As fighting intensified on the fifth day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and 500,000 people have fled the country, some fashion companies and major retailers are pitching in to support and protect their employees, and those impacted by the crisis.
While the European Union countries and Canada are looking to seal off their air space to Russian planes, the closure of air space in Ukraine has added another level of logistics for relief organizations and donors that are trying to deliver goods to victims in Ukraine.
The jewelry company Pandora has donated $1 million to help UNICEF’s efforts to provide basic services, including water, sanitation, immunization, health care, schooling, emergency cash and psychological support for up to 7.5 million children in Ukraine, according to a UNICEF spokeswoman. The humanitarian organization has estimated that $66.4 million is needed to help children in the country.
The Copenhagen-headquartered jewelry company has been a close ally of UNICEF Denmark since 2019, offering support to children internationally. Pandora chief executive officer Alexander Lacik said in a statement that children in Ukraine need shelter, water, food, medicine, safe zones and other support “to live through this crisis. UNICEF’s work is critical and desperately needed.”
While Ukrainian officials have called for a cease fire — thus far unsuccessfully — and circumstances are changing by the minute, executives at the Ukrainian public relations agency Gogola have been circulating a document that is continually being updated with facts about the situation in Ukraine and flagging misinformation and propaganda. With the majority of its clients and team based in Kyiv, Gogola’s Jasmine Hirtz said Monday, “As of now, everyone is safe, hiding and sheltering from constant misdialed, bombing and heavy artillery attacks.”
Representing such labels as the body-positivity lingerie label Zhilyova and the sustainability-focused Ttswtrs brand, she said, “Peace is our biggest virtue. The world has never seen unity like what the entire country of Ukraine is showing now.”
Through its foundation, the Fashion Group International is coordinating a Help Ukraine Fund with philanthropic distribution partner Delivering Good. “The funds will be allocated to meet the immediate needs of the Ukrainian people,” a company spokeswoman said.
Skinny Girl founder and former ”Real Housewives of New York City” star Bethenny Frankel recently pledged $10 million in aid to Ukraine residents through her disaster relief initiative BStrong. Her efforts are focused on women and children who have fled to the border of Poland.
Other high-profile celebrities like Sean Penn are drawing attention to the crisis in different ways. The actor is in Ukraine filming a documentary about the Russian invasion and has called on the U.S. for more help with the crisis. Giorgio Armani staged his Milan runway show without music as a sign of solidarity. At Sunday’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, some like Lady Gaga spoke out on the red carpet in support of Ukraine and others like Tyler Perry sported a blue and yellow ribbon — the colors of Ukraine’s flag.
After first removing the logo of longtime sponsor Gazprom from its team jerseys following the onset of the invasion, the 2 Bundesliga soccer club has ended its multimillion dollar deal with Gazprom early. Having been banned from international soccer, Russia won’t compete in the World Cup.
The Polish retail chain LPP has closed all of its 157 stores in Ukraine and the company has suspended shipments to the country. With more than 2,000 stores worldwide, LPP has also canceled its development plans in the country at this point, according to a company spokesperson. The retailer has relocated its administrative office from Kyiv to Lviv, in order to manage operations of its Ukrainian business from there.
”Employees’ safety is our priority. The situation is extremely dynamic so we are closely following the reports from across the eastern border and are reacting on an ongoing basis,” the LPP spokesperson said.
For the time being, the company’s main focus is helping Ukraine and its employees there and their families. Providing transportation to the border of Poland, securing safe accommodations in Poland, and offering financial, psychological and legal support for all of those in need are some of the ways LPP is pitching in. In addition, the LPP Foundation is working with social partners and organizations to prepare a wider support system, the spokesperson said.
Puma also wasted no time in supporting its 380 employees in Ukraine and in the surrounding region last week. The athletic juggernaut’s “immediate priority” is to ensure their health and safety, a company spokesman said. Local management has been given the tools “to react to this extraordinary situation as well as possible,” he said.
Puma’s efforts include setting up housing options for employees in western Ukraine and in Poland, and financial support. Last year, Puma Russia and Ukraine accounted for less than 5 percent of the company’s revenues, the spokesman said. Puma employs 16,100 people worldwide.
While some retailers, brands and designers continue to assess the situation in Ukraine and consider if and how they might help, the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation was still seeking more support from airlines or aircraft companies to deliver medical supplies to Poland and other neighboring countries that would then be trucked into Ukraine. The organization started “Ukraine AirLift,” a program to help deliver medical supplies — such as wound care items, surgical equipment and biomedical supplies — to all areas of the country last week.
Poland’s other leading retailer, CCC, has also reportedly suspended operations in Ukraine. Executives at the company did not respond to a media request.
“To ensure the health and safety of its teams and customers,” Mango temporarily closed all of its 14 stores in Ukraine, as well as its online shop there, on Feb. 24, according to a company spokesperson. In constant and direct contact with the retailer’s teams and local partners there, Mango is monitoring the international geopolitical situation. “We have offered to our teams all of the support and assistance for whatever they may need,” a company spokesperson said.
The Washington, D.C.-based USUF is working with the Afya Foundation, which salvages unused medical supplies that would have otherwise been bound for landfills. Afya “Disaster Response Hub” is preparing the medical supplies and is coordinating with other organizations and government agencies. The efforts are being funded by monetary donations. Afya has shipped $39 million worth of unused medical equipment to 79 countries since 2008.
Having attended the Kyiv Art and Fashion Days festival in October, New York-based fashion designer Keanan Duffty is trying to create an opportunity for Kyiv designers to show during New York Fashion Week in September. In touch with the festival’s founder Sofia Tchkonia, who is “on-the-ground in the region and knows the needs of the realities of each designer’s access to their ateliers, showrooms and collections,” Duffy said she would curate the roster of participants.
Frolov, Gudu, Valery Kovalska, Elena Burenina, Lake Studio, Situationist, Julie Poly, Art Group Fungus, Tomas Auksas, Lilia Litkovskaya and the Gunia Project are among the creative companies that Duffty is trying to assist. The Council of Fashion Designers of America’s chief executive officer Steven Kolb, public relations specialist James LaForce, designers Kay Unger and Stacey Bendet and author Constance White are among the people that Duffty has connected with about putting his plan into action. By Monday afternoon, Duffty had lined up Runway 7 to host the event for Ukrainian designers. He is personally appealing to different companies to fund the designers’ flights and hotels.
Acknowledging how there are more humanitarian initiatives that will benefit the Ukrainian people more broadly, Duffty paraphrased John Lennon’s view of songwriting. “‘Write about what you know and mean it.’ Fashion and events are what I know, and providing a beacon of hope for creatives from Ukraine is my intention.”