Fashion’s focus is facing East
“I started as a fashion journalist,” says a sweetly soft voice from over the phone. The voice belongs to Daria Shapovalova. She goes on to describe her career trajectory; what begins as your standard ‘how I made it in fashion’ anecdote, blossoms into the story of a woman who has almost single-handedly put Ukrainian fashion on the map. And at only 30, Daria’s resumé is insanely impressive – to say the least. Her involvement in Ukraine’s fashion industry includes founding Mercedes-Benz Kiev Fashion Days, Kiev Fashion Institute, starring in her own TV show, founding a website Fashion Week Daily and her most recent feat – representing a select group of Ukraine’s up-and-coming design talent in her showroom, More Dash.
From Kiev to Paris to DC and back again, Daria is always on the go; but her daily life is not all fancy frocks and street style. In addition to her efforts in promoting the Ukrainian industry, she was on a program with Vital Voices, an NGO that supports economic empowerment and political involvement for women in underprivileged nations. She is steadfastly dedicated to making a world impact – and that starts on a local level too – by supporting Ukrainian NGOs like Tabletochki and GoGlobal. Daria is proving that despite the political unrest along the Eastern Bloc, there is a huge opportunity for positive growth to come out of the region. She is kicking ass and taking names; promoting inclusivity on an international scale. Below, COOLS talks to Daria about building a fashion empire, and doing it with style.
COOLS: Your influence really started with your 2007 show “Fashion Week with Daria,” bringing international fashion to the nation for the first time. How did that come about? How did that platform change the way the country perceived global fashion?
Daria Shapovalova: My TV show was a narrative about fashion, touching [on] the most important points in the creative process behind fashion system. I did an enormous amount of interviews with industry insiders – Marc Ascoli, Patrick Demarchelier, lady Amanda Harlech,.. Production was very difficult, as I was editing all the scripts myself, for 5 years in a row. It was a weekly TV show, so we needed to come up with 26 minutes of very high quality content every 7 days. I was covering all the major shows, interviewing the most legendary designers working nowadays – from Karl Lagerfeld to Donatella Versace. I was the first one in Ukraine to show what the fashion industry is like and who creates it. “Fashion Week with Daria Shapovalova” shaped the new generation of fashion followers and insiders, who were keen to know more about industry they loved. I still meet people who randomly [find] me on the street and say thank you for what I did. It feels extremely encouraging.
COOLS: You also founded More Dash, the first Paris showroom to showcase all the emerging talent you support. What is the general reception from the industry on the designers coming from these areas? What resonates most with buyers at More Dash?
DS: More Dash works with [many] great talents. We just finished our Pre-Spring season of sales, when we had almost 50 appointments with top buyers – from Harvey Nichols to Saks and Lane Crawford. We are steadily growing every season, as our designers are becoming more professional, and we are eager to collaborate with them and work together. We see our relationships as a family affair, as we spend so much time together and we are very interested in [sales results]. We usually work with designers during the entire season; consulting them on collections, prices and aesthetic. Buyers always look for authentic, unique products with the right prices. That what resonates with any buyer and our aim is to build as many strong brands as possible with More Dash. [Our strength] is proposing products in the affordable luxury category, [across] all of the markets we work with (more than 30 countries).
COOLS: With the global success of Demna Gvasalia, GoshaRubichinsky, Magda Butrym etc… all eyes are on the Eastern Bloc these days. How does the Eastern European experience translate in fashion? Is there a certain aesthetic stitched into the regional fabric?
DS: On my opinion, Eastern-European designers are strong either in creating [a] “minimalistic look,” which stems from the shortages of Soviet Union times; or an “optimistic look,” which means color, print, embroidery – that stems from traditional costume. There are so many great names coming from Eastern Europe, Paskal, Anna October, Anouki, Marianna Senchina, Litkovskaya, to name just few.
COOLS: How have you seen Ukrainian fashion change since starting Fashion Days?
DS: When we were starting, we understood that there was great potential [in Ukraine], but still so many things to educate the community [about]. We started the educational project Kiev Fashion Institute, and at that point it was a [real draw]. We had so much talent. And I think that our Soviet past also helped us, because it was a different cultural background from the designers in America or France. I thought that we had an advantage even back then; it gave us so many benefits, and you saw this rise of Eastern European designers. And that’s because we were educated in a different system.
COOLS: How would you distinguish Ukrainian style?
DS: I would say it’s very optimistic, because even being from a country that doesn’t have the best [global] economy, [we] still have the ambition to conquer the fashion world. It’s amazing. We have lots of optimism in the collections too. Color is very important to Ukrainian designers. And I think in general, the style tends to be very minimalistic, or very feminine. It’s all about the femininity, because Ukraine, (in my personal opinion), has the most beautiful women in the world. Ukraine was always destined to become the fashion destination, because we have so many amazing women who can wear the clothes, and model them too.
COOLS: Outside of your entrepreneurial accomplishments, you’re also a favorite of street style photographers for your sartorial prowess. You’re a walking ambassador for many young Ukrainian designers. How has street style and the rise in social media helped further your cause?
DS: Just before having this interview, I did a talk on my personal use of social networks,which benefited the entire country at Fashion Tech Festival in Paris. I was always keen about mixing local talents and more established designers, and many people know that is a vital part of my style. I looked differently than anyone else, so it was inevitable that some of my looks were popular among street style photographers. Of course that helped a lot – I promoted many designers not only within the fashion community, but within the [buying community as well], who afterwards came to place orders with More Dash.
COOLS: What inspires you right now?
DS: My team, my life, my son, my friends.
COOLS: Which emerging designers should we be looking out for? Who are your favorites?
DS: I mentioned quite a few names [already], but I will add Chakshyn, Rotsaniyom, Ksenia Schnaider to the list. And there are so many more!!!