There are many facets to Ukraine’s rich culture. But one could argue fashion — from traditional embroidered folk costumes passed through generations, to a vast range of contemporary designers on the local runways, to buzzworthy, Instagram-favorite Ukrainian fashion brands warranting thousands of likes — is practically part of the country’s DNA.
“Creatives and artists are one of our main assets, known all around the globe long before all eyes were drawn to us for such a tragic reason as a war,” Olha Norba, co-founder of Norba, tells TZR. “Ukraine is home to some of the most talented people in different spheres including design,” Anna Osmekhina, founder and creative director of TTSWTRS, adds. “They’re dedicated to their cause, advanced and courageous in their statements. The consumer experience becomes unforgettable when they’re holding a one-of-a-kind item in their hands which was produced with such care and craftsmanship. Manufacturing in Ukraine has always given us the highest quality products because we have people working on them who love what they’re doing and care about the quality of clothing they create as it’s their life’s work.”
This care, craftsmanship, and quality is why it is essential to keep supporting the vast array of designers still creating and producing in Ukraine, during this time of immense tragedy. “If we talk about the brand as a business, the main task now is to stand,” Natalia Gergeliuk, founder of Gaptuvalnya, explains. “In a month of war, business suffered more than in two years of the pandemic, but we feel great support from the whole world. I want to urge you to buy Ukrainian brands, because this is support for a huge number of people and help for our economic front.”
Production was put to a halt for many businesses after Russia’s invasion, directly impacting the country’s economy. “Starting from February 24, we completely stopped all the processes of our company for a month and a half, as the safety of the team became a priority,” Kateryna Tymoshenko, co-founder and creative director of Katimō, tells TZR. “The first month of the war was a complete loss and incomprehension of how to move further,” Viktoria Udina, founder and creative director of NUÉ, adds. “We met the war in the middle of our supply chain, and everything was halted. Almost all employees fled abroad, the warehouses and the production were closed, and I needed time to find a solution whilst struggling with my own fears.”
Fortunately, many brands have been able to begin resume work again, amidst the vast array of new challenges to face. “In mid-April, we partially resumed production and store operation. Our main Spring collection was supposed to come out in March, but its release was delayed by three months,” Tymoshenko says. “Right now we are gaining the pre-war rhythm, and working on not only sustaining but expanding our business.” Udina has faced similar difficulties. “Lately, the logistics have become more complicated,” she says. “At this point, receiving materials is a challenge influencing all the processes. We also don’t have express shipping anymore.” And Norba tells TZR, “There are still a lot of things we cannot resume and the struggle is real. However, we are lucky to be able to keep on going, to keep our team and our business safe which is already a lot.”
Despite these ongoing struggles, devotion to their homeland has spurred several designers to keep creating in their country. “The brand Katimō was born in Ukraine. This is our home,” Tymoshenko explains. “Here we have become who we are and right now we must help our country survive. We have no right to sit idly by.” Norba adds, “A chance to keep working here obviously means a lot to us. All our inspiration sources and the people we love are there, so it’s hard to even measure the importance of being able to continue our production in Ukraine.” And Udina says, “It’s essential for me to keep my employees and help them to overcome the stress and difficulties they faced during the war by giving them jobs, opportunities to create, and hopes for a peaceful life.”
Through it all, this sense of national hope still prevails. “Ukrainian designers deserve to be seen and appreciated, so the future of our creative industries will be bright no matter what challenges we have to face,” Norba says. “It’s hard to make predictions now that the world is on fire and everything is constantly changing, but who said we couldn’t dream a little?” This sentiment of dreaminess resides through these six labels, and can be appreciated by all.
Keep scrolling for 6 Ukrainian brands to know and support now, all sure to remain closet classics for years to come.
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Kyiv-based women’s wear brand Katimō was founded in 2015 by Tymoshenko. “I’ve been into fashion since childhood. Beautiful clothes have always attracted me, but not as a consumer,” she tells TZR. “Growing up in the provincial city, I was always told to choose a ‘serious’ career like attorney or manager. Fashion could be considered only as a hobby.” Nevertheless, while unable to find a suitable dress while shopping one day, she decided to sew it herself. “It turned out to be pretty and many of my acquaintances asked me to make the same one for them. This dress was the starting point of my business.”
