‘One minute I’m getting ready for Paris Fashion Week, the next I’m a war refugee’
To some extent, it has already experienced political turmoil. In 2014, she was in her Paris showroom when the revolution broke out in Ukraine. But it’s different. It is war in the streets of his city and the feeling of disbelief runs deep for his generation. “We all kept telling ourselves that everything will be fine. How can they invade us? I have Russian friends, I learned Russian at school. Some members of my team, depending on their origin in Ukraine, speak more Russian than Ukrainian. But when I heard those explosions and the sirens, I thought I had to go out to Radomyra. Our government has not been honest with us for a long time. They didn’t tell us what was really going on even though we all felt uneasy about the situation.
The bond with Russia is deep. Litkovskaya learned in Ukrainian at school but at home, where her mother had learned in Russian, the family spoke Russian. She only adopted Ukrainian as her company’s official language two years ago. The sense of pride in his country is fierce. She designs clothes for an international market using Italian fabrics, but everything is made in Ukraine. During the pandemic, she created an independent school to teach Ukrainian students about top-to-bottom fashion, from economics to pattern cutting.
The daughter of a math teacher (her late father) and a long line of tailors on her mother’s side, she was initially discouraged from pursuing a career in fashion by her family. “Things didn’t end well for any of them commercially,” she says.
Partly out of passion and partly out of a sense of responsibility to preserve craftsmanship, she challenged them and created her own brand of sophisticated, dramatic yet minimalistic designs, in 2009. As of now, she’s unsure whether her extended family of independent artisans will be able to complete its collections. “I told my team to stay home yesterday,” she says, “but some of them still came in and called me from the studio to tell me they were fine.” She wipes away a tear. On Saturday morning, she sent WhatsApp to let me know that they were now in underground shelters, including her sales manager, who had listened in on our initial conversation as an interpreter. His mother told him that there were now gunshots in the streets.
I ask him what his plan is. “Honestly, I don’t have one yet. I need to pull myself together. I worry about my mother and my brother. I worry about my business. I do not know for the moment if it is possible to continue. But I’m lucky. I have friends in Paris, Italy and Greece and they all offer to help. Maybe for a while I will have to accept their help.