Although there are many notable fashion weeks around the world, eastern Europe has been gaining tremendous attention amongst the fashion cognoscenti on a global level. Honestly, many Americans are unfamiliar with the diverse geography, rich history nor the joyous splendor of eastern Europe. But if you speak with Sofia Tchkonia, the brainchild of Kyiv Art & Fashion Days, you’ll soon learn that’s all about to change!
This fall Kyiv Art & Fashion Days launched a festival of contemporary art, fashion and cultural collaborations. Tchkonia’s aim for this creative project is to establish the city of Kyiv as a cultural capital —where fashion, music, photography and performance interact in unison as collaborative and independent art forms. In a word, Kyiv Art and Fashion Days proposes to drive an intersection of creative exchange for the world to take notice. And rightly so; Kyiv is just getting started.
In my opinion, what makes Kyiv Art & Fashion Days so unique is that the festival blends various artforms together such as contemporary fashion, visual art, urban space and if that weren’t enough; advancements in technological and visual expression.
It is an event where all the senses (touch, feel, smell, sight and taste) work in unison. With creative surprises at almost each and every corner you turn. In fact, the artforms are so rich in design, expression, taste and spirit that you may just have to start using your sixth sense to digest the fruitful art forms. This is what fashion week should be- not chaotic but rather artful and friendly. This in turn, takes the business strategy for a fashion week to a whole new platform. To keep up Gen Z and their a discerning taste and no time attention span, fashion weeks need to evolve. And, at a rapid pace.
For instance, take what is known as The Big Four; Paris, Milan, London and New York. To be fair, Paris began holding couture shows as early as 1945. Side note: *The concept of fashion week began in Paris, when marketers used to hire women to wear couture fashion pieces in public spaces to the public to view. And soon enough, these parades gradually began to become social events referred to as “défilés de mode” which literally means “fashion parades.” Nevertheless, much has changed since then. More to my point, I can only suggest that The Big Four take note of action-packed creative scene happening in Kyiv. In a word, trust me, it is LIT.
Recently, western designers and brands alike have increasingly been yearning for something more creative and meaningful to convey their independent creative path. Meanwhile the shows themselves have started to matter less —than who is at them, which has become problematic for the buyers and editors. Sure, Fashion Week has always been a social scene, but today, the guests lists have expanded well-beyond traditional media circles. For example, attending a show today you will be sure to find a handful of athletes celebrities, influencers, politicians and even tech-gurus. The name of the game is pay to play; the more money a brand pays, the bigger the celebrities and circus clowns names who appear on the front row. Seriously, before you know it, animated characters will be showing-up dressed like circus clowns or superheros to keep the paparazzi snapping away to better grasp better press opportunities. Sadly, people have started to go not to see the fashion, but rather to be seen. I mean truthfully, it has become circus-like. When and if they shoot a model out of a cannon down the runway, I’m outta here. More to my point, I all too often see photographers taking images of what appears to be people outside the venues dressed in Halloween costumes. The pendulum needs to swing the other way —and fast.
Let’s face it; these days, the form of communicating new ideas in fashion has been challenging. Even with so many new modes and platforms of digital communication, a consolidated fashion week has remains on top to release new fashion information in any medium.
This is where Kyiv Art & Fashion Days makes an entrance center stage into the future. Why does it work? Firstly, because smaller independent labels benefit most from showcasing their creative designs and art forms respectively. And much of the international press, buyers and influencers do not know about how cool the Kyiv art and fashion scene is right now. Make no bones about it, emerging designers and artists alike are developing creative that is refreshingly independent of western trends. And it is this creative that will bring more and more international visitors to one place.
