Kyiv-based designer Jean Gritsfeldt was preparing his fall 2022 collection for Berlin Fashion Week when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Here, he explains why he went ahead with his show just three weeks later, with a completely different collection.
I used to live in the center of Kyiv, but when the war began I left my flat to stay at my mother’s apartment [on the outskirts of the city]. Of course, we had thoughts about whether we should leave Ukraine or at least move from the city, but I just felt that we needed to stay; we needed to be here. I’m trying to do the most I can, personally, to help neighbors and to volunteer in the area. Still, it feels like it’s not enough. We’re all hoping and praying that things will change in the near future—we’re really hoping.
I thought about cancelling my fashion show at Berlin Fashion Week, but I felt this power inside me—I don’t know where from but I made the decision to continue to do what I do. I was talking a lot with my team and I’m thankful to them because they gave me this confidence that we needed to do it. It was important because during fashion month you saw lots of fashion brands completely ignoring what is going on in Ukraine. Fashion has a power, and through our community it should talk about very important things.
Before everything happened, we were preparing a completely different collection. [After the invasion began], we were making decisions very quickly. We had one day to do the sketches, to complete the mood boards. My colleague who helped me was sitting in a bomb shelter; the lights would switch on and off. Now thinking about it I don’t even know how we made it happen.
I was thinking that we needed very basic clothes to put these [slogans] on the models in Ukrainian and English, such as “love”, “independence”, “freedom”—things we’re now wearing as a defense. We decided to include a model [painted in red]; this is symbolic of us paying for peace with our blood, because the title on the T-shirt was “peace”. I got this idea that we needed a flag dress to finish, but it was so long we decided to have the models carry it instead and have this spiritual moment through the finale.