top of page
  • Writer's pictureMikahila Bloomfield

What is Fashion’s Responsibility During the Ukraine Crisis?

As a refugee of the Georgian Civil War, Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia, declared his fashion show a "dedication to fearlessness, to resistance, and to the victory of love and peace".

Kim Kardashian wearing caution tape inspired Balenciaga outfit
Kim Kardashian and Demna.

On February 24, Europe experienced the largest military attack on the continent since World War II when Russian president Vladimir Putin commanded military forces to invade the sovereign nation of Ukraine. Since that time two weeks ago, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded with the international community for their support as civilian causalities increased and the multi-pronged humanitarian crisis heightened as the Western political majority feared for the safety of “people who are like us". This “Like Us” notion, people with Netflix accounts, appears to be the driving force we see pulling fashion to open their wallets to help Ukrainians, and the impetus closing the doors of commerce in Russia.

“It was not a political decision⁠ — it is the fact that we do not want to directly or indirectly participate in financing trade in Russia, and the secondary consequence of selling luxury products to the Russian market, because it profits,” explained Peter Baldaszti, CEO of Hungarian fashion brand Nanushka in a statement regarding the suspension of their Russian wholesale partnerships.

Just before the war, acclaimed Ukrainian designer Svitlana Bevza showed her latest collection on February 15, 2022, during New York Fashion Week, closing the show with a projection of the Ukrainian flag, while tensions were rising between Russia and Ukraine. Now, she is a refugee in the Czech Republic and her husband has joined one of the armed volunteer territorial defense units.

Creative Director Demna placed Ukrainian-flag inspired shirt on all 525 seats at the Balenciaga FW22 show.

While the fashion set were making their rounds during Milan Fashion Week, Giorgio Armani presented his collection in silence, a display that received much adulation. And during Paris Fashion Week, Demna Gvasalia, Balenciaga’s creative director, who grew up in Georgia, when the country was still under the rule of the Soviet Union, shared the following in Balenciaga’s show notes: “The war in Ukraine has triggered the pain of a past trauma I have carried in me since 1993 when the same thing happened in my home country and I became a forever refugee.”

Then, we have the recreant editorial decision from Vogue US where the publication decided to omit Gigi Hadid’s financial support of Palestine in an Instagram post that refered to the supermodel’s vow to donate her fashion show earnings this season to both Ukraine and Palestine. Following some swift backlash on the Internet, Vogue added an editor's note to the post stating that they updated the caption, which now accurately reflects Hadid's statement on her donations going to support the war torn Palestinians and Ukranians. Vogue's editorial decision is even more perplexing against the backdrop of the knowlegde that Ukrainian president Zelenskyy has previously declared his support of Isreal's deadly violence against Palestinians.

Model Gigi Hadid
Gigi Hadid will be donating her Fashion Month earnings. (Photo: @ GigiHadid Instagram)

How has fashion responded to the invasion of Ukraine?

Luxury conglomerates Kering, LVMH, and Richemont have closed their stores and suspended their Russian operations and announced donations in support of Ukraine. Puma is offering financial support and housing in western Ukraine to its 380 employees in the area. L’Oréal is donating over $5.5 million to United Nations agencies and has donated essential care and hygiene products to people in Ukraine. Acne Studios has donated $110,915 to UNICEF and to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Other brands have similarly ceased Russian operations and many are contributing unreported financial support to undisclosed organizations.

What can fashion do about Ukraine?

Fashion can use its cultural voice and financial power. A joint statement from industry players including Scottish fashion designer Christopher Kane, buyers from Browns department stores and Dover Street Market, and editors from iD and Dazed magazines, proclaimed fashion’s power as “a trillion-dollar industry with gigantic cultural and even political influence. In times of crisis, it’s easy to dismiss that power as superfluous, frivolous, tone-deaf, hypocrite, or non-essential . . . wherever you are today, don’t turn your back, don’t close your eyes.”

How should the fashion industry support those impacted by the Ukraine-Russia war? Leave a comment below. Follow Fashion League on Instagram, and subscribe to our newsletter for Faux or Fashion™ trivia, and the latest job postings from some of your favorite companies.

  • Pinterest - Black Circle
  • Facebook - Black Circle
  • Twitter - Black Circle
  • Instagram - Black Circle
Recent Posts
bottom of page