After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine gained its independence and experienced a surge of national pride. The capital city was officially renamed ‘Kyiv’, replacing the Russian-inflected ‘Kiev’, although many English-speaking countries have not yet adopted the change. In the twenty-five years since Ukrainian independence was enacted, the country has experienced the growing pains of a burgeoning democracy, economic pressure and rioting, in response to the corruption of state politicians.
Yet, throughout this tumultuous period in Ukraine’s history and the shakiness of its national economy, the city of Kyiv has continued to produce a number of wildly talented young designers who have received international acclaim and are building up a reputation for the city as a fashion capital.
Svetlana Bevza, a consummate minimalist, designs clothes that strike a delicate balance between sophisticated simplicity and comfort. Her work is characterised by a monochrome palette, clean lines and graphic cuts, occasionally complemented by subtle prints. Bevza says that she feels a strong affinity with the colour white, in part because it challenges her to get the shape and structure of her pieces precise in order for them to flatter the body.
Ivan Frolov exhibited the debut collection of his eponymous label at Ukrainian Fashion Week in 2014 and was immediately hailed as one of Kyiv’s most promising young designers. His aesthetic is provocatively sensual, with libidinous elements of lace and PVC softened by jewel coloured satins, velvet and soft wool, and rooted in Frolov’s dedication to physical anatomy and the science of tailoring.
Lilia Litkovskaya enjoys experimenting with duality. Whether it is the now outmoded concept of a gender binary, contrasting materials and silhouettes or, as in her most recent collection, Carousel 4.20, the opposition of East and West. In this collection, Litkovskaya used the image of Western girls dressing up as geishas to go clubbing as a means of addressing the fetishistic way that Japanese aesthetics can be perceived and borrowed by the West.
Yasya Minochkina studied finance prior to completing her fashion degree at Central Saint Martins, grounding herself in the fundamentals of business before going on to launch her own label. Her tailored, feminine silhouettes, constructed from futuristic materials such as laser-cut mesh have attracted media attention as well as buyers from all over the world.
Kyiv’s sartorial renaissance may still be in its infancy, but the work of these driven young designers, coupled with the meteoric rise of Gosha Rubinskiy in Russia, is slowly but surely pulling the focus of both the fashion elite and consumers eastwards.