Style blogger Poly Kyrychenko’s first-ever fashion week in Milan came to an abrupt halt on Thursday, February 24, when her native Ukraine was invaded by Russia. “It was the worst morning of my life,” she recalled to NYLON. “I woke up to calls from relatives at home. It was panic. I couldn’t believe the war had started.
Kyrychenko’s home is the country’s capital, Kyiv, where she lives with her husband and four-year-old son. Although tensions between Ukraine and Russia had been building ahead of Milan Fashion Week, Kyrychenko chose to attend because his job is to promote Ukrainian brands, and that included wearing designer looks from the country so that she was going from one fashion show to another. But with her home under attack, she wanted to send a bigger message beyond the clothes. “I started looking for the Ukrainian flag at 5 a.m., but couldn’t find it, so I waved,” recalls Kyrychenko, who was pictured outside the Max Mara show Thursday morning holding a piece of cardboard saying “No War in Ukraine.” My hands were shaking and when [the photos were done being taken], the tears flowed like hail. It’s the only thing that can be done while I’m here.
This moment marked the first time Kyrychenko was photographed on the street, and as the day went on, she noticed others using the street style to show support and awareness for Ukraine. “At Max Mara, I was the only one with a sign,” says Kyrychenko. “Then other Ukrainian influencers came to Prada with the same action. We couldn’t hold back any longer. It was very difficult, tears flowed right in front of the cameras, people came to hug us.
Later that day at Prada, Kyrychenko, who now had the Ukrainian flag drawn on her hand, was joined by Olga Boncheva, a Ukrainian upcycling designer behind Oversized. and fashion influencer Nastya Burlaka, Alina Frendiy and Tatyana Kodzayeva arrived at the show carrying the country’s flag together. A crowd gathered around another group of influencers, dressed in all-black outfits, holding their own “No War in Ukraine” sign.
“The feelings are disgusting, you feel fear, anger and tears,” Burlaka recalled when she first received a phone call about her husband’s bombings in Ukraine that morning. . “We got together with Ukrainian bloggers and decided to tell the world about it. It was decided to come to the streets with the Ukrainian flag and tell the public about it.
Anti-Putin protesters also arrived outside runway shows during the rest of Milan Fashion Week, including at the sites of Gucci, Versace and Giorgio Armani, who decided to present his runway collection in silence as a sign of respect for Ukraine. On Wednesday, March 2, Gucci announced that its Chime For Change campaign will donate $500,000 to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to help provide emergency aid to Ukrainian refugees. The day before, Donatella Versace had donated to the same organization, and urged her Instagram followers to do the same.
Attention to the Ukraine-Russia conflict was also brought to the industry’s attention during New York Fashion Week. Svitlana Bevza, who presented her eponymous brand’s fall 2022 collection on February 14, closed her show with a projection of the Ukrainian flag lighting up above the catwalk. Soon after, she returned to her hometown of Kiev where she stayed with her husband, two children, mother and mother-in-law. “There are people leaving for Lviv and western Ukraine, but I’m not sure it’s super safe to drive on the road,” Bevza told Vogue.com in an interview. “My family is here. My children are here. We made the decision to stay here.
As Paris Fashion Week continues, onlookers are still drawing attention to Ukraine, especially through street style. Beka Gvishiani of the fashion news Instagram account StyleNotCom was seen wearing a pin in the colors of the Ukrainian flag, as well as reporting on shows that also expressed support. Christelle Kocher de Koché, for example, wore blue and yellow flower pins in her final runway show on March 1. Balenciaga, which will present its fall 2022 collection on March 6, deleted its entire Instagram page except for a single post of the Ukrainian flag with a caption that read: “We stand for peace and have donated to the WFP to support the first humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees. We will open our platforms in the coming days to report and relay information around the situation in Ukraine. Follow the link in bio to donate now.
“I haven’t posted anything about fashion for [the] past three days and had to cancel multiple deals,” Gvishiani wrote in an Instagram post on Sunday, Feb. 27. “He felt and feels uncomfortable sharing fashion-related content so far. … Glory to Ukraine!”
While some influencers who originally arrived with Kyrychenko at fashion week drove back to Ukraine to be with their families, she decided to stay in Milan but no longer attend events. Other influencers have followed suit, such as Frendiy, who was also attending Milan Fashion Week for the first time but spent her time attending protests and rallies rather than shows. “After the news, there was no desire to attend performances,” says Burlaka, who is now based in Moldova, a country bordering Romania and Ukraine.
“It’s definitely not the time to wear outfits,” Kyrychenko says. She is currently reunited with her son in Italy while her mother and sister with a six-month-old baby and a dog are in Germany. Her husband is still at home in Ukraine. “I hope we will meet one day.”
Ukraine is still under Russian attack and invasion since Thursday, February 24. Please consider donating to the following organizations to show your support:
- CARE Ukraine Crisis Fund provides immediate relief and recovery, including food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support and cash assistance, while prioritizing women and girls, families and the elderly .
- Doctors Without Borders sets up emergency response activities in Ukraine and sends teams to Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.
- The Ukrainian Red Cross provides first aid and psychosocial support to those affected by the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
- Nigerians leaving Ukraine helps Africans fleeing Ukraine with the support of donations. Cases of Africans facing racism and segregation at the border and in neighboring countries have been reported.
- Children’s Voice Foundation provides ongoing assistance to affected children and families in Ukraine, including emergency psychological assistance, and assists with the evacuation process.
- PETA Global Compassion Fund sends teams to the Polish border to provide on-site assistance, including accompanying animals to safety. In Germany, PETA is coordinating the delivery of animal food and blankets to shelters in Ukraine
- Donate to support Ukrainian hospitals and the Ukrainian army.
To stay informed about what is happening in Ukraine, follow the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Twitter.