How the fashion world is responding to Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine
Fashion Month is well underway but industry frontrunners are using their international platform to support Ukraine amidst ongoing violence.
Fashion Week is always a feast for the senses and this year’s offering was no different. From Valentino’s all-pink showing to Off White’s poignant tribute to Virgil Abloh, there were many beautiful moments that got people talking. Then Russia invaded Ukraine and the appetite for what many would call triviality, waned.
However, the large majority of these shows were months, if not years, in the making and with countless people within the industry depending on Fashion Week as their main form of annual income, cancelling was never really an option. Proceeding with events without addressing the violence also felt wrong though, but several brands, models and designers used the international attention to their advantage and showed their solidarity with Ukraine as best they could given the circumstances.
Creatively speaking, Balenciaga’s show remains as one of this year’s most memorable events thanks to creative director, Demna Gvasalia’s, powerful vision for the catwalk.
A “dedication to fearlessness, to resistance, and to the victory of love and peace”, the popular Spanish fashion house exhibited its FW22 collection in a snow-filled globe where models trudged against the elements in a clear display of unity with the people of Ukraine.
Demna, himself a refugee of the Georgian Civil War, donned a blue and yellow shirt for the occasion, who said that though “fashion week feels like some kind of absurdity”, cancelling would mean “surrendering to the evil” that has haunted him personally for almost 30 years.
“The war in Ukraine has triggered the pain of a past trauma I have carried in me since 1993, when the same thing happened in my home country and I became a forever refugee,” he wrote in a statement about the show. “Forever, because that’s something that stays in you. The fear, the desperation, the realisation that no one wants you. But I also realised what really matters in life, the most important things, like life itself and human love and compassion.
“This is why working on this show this week was so incredibly hard for me. Because in a time like this, fashion loses its relevance and its actual right to exist. Fashion week feels like some kind of an absurdity. I thought for a moment about cancelling the show that I and my team worked hard on and were all looking forward to. But then I realised that cancelling this show would mean giving in, surrendering to the evil that has already hurt me so much for almost 30 years. I decided that I can no longer sacrifice parts of me to that senseless, heartless war of ego,” he continued.
“This show needs no explanation. It is a dedication to fearlessness, to resistance, and to the victory of love and peace,” he concluded. Each seat was adorned with a Ukrainian flag – 525 in total – and actress Salma Hayek also wore the flag as a dress.
Italian designer Giorgio Armani also paid tribute to the people of Ukraine, showing his new collection at Milan Fashion Week in complete silence out of respect for those caught in the conflict. “My decision not to use any music was taken as a sign of respect towards the people involved in the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine,” a Twitter post explaining the decision read. “The best thing to do is send a message that we don’t want to celebrate because something very disturbing is happening around us,” he later commented at the show itself.
Beyond that, several brands have joined in with sanctions against Russia including the likes of Louis Vuitton, Dior, Hermès, Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Cartier and Burberry – all of whom have closed their Russian stores and paused online trading. Highstreet stores Zara and H&M have also done similarly.
Danish brand Ganni also publicly voiced their support of Ukraine, sharing a statement on social media that reads, “At Ganni, we stand for peace”.
“As a company we are aligning with international sanctions and are freezing all trade with Russia. On behalf of both Ganni and our founders Ditte and Nicolaj Reffstrup we are donating 100.000 DKK to the Danish Refugee Council who are currently on the ground in Ukraine, supporting their efforts to save lives and provide emergency relief and protection for those affected by the conflict. We stand in solidarity with all our teams and communities across nationalities in this dark time.”
Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia has also since been cancelled, with organisers announcing that none of next week’s shows will go ahead in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Scheduled to take place in Moscow from March 16-20, the event has not been rescheduled with those in charge saying it was the “obvious” choice and that they are “operating appropriately” in response to the situation.
Just yesterday, supermodel Gigi Hadid vowed to donate all her Fashion Month earnings to helping those in both Ukraine and Palestine. “Having a set Fashion Month schedule has meant that my colleagues and I often present new fashion collections during heartbreaking and traumatic times in history,” she wrote on Instagram alongside a number of photos from shows she’s walked in this year. “We don’t have control over most of our work schedules, but we would like to walk ‘for’ something. Following in the footsteps of my friend Mica Arganaraz, I am pledging to donate my earnings from the Fall 2022 shows to aid those suffering from the war in Ukraine, as well as continuing to support those experiencing the same in Palestine.”
“Our eyes and hearts must be open to all human injustice. May we all see each other as brothers and sisters, beyond politics, beyond race, beyond religion. At the the end of the day, innocent lives pay for war – not leaders.HANDS OFF UKRAINE. HANDS OFF PALESTINE. PEACE. PEACE. PEACE,” she finished.
Fashion Week may be “flouncy escapism” as many have pointed out, but it also has a huge global reach and it’s reassuring to see brands, models and designers attempting to use this influence for good… even if it doesn’t feel right to be indulging in such superficiality when the world is in flames.
There are a number of not-for-profit organisations you can donate to to help the people of Ukraine including United Help Ukraine, Save the Children, UNICEF Ukraine and Doctors Without Borders.