fashion Week competitions. She is the only Ukrainian designer to have entered the Italian Fashion Chamber after taking part in Haute Couture Week in Rome in 2008. Last February, Gasse presented her new fall-winter 2009–2010 pret-a-porter (French for ready-to-wear) collection atthe prestigious international exhibition inParis for commercial buyers. She has started gaining international clientele. Gasse’s trademark style includes curvy lines, well-rounded cuts, three-quarter length puffed sleeves and bows. Her recent show of the spring–summer 2010 collection, which took place on Nov. 4 in Kyiv’s InterContinental Hotel, is inspired by Art Nouveau style. Romantic flowers, leaves and fairy creatures abound in the prints on light dresses, blouses and pants made of silk, satin, crepe chiffon, organza and jersey fabrics. The color schemes are natural tints – deep-green, smoky gray, muted plum, warm tones of beige, and chocolate. The clothing line is complemented by shoes, handbags and accessories featuring silver elements and carved wood.
Roksolana Bogutska has been creating fashion collections in Ukrainian folk style for years. Among her fans is Ukrainian First Lady Kateryna Yushchenko, known for her passion for folk dresses. It was Bogutska who created a dress that Kateryna Yushchenko wore to the presidential inauguration in 2005. Also among her regular clients are Ukrainian pop stars Ruslana and Natalka Karpa. Bogutska combines traditional Ukrainian embroidery and beading with modern clothing. She prefers to work exclusively with natural materials, such as silk, wool and cotton. Also, Bogutska is the first Ukrainian designer to begin using fur in her designs.
Bogutska had presented her first collection at the Fashion Seasons Ukrainian Ready-to-Wear Week, a predecessor of Ukrainian Fashion Week, 11 years ago. Since then, the Lviv-born designer’s brand has become popular, especially in the west. She has stores in Lviv and Ternopil, while her Kyiv boutique closed this year. However, Bogutska continues to draw inspiration in her native Lion City, where she presented her latest spring–summer 2010 collection during Lviv Fashion Week. Bogutska dedicated the show to 20th century Czech painter Alphonse Mucha, whose artistic style became known as Art Nouveau. Impressed by Mucha’s works, Bogutska designed fabrics for the clothing line herself. Hues of violet, pink, yellow, grey and dark blue prevail, as well as glistening fabrics, such as silk and satin. Elegant blouses and pants are decorated with embroidery and Ukrainian flowery folk patterns.
Designer Oksana Karavanska has been one of the big names in Ukrainian fashion for more than a decade. Starting in 1998, Karavanska became a regular headliner at Ukrainian Fashion Week. Karavanska has women’s and men’s lines called OK' by oksanakaravanska and children’s clothing called OKIDS’ by oksanakaravanska. Karavanska is a workaholic, creating four to eight collections a year, as well as producing accessories and perfumes. Moreover, she became a TV star as “fashion judge” on the popular TV show “Modny Vyrok” (Fashion Verdict) showing on K2 and Inter+ channels on Saturdays.
Karavanska’s style is eccentric, feminine and saturated with Ukrainian spirit. She remains faithful to ethnic motifs. Karavanska’s spring–summer 2010 collection is inspired by legendary primitivism artist Maria Priymachenko. The colors are cheerful. Fabrics include flax and silk decorated with embroidery, paintings, milled silk and bulky applications.
Lilia Poustovit always springs to mind when thinking about Ukrainian fashion. A leading designer for years, she shows collections for the Poustovit brand at Ukrainian Fashion Week and Russian Fashion Week. Now she’s making the jump to occupy a strong position internationally. Poustovit’s pride is the exclusive line of clothes she develops for her boutique called Poustovit for Atelier 1. This line is sold worldwide in concept stores in Dover Street Market (London and Tokyo), 10 Corso Como (Seoul), Persuade (Spain), Ostblock (Zurich), and L’Eclaireur (Paris). Since the late 1990s, when Poustovit gained recognition, her trademark style has been casual city dresses and sporty canvas shoes. Her NB Poustovit brand, founded in 1998 in cooperation with Nota Bene company, produces urban, eclectic, individual and comfortable clothes. This year Lilia Poustovit opened Ukrainian Fashion Week. She presented a collection that mainly consisted of low-cut suits, raincoats and jackets with neat collars, pockets and belts of soft white, grey-and-pink and grey-and-green colors.
