Dissertation Proposal: Ukrainian Fashionability

By Olexandra Solomka

It is 2006 in Ukraine: I’m 17, smoking a cigarette with my friend who is wearing a shirt with a suspicious-looking “Channel” logo. I’m crushing on the guy next to me in knock-off Adidas track pants and Matrix-style sunglasses. A woman briskly walks by wearing shiny white leather boots with sky-high heels, zebra-printed leggings, and a cheetah-pattern coat with silver embellishments. It seems like this country has an obsession with brand names and shiny objects: even our thin cigarette packs read “Glamour”. – Fashionista (2013)

Anyone who keeps even half an eye on international current affairs will not have failed to notice Ukraine’s prominent position in the headlines since November 2013. Due to my Ukrainian heritage, I have been keeping an even closer eye on the unfolding situation in the country. Therefore, my MA History and Culture of Fashion dissertation will be focusing on the Europeanisation of the Ukrainian fashion system, particularly in Kiev.

My thesis will be focusing on the recent introduction of Western designer mono-brand stores (single brand flagships) in 2012 and 2013, including the likes of Tom Ford, Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Salvatore Ferragamo, amongst others. Having luxury brands open mono-stores serves to represent that Ukraine has entered a global fashion scene. In my dissertation, I will be referring to these stores, and the decisions made by the marketing teams of these brands, as “authorities”. This means that these brands have the perceived power to “legitimise” Kiev as being fashionable, because they agree that the citizens of Kiev have enough cultural, social and economic capital to appropriate a Louis Vuitton handbag, for example.

In March, the country received its own Vogue, an important recognition from the international fashion community. –Fashionista (2013)

In March 2013, Condé Nast Publications introduced Vogue Ukraine. However, the magazine was published entirely in Russian, and not in Ukrainian. This demonstrates another authoritarian move because Russian is spoken in the wealthier cities, by the educated, middle classes (who speak both Russian and Ukrainian), as opposed to Ukrainian, which is generally spoken by individuals living in poorer villages.

Therefore, this demonstrates a direct example of a fashion authority addressing only those with enough cultural, social and economic capital to appropriate the Louis Vuitton handbag. Considering the recent anti-Russian protests in Kiev, it will be interesting to observe Condé Nast’s next move and see if they change the primary language of Vogue Ukraine.

All creative people want to live in a time of revolution: when things are changing; when you can change history; when you can become a leader of a group; and when you can say something that will make people react. It is an amazing moment for the creative class. – Daria Shapovalova (2013)

In September 2013, international attention was paid to Daria Shapovalova’s Mercedes-Benz Kiev Fashion Days (MBKFD). Shapovalova founded the Kiev Fashion Days in 2010; in 2011, Kiev Fashion Days became Mercedes Benz Kiev Fashion Days; and in September 2013 the event reached a European audience. The event came as a result of Shapovalova’s frustration at how Ukraine is portrayed in the international media; therefore, she wanted to create an event to help showcase Ukraine’s creative talent to Europe.

We have always wanted to be a European event, not just a Ukrainian event. The only way that we can succeed is for the designers to sell abroad. All of these designers are dreaming about being successful worldwide. –Daria Shapovalova (2013)

My dissertation will be about documenting the changes in Ukraine, and recording this exciting time in a young country’s development. I will be creating a body of work that doesn’t refer to all ex-Soviet countries as one mass lump, and giving Ukraine its independence in academia and not just another discussion on folk dress.

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4 thoughts on “Dissertation Proposal: Ukrainian Fashionability

  1. Thank you so much for submitting this, Olexa! How exciting to be writing about a topic that’s evolving and changing almost on a daily basis. Good luck! I genuinely can’t wait to read the final piece, I think it’s going to be such an important piece of research. x EM

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