How the Fashion World is Responding to the Conflict in Ukraine

By now, everyone is aware of the heart-wrenching events taking place in Ukraine. There is an overwhelming helplessness when watching Russia’s attempts of control from the sidelines. These past few weeks have also seen numerous Fashion Week taking place, and it has caused designers and big names in the industry to help Ukraine as much as possible.

One of the biggest responses throughout Fashion Week was Balenciaga’s autumn and winter show in Paris. Creative Director, Demna Gvasalia, completely rearranged the show into models walking through extreme weather conditions. Some of them even held trash bags as seen to represent those fleeing Ukraine with just a bag of belongings. A refugee himself, Gvasalia fled his home country, Georgia, at age 12. He took to Instagram to say how the show was “a dedication to fearlessness, to resistance, and to the victory of love and peace”. In an interview following the show, he stated that “we cannot take weapons and go fight there, but we can use our voices”.

Another notable moment at Paris Fashion Week was Budapest designer brand Nanushka’s presentation. To show their support, they played Ukraine’s national anthem and severed business ties with Russia, like a number of other brands. These kinds of responses are not limited to Paris. In Milan, Giorgio Armani decided to present his show without any music to show respect for those suffering in Ukraine. Additionally, during New York Fashion Week, Kyiv designer Svitlana Bevza closed her show by projecting her native flag for everyone to see. 

Perhaps the responses with the most exposure are those from the models of Fashion Week. Mica Argañaraz revealed she would donate all of her earnings to Ukrainian organisations, with Gigi Hadid following suit, as well as donating to Palestine. Other models have vowed to donate some of their Fashion Week earnings too, and many attendees of shows wore the colours of the Ukrainian flag to show their support.

A notable number of fashion brands have cut Russia off following Putin’s invasion. Marks & Spencer’s, ASOS, John Lewis, H&M are all examples. The fashion industry is not the only one changing its relationship with Russia – oil, agriculture, technology, automobile, and numerous other industries have completely excluded Russia from trading to present a no-tolerance policy for war crimes. 

Arguably the biggest event in fashion was the support from all corners of Fashion Week. This inevitably impacts other people to do the same. Demna Gvasalia could not have put it better, saying that brands using their voices can have a great effect. The severity of the attacks in Ukraine has prompted immense solidarity amongst onlookers. Many neighbouring countries in Europe have opened their homes to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the conflict polluting their homes. But what is most inspiring is the strength Ukrainians are showing to the world.

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Sienna Norris

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May 2022
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