What can the fashion industry do for Ukraine? Here is the answer

Courage, determination and unity in the face of the brutal war against Ukraine are no better exemplified than by Julie Pelipas and Anna October, two fashion designers who were forced to flee Kyiv in harrowing circumstances. Pelipas, whose family roots are in Mariupol, fled to Greece to take care of her mother. October finally arrived in Paris, after taking shelter in a forest with a backpack. They have come together with a convenient method – Better.Community – a non-profit digital platform that connects mass expertise from the international fashion industry with designers, photographers, videographers, graphic designers and Ukrainian artists – creators who are now scattered across Europe, in Ukraine and beyond.

“With the current war, many talented creatives find themselves out of work,” says October. “Having had successful careers in the creative industry, both domestically and internationally, these people are some of the most talented people in the industry and they now need support.” On a yellow-blue background, the website Better.Community spells it out. “Our goal is to introduce the best Ukrainian creatives in various fields to international media, agencies, public institutions and many others. Our goal is to help these creatives get hired for full-time or commission-based positions. »

Softness and optimism define the Paskal collection.Photo: Courtesy of Paskal
Julie Pascal.Photo: Courtesy of Paskal

“We were peaceful and happy and had a normal life that suddenly turned into hell,” adds Pelipas. “Ukrainians are shy people – and I don’t think the world has realized how many successful people there are in our young independent culture.” Three years ago, Pelipas left her former position as fashion director at vogue Ukraine is moving towards “design for purpose” with its sustainable fashion brand, Better.us, which upcycles unsold men’s suits from brands like Hugo Boss, expertly tailored to suit women. Every drop of her insanely cool couture – “our proof of concept” – was selling directly to customers the day she posted it from her office in Kyiv.

“The joke was that we were about to officially launch February 24, the day the war started,” Pelipas says. “Since then, I realized that I had to act as a human being. The important thing I realized is that people who want to donate need to have reputable sources, to know that their money is going directly to the right places to help. And for me, that means connecting with the needs of the people I know. Creative kids are in survival mode. People need the means to work. They have basic needs: housing, maybe just an office to work somewhere. And in the longer term: jobs and collaborations. We decided to create this platform so that it would be easy for any business to connect with them – agencies, public relations, people who can provide legal advice. »

Ksenia and Anton SchnaiderPhoto: Courtesy of Ksenia Schnaider
Ksenia Schnaider specializes in reworked upcycled denim.Photo: Courtesy of Ksenia Schnaider

The Better.Community database brings together the digital profiles of creative Ukrainians so that they can each advertise their talents and ask for their particular needs, wherever they have found themselves in the mass exodus to the nearest places of safety where they were able to achieve. So far, Pelipas and October are in contact with people who fled to Germany, Romania, Estonia, Moldova, France, Austria and Israel. It’s all about detail and targeted support for individuals and their displaced teams – the materials, connections and complex ranges of expertise that fashion brands can easily find in their resources and ranks to share.

October took responsibility for the granular needs of the fashion designer division. She is part of the Ukrainian community that established her wave of Kyiv cheers in 2014. Her modern and pretty collection, full of youthful joie de vivre, earned her a spot as a semi-finalist for the 2014 LVMH Prize alongside of his compatriots Julie Paskal and Anton Belinsky. Alone in Paris, she struggled to relocate part of her team to safety in Estonia, while donating some of her stock of fabric to the war effort, and in the meantime, finding remote places in the west. of Ukraine – so far safe for workers whose livelihoods are vital, where his current collection is still taking shape. “Like everyone else in Ukraine, my system is down,” she says. “We have to rebuild it. But I think I was born for this moment. I have no children, no family to take care of, so I am free to help my friends. Everyone has different needs, their own situation.

Zirochka Ukraine combines streetwear and folk costume.Photo: Courtesy of Zirochka Ukraine
Another look from Zirochka Ukraine.Photo: Courtesy of Zirochka Ukraine

This selfless and heroic stoicism materializes in the details presented in an internal spreadsheet showing where designers have been moved and who needs what kind of support. Julie Paskal, designer of soft and optimistic clothes, is in Halle, Germany. Zirochka Ukraine, the streetwear-meets-folk costume brand owned by Daria Lagenburg, is in Tallin, Estonia. Ksenia Schnaider, a designer of recycled and reworked denim, is in Nuremberg, Germany. Sofia Lvovna, whose signature is sexy knitting, is in Tel Aviv. Ivan Frolov remains in kyiv, having devoted his efforts to raising funds to manufacture armored vests.