“It was an honor and a privilege to be invited to the inaugural Kyiv Art and Fashion Days Festival and a truly inspiring experience to meet visionary designers, artists and photographers working in the Ukraine whilst reaching a global audience through this event. Kyiv is a culturally rich and vibrant city with a unique infrastructure that supports sophisticated independent fashion designers, an amazing restaurant scene and a burgeoning underground nightlife culture. Since returning to New York I have been sermonizing to everyone that I meet, both professionally and personally, that the Kyiv Art and Fashion Days Festival is a “must visit” event on the international cultural calendar”.Keanan Duffty Director, Fashion Programs, Office of the Provost. Parsons School of Design – The New School
International industry show-goers are excited to discover designer collections in person and have increasingly started to experience new vibes in style. These vibes are independent to eastern europe. During Kyiv Art & Fashion Days, the platform showcased 11 Ukrainian and international designers and hosted international buyers, editors and influencers. Noteworthy brands such as GUDU, ARTEMKLIMCHUK, Lake Studio, Situationist, Julie Poly, art group Fungus, Tomas Auksas, Levchenya and other representatives of the international art and fashion scene – showcased their respective fashion shows and presentations.
“Kyiv Art & Fashion Days is an integrative long-term project, aimed to become a meeting spot for artists, media representatives, designers, and cultural institutions not only from Ukraine, but also on an international level,” – comments Sofia Tchkonia, ideologist of Kyiv Art & Fashion Days. – In my opinion, such creative collaborations have a real potential to form a new cultural language and broadcast the values of Ukraine and the countries of Eastern Europe at the global level. For this, already in the first “edition” of the project, we invited representatives of the leading international press, cultural and public figures to come to Kyiv and see everything with their own eyes. “
Plain and simple: this platform is like no other because it encourages creative expression beyond existing formats while merging cultures to integrate into creative expressions by promoting interdisciplinary collaborations that seemingly develop into hybrids of modernity. At present, Kyiv Art & Fashion Days is held with support by TSUM Kyiv, Borjomi, The Glenlivet, Fairmont Grand Hotel Kyiv. While the official media partner of the festival is Vogue UA.
Below are some interesting highlights of Kiev Art & Fashion Days.
SITUATIONIST is a brand that has been making inroads both through brick & mortar as well as digital platforms, is the Situalistionist. This season, the brand expands its creative by taking pride in tradition by highlighting the magnificence of the Georgian Mountain regions and customary traditions – and the protection thereof. The collections showcased a variety of styles displaying (in the most subtle ways) the attention to detail that cements the importance Georgian tradition overall.
The design philosophy of the SITUATIONIST pays great respect to reduce, reuse and recycle! The designer’s harkens a call to arms for his countrymen and Georgia’s magnificent natural landscapes from the sweet waters of the Black Sea to the mighty strength of the Svaneti Mountain ranges. The designer affirms that it is in these intricate elements of nature that define the foundations of the SITUATIONIST. By expressing concern for the protection of nature, the brand aims to mirror the extensive beauty of Georgia and the most important thing around us; nature.
GUDU: The week launched with one of the most promising designers in eastern Europe.The collection was influenced by – Kazimir Malevich, born in Kyiv roughly a hundred years ago, his artistry continues to have great relevance. Mdinaradze says that he finds himself drawn to the artist’s approach, which combines strong visual content with simple forms. Its influence can be seen in the prints and patchworks used in the new collection.
“Kyiv is a magnetic city. It attracts creative people, and then unites their energy into a single powerful stream,” says Lasha Mdinaradze, the brand’s designer. “It is thanks to this city that fashion, music and art joined together in this new collection. Says Lasha Mdinaradze Another important influence in the collection the face and soul of this city. The street’s influence is expressed by vintage denim, which was showcased for the first time.
“The idea of the collection was based on the synergy of different people and love for Kyiv,” Lasha Mdinaradze continues. “These are the same thoughts that produced the Kyiv Art & Fashion Days Festival, which is designed to show Kyiv to the whole world and unite its creative energy. This is quite close to GUDU’s own philosophy, and we are happy to take part in this event.”
VALERY KOVALSKA: handcrafted garments combine modern shapes and fabrics as well as the development of new techniques and trimmings with the use of modern technology. Every style in the collection is made from scratch by one specific tailor each, which provides a truly bespoke and couture approach to production. Valery follows the principles of sustainable development in all aspects of her brand’s work with an ecologically responsible approach toward the resources being used.