Since then, the line has grown from a single dress to encompass knitwear, tailoring, you name it, all possessing the singular elements of Katimō style: a minimalist nature with plenty of fashion-forward detailing, like handmade crochet. “For me, fashion is only the starting point because Katimo is the way of living, not just style,” Tymoshenko says. “It is always a priority for me how good design can improve a woman’s individual life. It’s not just about creating beautiful pieces of clothing. Everything artistic should have something functional, and that should serve the woman who wears Katimō.”
Function is at the forefront of Tymoshenko’s design process, as well as quality and innovation. “Our main philosophy is the lack of compromise between quality, good design, and cost — minimalism that isn’t just about lack of prints and over-decoration, it’s often filled with intellectual context,” Tymoshenko explains. “Katimō empowers women to fill their wardrobe with quality basics and complement it with pieces that emphasize the strength of their personalities and characters.” Scoop up the dreamy structural floral dresses, ‘90s-inspired knitwear, tailoring with a twist, and chic outerwear (a favorite of Tymoshenko’s to design), now.
You’ve likely seen NUÉ’s sparkly creations pop up on your Instagram feed, due to their impossible-to-miss sparkle and shine quality (ideal for a night out). Founded in 2019 in Kyiv by Udina, the eye-catching designs are inspired by old Hollywood glamour, revolutionized for the modern day woman. “My endless love for fashion led me to create the brand after many attempts to fulfill myself in the industry. My previous experience in the fabric business was the moment of fate. I sourced fabrics from across Europe and spotted rhinestones during one of my trips,” Udina tells TZR. “They were so attractive that I couldn’t pass by.” She continues, “First, I decided to create a top for myself, effortless yet eye-catching, but then I realized that it would be a perfect statement piece to show the world. I didn’t have a business plan, just a strong willingness to create.”
This determination and drive has led to a full collection of high demand pieces, repeatedly requested for restocks at retailers such as FWRD, Moda Operandi, and Intermix. “Our signature Charlotte top is what we are recognized for and what consumers love a lot. However, the Spiral dress, which Leonie Hanne has called The ‘New Revenge dress’ in one of her posts on IG, has become truly the most demanded piece so far.” The way she sees it, a NUÉ creation is hardly just one thing. “Our designs are all about embracing femininity and sensuality, which is timeless,” she says. “It’s a perfect balance between sparkling and intellectual and an emphasis on being body positive.”
This classic nature is essential to the brand’s core values. “We create statement pieces that last long, implementing handcrafted techniques as our distinctive feature,” Udina says. “Whether it is a sparkling choker or a tailored blazer, it doesn’t follow any season and allows you to discover new ways of wearing it no matter how quickly trends change.” Don’t sleep on the mesmerizing bra tops, silky satin separates, and sparkly accessories for your next big event or simply a girl’s night out.
TTSWTRS is a “brand that appeared as an experiment nine years ago,” according to Osmekhina, a former costume designer, fashion editor, and stylist based in Kyiv. “I didn’t want to do the brand in a serious way, but processes began to develop rapidly, and a great team was assembled. It was impossible not to continue.” What started as a personal project, however, soon grew into a lasting business, with celebrity fans (such as Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian, and Nicki Minaj) who flocked to the mesh, tattoo-like designs on catsuits and bodycon dresses.
“The human body inspired me to reveal the brand’s story because the body is art in itself,” Osmekhina tells TZR. “The body is always honest, the body is always straight, it reflects the true beauty of its owner beyond shape, skin color, etc. A canvas that reveals an amazing inner world, each one unique, each one unlike the other.” She adds, “The body as it is, is my main inspiration for creating and running the brand.” This design individuality carries throughout all the pieces, including a vast range of modern unisex basics, like shapely bodysuits and tanks, to oversized denim and sharp tailoring.
The concept of freedom is what makes the TTSWTRS brand distinct and defines its ethos. “It’s freedom to express, to dissent, to be what you want, not what society defines you to be,” Osmekhina says. “The ability to broadcast your courage, your sexuality, while at the same time being relaxed and comfortable” This self-assured attitude shines throughout the line, making it perfect for when your confidence needs a boost.
Co-founders and sister duo Kate Zubarieva and Asya Varetsa, dreamt up Sleeper one Christmas Eve in 2013. “We were watching Curly Sue with friends, and Kelly Lynch, who played Grey Ellison, was wearing a striped robe during one of the scenes,” Zubarieva recalls. “Asya and I exchanged glances, and simultaneously decided that was a truly cool look.” That night Zubarieva had a dream where she was standing in the middle of a pajama factory. “In the morning, I got a call with the proposal of starting a homeware company,” says Varetsa. “I liked the idea, but suggested creating sleepwear garments [instead.]” The rest is history, as they say, to build a label that has become a cult classic favorite within the fashion scene.