Lviv designer Anna Bublik moved to Kyiv and opened an image studio in 2002 that is still in business. In 2005, Bublik opened her first boutique, Anna Bublik Platinum in Kyiv, selling exclusive clothing designes, as well as shoes and accessories. Bublik is the stylist and designer for Ukrainian pop star Vitaliy Kozlovsky. Bublik also cooperates with TV shows “Shans,” “Svitski Khroniky” and TV presenters Katya Osadcha and Masha Yefrosinina. Inspired by her children’s passion for extreme sports, Anna Bublik presented an urban-feminine collection at the last Ukrainian Fashion Week. Jumpsuits, shorts and hoodies go side by side with dresses and skirts adorned with numerous ruches and folds, all of them branded with the “bublik” (bagel) sign – Bublik’s brand symbol.
Another legendary name in Ukrainian fashion – Victoria Gres – was born in Baikonur and grew up in a military family. After graduation from Moscow Textile Academy, she worked as costume designer at Uzhgorod theaters. Since 1993, Gres has shown her collections regularly and taken part in fashion competitions. In 1998, she opened her first designer studio in Ukraine. Recently, Gres gained international recognition after she was asked to design concert costumes for Janet Jackson’s first tour in seven years. Personal stylist and costume designer for American singer, Robert Behar, was impressed by Gres’ autumn-winter 2008-2009 collection. He saw her designs in the Italian fashion magazine Collezioni and they started collaborating.
Despite a boost in popularity, Gres’ boutique in Kyiv has also closed, but her outfits are still available in several locations in the city. For Ukrainian Fashion Week, Victoria Gres presented a collection named “1909. Paris. Diaghilev,” dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the legendary “Ballets Russes” seasons in Paris. The theatrical costumes of Sergiy Diaghilev (1872-1929, the founder of Ballet Russes) became a sensation in Paris. They created a new style and established the 20th-century tradition of fine art theater design. To create the dramatic look for the collection, Gres used weightless fabrics such as silk, muslin and organza, soft draperies and “flying,” streaming silhouette. Each dress was completed with a special detail – a turban. The colors are bright – orange, lilac, blue and green blended with flower patterns.
Andre Tan’s place in Ukrainian fashion is disputed. While some praise his talent and innovation, others consider him a parvenu who built his reputation on pretentiousness and PR, starting from his French-sounding pseudonym – Andre Tan. His real name is Andry Tishchenko. As the legend goes, four years ago, 23-year-old Tan came to Kyiv from Kharkiv and stormed the fashion skyline. He was awarded the Grand Prix for his cruise collection by Paco Rabanne himself. However, that victory was controversial and corrupt. The scandal helped fuel his fame, so it worked well for Tan. He went on to host TV shows “Zhertva Mody” (Victim of Fashion) and “Pro Fashion” (About Fashion). In spring 2006, Tan rose in the fashion world, when he demonstrated the collection called “Vyshchi Znannya” (Higher Knowledge), which included models wearing hats designed as open books. With that, Tan proclaimed himself a founder of a fashion trend known as “Smart Couture.” On the wave of his popularity, Andre Tan opened stores in Paris, Milan and Berlin, though it’s hard to imagine how this business can survive the competition.
All Andre Tan’s shows are promoted by celebrities such as Ukrainian model Snezhana Onopko, actress Olga Kurylenko and others. In his latest spring-summer collection, Tan paid tribute to the most influential designer of the past 25 years, Yves Saint Laurent, who died last spring. Tan experimented with bright colors – emerald, purple, violet and draperies. Other elements include v-cuts, puffball skirts, trouser suits, satin dresses and blouses.