BOBKOVA began its performance with the presentation of a video about the collaboration between art and fashion. BOBKOVA presented a SS2022 in the historical center of Kiev. The show integrated the improvisation of Mikhail Mendelenko’s jazz band as well as an exposition of Notiko’s art created specifically for the brand.
ARTEMKLIMCHUK presented a new collection in a classic fashion show format. The show was presented in a luxurious hotel atmosphere— decorated with the works of artist Yulia Mokhovikova “I have always been inspired by the endless energy, tenderness and sophistication that is inherent in both the author and her works.”
FROLOV brunch for Kyiv Art&Fashion Days
FROLOV brand welcomed international guests of KAFD in its newly open FROLOV Hub for a brunch. The collection is inspired by the glamour and chic of the LA golden era. “Sometimes people pronounce FROLOV as for love – it is not a mistake. Cause the first thing we create as a brand is love, and everything we do is with love” – founder and creative director of the brand Ivan Frolov.
Lake Studio’s new release THE CELL is dedicated to the state of tranquility and serenity through unity with nature. True harmony is only possible when the cells of the human body vibrate at the same frequency with the cells of nature. The main pieces of the collection include relaxed oversized blazers, midi-skirt suits, asymmetrical one-shoulder tops and bustier dresses. The release also includes a jewelry line with timeless natural pearls, moonstones and cat’s eye stones, known for their qualities of harmonizing the energy of their owner. “We wanted to convey the tranquility and state of perfection of nature’s forms when it comes to cuts, drapery and colours. The palette of earthy brown, bark grey, soft blue and grass green with fuchsia accents seems to be taken out from a wild forest with a lake and flower meadows around. The straight silhouettes contrast with fitted and fluid, emphasizing infinite femininity,” says Anastasia Riabokon, one of the brand’s designers.
Clothing is human self-expression. In countries like Georgia, apparel sometimes becomes a vehicle to protest social issues. For the LGBTQ community, clothing can be worn as a voice of opposition. The exhibition “Anti-Fashion” is an attempt to reflect on this topic by Georgian LGBTQ artists.
“The exhibition at Kiev Fashion Days was an important step for the Fungus project, which is queer art platform and works mostly with Georgian queer artists. It was a great pleasure for us to have an exhibition in a country that faces issues similar to ours. The exhibition showed us the connection of queer culture and fashion. Often queer culture and anti-fashion intersect and form an organic world, fashion takes inspiration from queer and underground cultures, usually this inspiration is limited to just taking contextless form and the main content of queer culture remains in the shadow. This discredits the queer culture and the values created in the queer art, becomes a massive fashion trend. We are grateful to both – the Kyiv Art Fashion Day working group for giving us the opportunity to have our say at this event, as well as the working team of Module Exchange and K41, who showed genuine hospitality and queer solidarity”.David Apakidze
Joseph DeAcetis:Why did you decide to join the project?
David Apakidze: Project Fungus is a visual art platform that is interested not only in visual art, but also in fashion and its influence on queer culture. Kyiv Art & Fashion Days is the point of intersection of visual art and fashion, which is why FUNGUS became interested in this project.
JD: What is your experience with the collaboration?
DA: Initially, FUNGUS was born as the idea of holding an exhibition within the framework of MBWTB, but due to the pandemic, the exhibition had to be canceled and FUNGUS turned into an online art platform that gave freedom of expression to the queer community in Georgia and beyond. In June 2021, fungus presented its first exhibition “Blue”, which we created in collaboration with the May 17 Initiative and Indigo magazine, which was dedicated to sadness and the queer community.
JD: What is the main idea of this project
DA: “Anti-fashion” will be a co-exhibition of FUNGUS participants, who have united around one theme. The exhibition reflects the influence of queer culture on the fashion industry and how fashion sometimes absorbs queer culture. The exhibition will bring together different media – video art, sculpture, performance, etc. and will reflect the above theme in an allegorical manner.
Truly, it is heartfelt to witness the creative expression of Kyiv come to life—lock, stock and barrel, prepared to present their fine-craftsmanship, proud heritage and glorious interpretation of their history and their voice for the future!