Pressure is growing for designers to use their catwalk platform to show solidarity with Ukraine, and for luxury brands to cut off their Russian revenue streams.
Balenciaga has become the first Paris fashion week brand to make a statement of solidarity with Ukraine. Ahead of a show scheduled for Sunday, the brand said it “would open our platforms in the next few days to report and relay the information around the situation in Ukraine”. It also made a donation to the World Food Programme.
Kyiv has a strong contemporary fashion scene, and many design studios and fashion companies across Europe have Ukrainian team members. Strong feeling among those on the ground at fashion week, however, has not so far been reflected in action at boardroom level. Russian consumers account for about 3% of global luxury sales.
TsUM Kyiv, a department store in the Ukrainian capital, has been closed since the Russian invasion began, with plans for its underground car park to be converted into a hospital. The store is leading calls for the fashion industry to show support by ceasing trade with Russia.
“The fashion industry needs to stand up,” marketing director Marusya Koval told Vogue Business. “Stop trading – stop supplying Russia. Stop your relationships with Russia.”
The cult Danish label Ganni and Hungarian brand Nanushka are among the few to have stopped selling to Russia. Ganni is “aligning with international sanctions and freezing all trade with Russia,” said its creative director, Ditte Reffstrup. Nanushka has ceased deliveries to customers in Russia, and outstanding orders with wholesale partners in the country will not be fulfilled.
“We have respect for the Russian people and our partners,” said Nanushka’s CEO, Peter Baldaszti, who was watching a Milan fashion week show when news of the invasion of Ukraine broke. “We know this is not their decision, but it is impossible to do business with Russia based on our moral values.”
He described it as “a significant financial decision” for the small label, adding “we are hoping for a quick solution so we can rebuild those relationships”.
On Wednesday British online fashion retailer Asos it has suspended operations in Russia after the invasion. “Against the backdrop of the continuing war, Asos has decided that it is neither practical nor right to continue to trade in Russia,” an Asos spokesperson said.
London-based magazine 1Granary, whose editor-in-chief, Olya Kuryshchuk, is Ukrainian, on Tuesday published an open letter asking “fashion businesses and their leaders to stand together with Ukraine and condemn Russia’s invasion”.
The letter, whose early signatories include designer Christopher Kane, photographer Nick Knight, buyers for influential London boutiques Browns and Dover Street Market and editors from iD, Dazed and The Face magazine, asserts 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 [sic] or non-essential … wherever you are today, don’t turn your back, don’t close your eyes.”
The governing body of Paris fashion week has called for “solemnity” at this week’s shows, but insisted the event would go ahead as planned.
“Given the present context, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode encourages you to experience the shows of the coming days with solemnity, and in reflection of these dark hours,” said its president, Ralph Toledano, on Monday.
Giorgio Armani is one of the few major designers to have addressed the war directly on the catwalk, holding his Milan show in silence.
In a statement, the designer said the choice not to play music at Sunday’s event “was taken as a sign of respect towards the people involved in the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine”.
The move was welcomed by Vogue Ukraine, who asked in an Instagram post “will this timely and charitable gesture find a continuation at the next shows?”