Drafting | Fashion month is over. War is not.

On a cold February night, the departure lounge at Kiev’s Boryspil airport seemed suspiciously silent. One of the last to leave that night, my flight took off at 10:45 pm, landing in Milan, Bergamo, three hours later. It was February 24th.

At 4:30 am, Russia launched air strikes on my country, confirming what many in Ukraine feared but still believed would never actually happen. That morning, my phone was hot from receiving so many messages from family, friends and colleagues. There was a whirlwind of feelings: panic, stoicism, hope.

As an editor, I have decided to continue my work. I remember attending my first show in Milan, feeling a punch in the stomach, then paralyzed by what I saw: the usual airy kisses and hugs between the well-groomed guests; camera with mobile phones ready to document Bella and Gigi on the catwalk; a large group of Russian publishers seated in the front row in full sartorial glory. In other words, as usual.

The next few days were a blur. Between a flurry of shows and phone calls, I saw Financial Times Jo Ellison, editor of “How to Spend It”. We met for coffee. I couldn’t eat. Next, she posted a summary of our conversation on her Instagram. The post hit a nerve. As the only Ukrainian publisher at the shows, I was contacted by CNN, The evening standard, The weatheryou call it.

Yet most of those at the Milan fashion shows seemed to stick their coiffed heads in the sand. War? What war? We want beautiful dresses. It took Giorgio Armani, 87, to speak to the elephant in the room. Three days after the start of the war, the designer staged two silent shows dedicated “to people affected by the evolving tragedy”.

My return ticket to Kiev was canceled and my team and I decided that I should stay in Europe and go to the shows in Paris. At first, there was little indication that a war was raging on the same continent. But awareness has spread, causing a flood of declarations and donations from individuals and large companies alike.

Demna’s Balenciaga was the only major fashion brand to face the war head on. I know not everyone approved of the show, finding oversized shirts in our national flag colors, merchandising on every seat, numb. But for me the show was important and courageous. It has shown that we as an industry can and must address what is happening in the world.

In retrospect, I think we were lucky – if luck is a word one can use in these circumstances – that war broke out during Fashion Month, meaning that the incongruity between the glittering fashion runways and the war contributed. to put the industry into action.

Now, two weeks before the end of the fashion month, Ukraine is still on the front pages of all the newspapers, but is it still on the mind of the fashion industry?

This is where real weight lifting begins. Donations are great. The messages of love and support are moving. But I’m just a pain reliever for Ukrainian fashion industry professionals who are in dire need of support.

As the war progresses and our resources dwindle, my Instagram inbox is filled with messages from Ukrainian talent trying to figure out what to do next. Some of them have remained in Ukraine, where their main concern is simply survival; others have managed to leave but have little savings. What will happen to them and their livelihoods in a week? In a month? In a year?

Everyone I know is trying to support. 1Granary’s Olya Kuryshchuk and his team are helping to provide Ukrainians with work permits and places to live. Julie Pelipas created a website to help international companies recruit Ukrainian talent. I am speaking with Belgian, French and Italian fashion institutions to see how they can help with internships and scholarships.

There is so much that can and must be done. Every fashion company and every industry insider can contribute. Ultimately, what we need from fashion are opportunities. We are talented and hardworking people. Not only will we survive, we will shine.

Vena Brykalin is fashion director of Vogue Ukraine.

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