Ukrainian Pride: Interview with Ana Varava

DEPESHA founder Stephan Rabimov speaks with Ana Varava, Editor-in-Chief of L'Officiel Ukraine. Varava shares ways she supports and promotes Ukrainian fashion designers, why Kyiv is on the verge of becoming a new global fashion capital, and what Ukrainian fashion industry needs to succeed internationally.  

    DEPESHA: A number of experts have noted that Kiev is becoming one of the new global fashion capitals.  Do you agree? Ana Varava: I’m not yet sure that we can use such grandiloquent words, as for existing world fashion capitals [London, Paris, New York, Milan] it took many years to gain this status. Ukraine is quite a young country, with high potential and lots of creative talents that are eager to showcase they abilities to the world-at-large. Recently, I was at the Forum One Ukraine and the keynote speaker Sir Richard Branson, said the following, and I completely support his point of view: "Ukraine has all resources for economic growth and has a lot to offer to the world, including its creative talent across industries." D: What qualities does the Ukrainian fashion has today that can help it become a new global fashion sensation? AV: Ukrainian fashion offers a unique combination of custom traditions and fresh perspective on global fashion trends. As of late, motifs of Ukrainian vyshyvanka (national women clothes that contains elements of Slavonic national embroidery) has been reinterpreted by various international designers. From fashion to accessories, the influence of Ukraine, its culture and traditions on global fashion is unprecedented.
D: Would you say that there exists a whole fashion industry in the Ukraine?  If not, what elements are missing? AV: I can’t say much about our fashion industry, as it hasn't emerged yet.  Almost all Ukrainian designers and labels produce collections in limited quantities using small-scale enterprises; there is nothing to support industrial demand and production.  To reach that kind of level, requires years of practical experience and professional education, that our country lacks in sphere of fashion. To become a professional in fashion, for example, I pursued studies in some of the best fashion education centers in London, Milan and NYC, in addition to many years of professional experience. Yes, our designers are very creative, but they don’t yet understand that to become a professional designer or to scale up sales to match those of international brands, companies must hire and rely on industry professionals in order to design and execute strategic growth plan. It is impossible to create a successful brand with just creative fashion collections, it takes so much more! Ukrainian designers must surround themselves with trained professionals at every level of business operations: production, public relations, marketing, sales, etc. in order to sustainably grow domestically and internationally. D: How has the conflict with Russia impacted Ukrainian fashion industry? AV: The conflict placed Ukraine on the front pages of the newspapers. People have become familiar with the country, its history and culture. In some cases, this situation opened the boundaries for our people to express themselves: to feel more free and to be more creative. In fact, you can notice how many young labels appeared over the past two years. The fashion industry is rapidly developing, and some Ukrainian brands even moved abroad. This situation seems has given Ukraine opportunities for development, as long as people use them in the right and positive ways.  


Modernity and history intertwine, as Ukraine's cutting edge designers are photographed by Denis Manoha against the backdrop of the 300 year-old preserved village on the outskirts of Kyiv.
Credits: Concept Stephan Rabimov, Founder, DEPESHA, in collaboration with Ana Varava, L'Officiel Studio Ukraine Photography Denis Manoha Stylist Eugene Primachenko Assistant Stylist Lubov Lisichkina Producer Marina Sandugei Beauty Tamriko Levchenko Hair Anna Matvienko Models: Ella Kandyba / K-Models Vladislav Kesov / K-Models   D: How often does Ukrainian fashion media write about the domestic industry and domestic designers? How is it received abroad? AV: In every issue of L'Officiel Ukraine we promote Ukrainian fashion.  It’s trendy to wear Ukrainian designers mixed with high-end European brands, for example, and we support that. At a recent official Tiffany & Co Blue Book presentation, in NYC, I was wearing Ukrainian designers (Olga Alonova @olgaalonova, Elena Reva @elenareva) mixed with Saint Laurent shoes, coupled with Chanel clutch as my accessory. People were mesmerized by the look, which speaks volumes about the potential of Ukrainian fashion abroad and I am proud to employ my persona to promote Ukrainian fashion industry everywhere I travel. D: What kind of opportunities exist for emerging Ukrainian talents to succeed domestically, regionally, and internationally? AV:  As long as professionals are supporting Ukrainian designers and help them to develop and organize their businesses, they will succeed domestically and globally. Indeed, many Ukrainian designers are already sold across various local concept stores alongside internationally recognized labels. Our women in politics, business, and art often select Ukrainian designers for official events, which further contributes to industry promotion. D: How is L'Officiel Ukraine supporting the Ukrainian fashion industry? AV: L'Officiel Ukraine was the first international fashion magazine title to put Ukrainian designer on its cover. We were also the first to organize fashion educational seminars with tutors of Istituto Magangoni (Paris, Milan, London), the project was also initiated by L'Officiel Ukraine. I wanted to share the same training opportunities, which have helped my fashion career, with the rest of the Ukraine.
Stephan Rabimov
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