In a showroom in Manhattan’s NoHo section, a laptop sits on a table, hidden behind a rack of Ukrainian brand knitwear. 91 Laboratories. Computers stream CNN silently. An ominous shot from the streets of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, caught the eye of Alina Bairamova, fashion industry coordinator for Ukraine Fashion, which showcases Ukrainian designers.
“I’m sorry,” Ms. Bairamova said, adding that the scene was very close to her mother’s house.
The footage was taken the day before, and Ms Bairamova’s mother, who works at the veterans hospital in Kyiv, was safe. However, it was a terrifying few days.
She applied lip balm. “For dehydration,” she says. “Don’t cry.”
Ms. Bairamova, 46, arrived in New York on February 17 with a suitcase and a Ziploc bag of toiletries. She looks forward to a 10-day work trip to attract buyers and pitch six designers in a showcase called Fashion Ukraine.
It is not clear now whether she will return to Kyiv or not.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine blinded her eyes. “Five days ago, that scenario didn’t seem to have happened,” she said.
Jen Sidary, founder of Ukrainian Fashion, was less surprised. “I’ve been panicking since November,” she said as she sat next to Ms. Bairamova. Ms. Sidary said that despite her anxiety about a possible invasion, she was determined to keep an eye on the event.
Ms. Sidary said proudly that every designer’s work made it to the US in time for the opening of the showcase on February 23.
“Thanks Jen, God and DHL,” Ms. Bairamova said with a smile. “In that order.”
A fashion industry veteran who has worked at Zappos and Vivienne Westwood, Ms. Sidary, 49, has been a champion of Ukrainian fashion for the past two years.
When she lost her job amid the pandemic, she said, friends urged, “Girls, come live with us in Kyiv – it’ll be fun!”
One of them was Dominique Piotet, executive director of the Innovation Parks incubator program UNIT.City, whom she met through Tony Hsieh, her former boss at Zappos. In November 2020, Ms. Sidary accepted Mr. Piotet’s invitation to stay with him.
Ms. Sidary loves Ukraine. “I felt immediately ‘I’m at home,’” she says with a slow Southern California accent. She loved its thriving fashion scene, and she was captivated by the country’s wide range of cuisines and the meticulous attention to detail in the design.
In July 2021, Ms. Sidary received a grant from USAID Competitive Economy Program that helped her start her first Fashion Ukraine event in September. The showcase received another grant in 2022 to help fund this year’s showcase.
Ms. Sidary learned of the Russian invasion while dining with Ms. Bairamova at Kiki’s, a Greek restaurant on the Lower East Side. They were joined by two other Ukrainian women in fashion, Valery Kovalskaa designer, and Anya Vasylenko, Issey Miyake’s wholesale director.
During dinner, Ms. Sidary received a text message from David Anderson, a USAID executive, saying Ukraine was being invaded. She held Ms. Bairamova’s hand and shared the news on the table. “We spent the rest of the evening together, obviously drinking cocktails because what else do you do?” Mrs. Sidary said.
All four women immediately began communicating with their friends and family in Ukraine via Telegram and WhatsApp. Ms. Sidary said that she was in regular contact with all six designers during the showcase.
“I was like their mother, phoning to make sure everyone was okay,” she said in the gallery as she recalled dinner.
Around noon on Friday, Ms. Sidary and Ms. Bairamova called Alina Kachorovska, a prominent footwear designer in Fashion Ukraine, from the gallery. Kachorovska is in a bomb shelter in her apartment building in Kyiv with her husband, three children and a neighbour.
Understanding Russia’s Attack on Ukraine
What is the root cause of this invasion? Russia considers Ukraine to be inside its natural sphere of influence, and it became irritated by Ukraine’s proximity to the West and the prospect of it joining NATO or the European Union. Although Ukraine is also not included in this category, it receives financial and military aid from the United States and Europe.
Kachorovska says she is trying to stay optimistic. “Millions of people are in this situation across the country,” she said. “So we’re not alone, you know?”
“I put your shoes on, girl,” said Miss Sidary, who was wearing a pair of chunky whites Kachorovska boots. “I wear your shoes.”
“Thank you,” said Mrs. Kachorovska.
Ms. Sidary then phoned Ivan Frolov, whose plaster work resembles Bob Mackie’s hanging on a nearby shelf. Mr. Frolov was exhausted after traveling 25 hours to western Ukraine.
With the help of frequent translators from Ms. Bairamova, Mr. Frolov expressed distrust of the invasion, praising the Ukrainian military and stressing the need for more international help.
As she listened to Mr. Frolov speak, Mrs. Sidary wiped her tears and put her hand to her face. Her nails are painted in a vibrant metallic floral color.
She assured Mr. Frolov that she would bring his garments back to her apartment in West Hollywood, California. “I am a member of Medals”
While Ms. Sidary stepped out to smoke, Ms. Bairamova called another designer from the showcase, Elena Bureninaalso a close friend.
Ms. Burenina chose to stay in Kyiv, where she continued to sketch, cut patterns, sew and fulfill orders, even as her country was under attack. She said she would consider leaving the country only when Vladimir Putin comes to power and life becomes completely unbearable.
“Elena believes beauty saves the world,” Ms. Bairamova said, paraphrasing her friend.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/26/style/a-showcase-for-ukrainian-fashion-forges-on.html A show for Ukrainian fashion forges