Odessa designer Alexandr Gapchuk is one of the most unpredictable and talented Ukrainian menswear designers. The idea to become a fashion designer came to Gapchuk while he was serving in the navy. In 1994, he founded a design studio with friends. The first collection of the Gapchuk brand was presented at Ukrainian ready-to-wear week Fashion Seasons in 2002. Later, during Ukrainian Fashion Games at the annual Ready-to-Wear Paris fashion exhibition, Gapchuk showed off his collaboration with British designer Antonio Berardi. Last year, Gapchuk celebrated the 16th anniversary of his work by presenting a new menswear line, Real Casual. As usual, Gapchuk has paid special attention to men’s suits.
Young Ukrainian designer Iryna Karavay creates freely and defiantly, combining modern cut and folklore colors. Her shows always attract a crowd at every Ukrainian and Russian fashion week. Iryna Karavay is a native Kyivan, thankful to parents who allowed her to study at art school. In 2003, Karavay showed her first 15 garments during Ukrainian Fashion Week at the “Young Names” segment and became famous. Then Karavay began cooperating with Nota Bene company, and has already presented her 11th collection with its support. Now Karavan has got two brands – Nota Bene & Karavay – available in Kyiv and Moscow. Recently, Karavay designed a new uniform for Ukraine International Airlines’ flight crew. For Ukraine, such cooperation between a famous designer and airline is still an unprecedented event.
For the spring-summer collection by Nota Bene & Karavay, just like Karavanska, the designer drew inspiration from paintings by Maria Prymachenko. The color palette features intense indigo, bright yellow and fuchsia. Coats and blouses resemble “vyshyvanky” (Ukrainian traditional wear), complemented with layered skirts and pants of complicated cut.
Designer Olexiy Zalevskiy has been in the fashion industry since he was 15 and is considered the favorite among Ukrainian celebrities, who like his often absurd and vulgar ideas. He helped create outfits for singers Natalia Mogilevska and Iryna Bilyk when they were on the way to becoming major pop stars. He was among the fashion designers of the first Fashion Seasons that later became Ukrainian Fashion Week. Since then, he has presented two shows annually. The collection “Chervona Nastya” (Red Nastya), which he presented at Ukraine Fashion Week, was widely dubbed as the “combination of incompatible.” Once again, Zalevskiy chose to shock the public, this time by mixing the Japanese horror and Spanish passions. Red monochrome outfits alternated with Scottish plaid skirts in school style, striped black-and-white leggings and knee-high socks. Models’ heads were topped by enormous white bow knots. Zalevskiy, however, considers his style as democratic and suggests wearing the huge bow knots in everyday life.
Aina Gasse Atelier
13 Druzhby Narodiv, office No. 77,
Roksolana Bogutska Studio
21 Velyka Zhytomyrska, office No.13,
Oksana Karavanska Studio
10 Lyuteranska, office No. 27,
15 Khreschatyk, Passage,
Atelier 1, 10 Bulv. Shevchenka
Anna Bublik Studio
Anna Bublik Boutique
Victoria Gres by Gres
72 Chervoniarmiyska, Shopping mall Olimpiyskiy, Respublikanskiy Stadium metro
11A Prospekt Moskovsky, 2nd floor,
Alta Center mall, Fashion Lab
1-3/2 Chervonoarmiyska, Shopping mall Arena City
Andre Tan Studio
22 Lva Tolstoho, office No. 53,
Alexandr Gapchuk Studio
72 Gorkoho, office No. 100,
Alexandr Gapchuk Boutique
11À Prospect Moskovsky, 2nd floor,
Alta Center mall, Fashion Lab
Nota Bene & Karavay Studio
38A Antonovycha, Ploscha Lva Tolstoho metro,
11À Prospekt Moskovsky, 2nd floor,
Alta Center mall, Modny Kvartal. www.zalevskiy.com