“Sleeper is multipurpose loungewear that doubles as casual wear,” Varetsa tells TZR. “Our garments are out of time because we’re focused on quality and versatility.” Zubarieva emphasizes the care that goes into every single item they make. “We work the way we live. Our designs, philosophy, and way of living are sincere and full of love,” say says. “We believe that only things made by happy people can make the customer happy. We also believe that true chic is always about comfort, and first of all about loving yourself, and enjoying yourself in the clothes you are wearing.”
This design philosophy transcends to their whimsical line-up, such as the iconic “Party Pajama” set, trimmed in feathers (you might recognize making recent cameo appearances in And Just Like That or Emily in Paris) or the puff-sleeved “Atlanta Dress” seen on celebs such as Dakota Fanning, Katy Perry, and Emma Roberts. “It’s very comfortable for any shape. It’s versatile and appropriate to wear on the beach and at a party with friends, on a picnic and even during an escapade to the market,” Zubarieva shares. Be sure to peep their new offerings as well, with categories such as suiting and footwear, as well as offering mens and kids collections.
Norba was founded by sisters Olha and Helen Norba, who both found the sportswear industry’s options lacking. “The idea to create a brand of our own arose from the fact that sport is a very significant part of our lives,” Olha Norba tells TZR. “My sister Helen and I tried jogging and boxing, then I became interested in ballet, but I couldn’t find sportswear to reflect our personal styles — so the best decision was to get creative and design it ourselves. Our goal was to create something that would express the love, care, and gratitude women share with each other, so Norba is basically an ode to the wonders and diversity of femininity.” And with this intention, the line was created with the notion of “essential wear” in mind.
“Our pieces are comfortable and work for any sports activities,” Norba says. “But we don’t focus on Norba being exclusively an activewear brand: the concept of essential wear, meaning that the apparel we create is easy to style and good to go with any daily plans.” You’ll find core pieces like their super-soft leggings and crop tops made from velour, all in muted shades, with hints of pastel tones throughout, alongside sleek swimwear. This minimalist brand doesn’t follow the traditional fashion industry seasonal schedule or fleeting trends either, creating a more sustainable approach to production for the future.
“The main goal for us is to create comfortable pieces that would last, because overproduction is a real problem,” says Norba. “That’s why we made sustainable approach our key principle: basically, we wanted to find a balance between creating something new and causing no additional harm to the planet.” Fabrics include regenerated Econyl® nylon made of ocean plastic, biodegradable and plant-based Tencel™, recycled polyamide-wool blend and sustainable polyester.
Gergeliuk inherited a passion for embroidered clothes from her own family, who introduced her to the aesthetics and power of traditional Ukrainian ornaments at a young age. “Our culture and our language is a unique phenomenon that sounds and develops over the centuries. “Ukrainian folk costume is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for thousands of artists all over the world,” Gergeliuk tells TZR. “And the Ukrainian mountains, the Carpathians, are exceptionally strong energy! Hundreds of mystical legends surround this place and I love to listen to them.”
With the multi-layered historical references in mind, the Gaptuvalnya brand name was created, deriving from Ukrainian words quite literally meaning embroidery and to tread. “If we talk about the direction of creativity and design, we created embroidered shirts and talked about culture, studied traditions even before the war,” Gergeliuk adds. “Combining modern silhouettes and embroidery, the brand demonstrates that folk culture exists beyond time – it develops before our eyes and transforms together with society.” Her creations are extraordinary pieces, such as vyshyvankas (the casual name for Ukrainian embroidered blouses) and intricate dresses you’ll want to live in, all made with craft and care in mind.
“Gaptuvalnya emphasizes the appropriateness of a traditional embroidered shirt for any occasion,” Gergeliuk says. “Our brand aims to dispel the myth that embroidery is only for great holidays, so you can see that the products are practical, and often with monochrome embroidery.” These masterpieces are sure to find a place in your contemporary closet, keeping the important folkloric techniques alive and ready to be passed down to the next generation. [ED NOTE: Prices below are estimates converted from Ukrainian hryvnia.]