Skip to main content

Courage Couture

As Ukraine navigates its second year of conflict, a group of Ukrainian fashion designers have emerged as a symbol of resilience. 

Fashion designer Elvira Gasanova

“For us, the war started 10 years ago,” says Ukrainian fashion designer Elvira Gasanova, whose creations have adorned celebrities on the red carpet such as Gigi Hadid, Kourtney Kardashian, Irina Shayk, Lais Ribeiro, Bleona Qereti, Toni Braxton, Vanessa Hudgens, Toni Garrn and more. She became the first Ukrainian designer to have a dress appear on the Oscars red carpet, when her Crystal “naked” dress was worn by Bleona Qereti in 2018. 

Gasanova, who started her eponymous brand in Donetsk in 2013, had been living and working in a precarious situation since Donetsk was seized by Russia in 2014. As her brand grew, she moved from Donetsk to Kiev and took on two tailors who helped her create and sew the collection. 

Then in February 2022, the full-scale invasion began. Gasanova fled her new home of Bucha with her daughter one day before the Russians arrived and destroyed the city and killed many of its inhabitants. Without the decision she would not be alive today. She returned with her family to the city a few months later to find a rocket had hit her home.  

Ukrainian brand Podyh, which will be represented by

Thankfully despite the ongoing bombardment, all of her team were alive, although shrapnel had also wrecked the homes of three of her employees. They have gradually since rebuilt them thanks to help from the state.  

But for Gasanova, and many others still with businesses in Ukraine during the war, life goes on. “When the war began we had just made a very large, expensive Crystal Collection, and of course, on February 24th 2022 [the day Russia invaded Ukraine], we realized that no one would be buying crystal dresses for a while,” she says. “We had all this stock and ideas.”

“We wanted to work and stand united as a team and support each other, we were grateful, for every day is the opportunity to work hard and glorify Ukraine,” she says.  

Amidst the backdrop of war, pertinent questions arise: Is fashion relevant in the face of such dire circumstances? Is it pragmatic to prioritize business survival amidst chaos? Or is preserving Ukraine's vibrant creative industry a priority amidst the crisis? 


Jen Sidary

This was when American Jen Sidary came into the picture. A fashion and luxury retail veteran of three decades having spent the last ten years as head of Zappos Couture and President of Sales for Vivienne Westwood America, in 2020 she turned her attention towards Ukrainian fashion designers.  

She opened a showroom in New York for Ukranian fashion designers, when in February 2022, one of her shoe designers, Alina Kachorovska, called her from a bomb shelter to tell her what happened.  

Sidary pivoted and came up with the e-commerce platform, which features the world of 26 Ukrainian designers, including Gasanova, Bobkova, Omelia, Poydh, Gudu, and more. After a successful season in New York City, Milan and Paris, Angel For Fashion headed back to Paris in March to showcase some of the country’s best designers’ Autumn/Winter 2024 collections. 

“Ukrainian brands exemplify the transformative power of fashion in shaping culture and identity while advocating for a conscious approach to style,” says Sidary. “Our initiative aims to secure wholesale orders, garner global media attention, and foster collaborations to support and grow these independent designers’ businesses, promoting Ukraine’s economic growth and stability.” 

Once customers place orders, they are contacted by the brand directly for shipping information, so the customer can make a personal connection, says Sidary. “The brands tell me it’s incredible to hear from customers around the globe that the world stands with Ukraine.” 

As Gasanova looks to future collections, and how to resource them, she is encouraged that more and more consumers are supporting Ukrainian businesses thanks to online platforms and social media. “It’s no longer just about being ‘made in Ukraine’; the standards here are internationally recognised now, even notwithstanding the last two years. 

“The most important thing is for everyone to remain alive. Other than that, we must come together and do everything possible to turn this crisis to our advantage, so that our country is recognised worldwide as strong and talented.”