A testament to resilience amid immense hardship, five Ukrainian designers bring their garments to Denmark for CPHFW
During times of war, it’s a testament to the human spirit that fashion designers are still able to create clothing that spreads light during dark times. This season, Copenhagen Fashion Week and Ukrainian Fashion Week partnered on a presentation of five Ukrainian brands, spotlighting how fashion can serve as a reminder of a better tomorrow.
Held at Ukraine House in Copenhagen, the presentation included Chereshnivska, Domanof, J’amemme, Paskal, and Fayina Yerenburh x Vozianov, as well as the runway show of London-based, Ukrainian label Kseniaschnaider—symbolizing Denmark’s much-needed solidarity with the Ukrainian fashion industry.
When many in Ukraine are without access to vital resources and struggle to grasp a basic sense of safety, it can be difficult to imagine the luxury of something such as fashion. Yet programs such as these can shed awareness as to what’s going on. The “Support Ukrainian Fashion” Initiative, launched by Ukrainian Fashion Week at the beginning of the war, was created in the hopes that Ukrainian designers could continue their practice.
Kseniaschnaider’s collection incorporated reworked denim, “a canvas woven with stories of growth and resilience,” she says in a press release. Designer Ksenia Schnaider said that she witnessed how “war destroys the soil…and how nature overcomes this and flowers bloom.”
Founded in 2016, Chereshnivska used a neutral gray palette alongside bright accents as an homage to vytynanka, a Slavic paper-cutting art form that decorates homes and household items in traditional Ukrainian culture. Founder Iryna Kohana said she “wanted to tell the world about a strong-spirited and talented Ukrainian woman whose life and work were timeless.”
“Due to a no-flight zone in Ukraine, getting to Copenhagen from Kyiv is a quest. You have to change two trains, one overnight, and then take a plane with several large suitcases per person. It all takes more than a day,” says Julie Yarmouliuk of J’amemme, who packed up her pleated architectural silhouettes this season to be in attendance this year. Fayina Yerenburh x Vozianov focused on bold colors, but it was not without its challenges. “It is very difficult to be in the zone of constant influence of war. Sometimes there is simply not enough energy for creativity. But if you are on the side of life, you need to create,” she reflects.
Domanof echoes the aesthetic of Scandinavian minimalism, yet founder and creative director Dima Domanof also stays true to her roots. “We also infuse deep meanings into our pieces,” she says. “Our team poured our hearts into creating this collection. We dedicated it to friends we’ve lost, and the friends of our friends.” And Paskal’s 3D applique dresses with pink sequin butterflies and baby blue chiffon bows decorate dark times with a promise of fun, girlish delight.
The “initiative is vital for providing visibility to Ukrainian brands during the ongoing war, securing orders on international markets, and supporting the industry, saving businesses and livelihoods of hundreds of workers,” the UFW stated in the official release.
To imagine a post-war time, it is imperative that Ukrainian designers must continue their craft. And even in hostile conditions, these designers have managed to maintain a commitment not only to creativity, but to sustainability—preserving their cultural heritage amid extreme hardship while exhibiting their dedication to skillful artistry, craftsmanship in design, and savoir-faire.
Dalya Benor: How has war impacted the way you make and produce clothing?
Kseniachnaider: War destroys everything. And even when you avoid physical destruction, your previous life is destroyed. The only possible resistance to war is to try to keep your rules and principles to the last, to try to follow the chosen path even when the world is falling apart behind your eyes. My team and I are doing everything possible to maintain our zero-waste practices, upcycling methods, and supporting Ukrainian women through their hand-craft. We were lucky that our production was not destroyed, so we keep on working in Kyiv, producing collections [where] 60-80 percent of which are made of vintage clothes, deadstock fabrics or certificated sustainable materials.
Dalya: How has nature guided or inspired you while making this collection?
Kseniachnaider: This collection was made under the slogan Nature always wins. I witnessed how war destroys the soil, destroys all life around, and how nature overcomes this—flowers bloom in the minefields in the spring. In this collection I want to celebrate [nature’s] quiet strength and unwavering beauty.
Julie Yarmoliuk, Founder & CEO, Designer of J’amemme
Dalya: How are you able to preserve your own strength and creativity during challenging times?
Julie Yarmoliuk: In the present [situation], it serves as our sole source of solace, diverting our attention from a stream of distressing news and harrowing stories that inundate us daily. Recently, we had an Instagram user question the timing for a Ukrainian brand to take part in CPHFW amid the ongoing war. Through our work, we not only pay taxes and provide support to our team, but also fortify our mental resilience. In these challenging times, creating distinctive designs, experimenting with innovative materials, embracing cutting-edge technologies, and crafting new dresses are our only avenues for persevering. Our dedication to fashion is a testament to our commitment to pushing forward, even in these difficult circumstances.
Fayina Yerenburh x Vozianov
Dalya: Can you describe your collection, and what you were inspired by?
Fayina Yerenburh: My collection is rich in colors, but all of them are taken from the surrounding nature, from the universe. For me, color symbolizes life. This is important for Ukraine, especially now. My task is to harmonize the colors in any item in the collection, to make sure that clothes and accessories give positive emotions and energy.
The Ukrainian national costume is characterized by the use of bold combinations of bright colors and a simple silhouette—it is bright and contrasting. I use the same principle in my collection.
Dima Domanof, Founder and Creative Director of Domanof
Dalya: Where does Ukrainian fashion fall on the world map?
Dima Domanof: Ukrainian culture is gaining recognition even in regions of the world where the country may not be well-known. In our view, designers in Ukraine don’t lack talent but rather require substantial investments. Collaborations such as those with Copenhagen Fashion Week organized by the Ukrainian Fashion Week organization showcase Ukrainian fashion industry on the world map. While it’s premature to say where Ukrainian fashion stands definitively, the positive reception indicates promising prospects.
Anastasiya Rozava, Creative Director of Chereshnivska
Dalya: How, if at all, has this collection incorporated your cultural heritage?
Anastasiya Rozava: Our collection deeply integrates Ukrainian cultural heritage, drawing particular inspiration from the traditional art form of vytynanka, which is a style of paper cutouts. The muse for this series is the work of the Hutsul artist Paraska [Plytka Horytsvit], who interprets local customs through her own lens. She ingeniously crafted her vytynanka from recycled materials like notebook covers and various wrappers.
In homage to her creativity, our new collection features distinctive cutouts and appliqués fashioned from repurposed materials such as vintage parachute canvas and old denim. We’ve embraced the elegant lines characteristic of the Carpathian vytynanka, arranging each element to allow space and fluidity within the designs. Echoing the tradition where vytynanka [is used in] the home environment, we have translated this concept into fashion, allowing the wearers to adorn themselves with pieces that capture the spirit and beauty of this artistic practice.