Like many Americans, designer Jen Sidary knew very little about the Ukraine.
“It’s one of those countries we hear very little about and many people think it’s dangerous,” she said of her previous ideas of the Eastern European country.
But last year during the pandemic, one of Sidary’s best friends, Dominique Piotet, invited her to Kyiv, where her journey with the country and its creatives began.
“My friends and family thought I was crazy and were very worried for me to go,” she said bluntly. “It turned out to be the best decision I ever made and took my life on a brand new path.”
At a dinner for Piotet, Sidary met Nataliya Mykolska, who the designer says “has always been a huge advocate helping Ukrainian fashion brands.” From there, she linked up with Ulyana Khromyak, and the duo introduced Sidary to a host of Ukrainian designers through their showrooms, factories and by attending industry events.
“After spending three decades in the fashion industry and traveling abroad for half of that time I never knew the amount of talent sitting in this country,” Sindary explained. ” It was like a well-kept secret that needed to be introduced to the world.”
From there, the group established a Ukrainian nongovernmental organization called Uyava and Sidary started consulting with Ukrainian brand, 91 Lab. With the help of 91 Lab, the group worked to create the Ukraine Fashion Alliance with a mission to promote global awareness of Ukrainian fashion. Sidary said it formed quickly, “all in this very short five-month period.”
Its inaugural event brings four brands Stateside to be showcased in SoHo’s Archetype showroom from Friday to Sept. 16, right in the middle of New York Fashion Week.
The mix of brands showcase a wide variety of aesthetics and include 91 Lab, a knitwear focused brand; Elena Reva, special occasion dressing; Foberini, embroidered pieces in boho shapes, and Kachorovska, a footwear and accessories brand.
“It’s now my passion to help an underdeveloped country and their fashion industry export internationally,” Sidary said. “I feel, for the first time in my career, I’m doing something to help the people of Ukraine create a better life, not only for the designers, but all of the thousands of people they employ.