LONDON — Designer Lilia Litkovskaya had always been a cheerleader for fashion in her native Ukraine, designing and making her collections there, and even setting up a successful fashion school in Kyiv called Schooll.
Now, with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war machine in full swing, she has fled her country, and is eager to promote Ukranian fashion, and creativity, in the rest of Europe.
Litkovskaya, who left Kyiv last week with her two-year-old daughter, is hoping to go through with a planned installation later this week at Tranoi, the Paris fashion trade event, which runs from March 4 to 7.
“I want to say ‘This is Ukraine.’ I want to speak loudly about my country and the glory of our army, our heroes. We are a talented nation, we are strong and full of art, energy and creativity,” the designer said in a Zoom interview from Switzerland, where she arrived with her daughter last week.
She made her way to Poland by car, then flew to Milan and took the train to Lugano, Switzerland, to stay with friends. She had been planning the Paris showcase for the past month, but never thought the Russian invasion would happen so soon.
It’s still unclear whether the Ukrainian artists, designers and creatives will be able to participate or what form the installation might take. Those who were set to take part include Pavel Nikolaevich Makov, a graphic and etching artist; designer Nadya Dzyak; DakhaBrakha, a world music quartet, and Sasha Maslov, a portrait photographer.
Last week, the designer, who comes from a long line of tailors and artisans and who is known for her elegant, draped clothing, dramatic proportions and clothing that “caresses the skin,” pressed pause on her latest collection.
Her clothes are made in Ukraine and sell through retailers in 15 countries, including Selfridges.
“Factories can’t function because people can’t move. Everyone is sitting at home,” or in shelters, said Litkovskaya, whose mother and team are still in Ukraine. “We’ve taken orders as usual, but don’t know what will happen. Our sales team is continuing to work with our partners.”
She said she’s determined not only to raise her voice in Paris, but also to return as soon as possible to rebuild “every industry. We have the energy to make it happen.”