Six years ago, Ukraine had its first violent revolution since independence. More than one hundred people died near the central street, shot by Russia-backed snipers and our own policemen. The protesters burned old car tires and smashed police shields with pavement bricks they cut out right from under their feet. We lived in hell for some time.
Once we were through with toppling the government and driving away the pathetic monster of a president, our neighbor decided that we have it all too well. He annexed Crimea and invaded the Eastern territories, all while taking a massive shit on international treaties and peace agreements. The lukewarm conflict continues to take limbs and lives but the rest of the country moves on.
Where the blood ran, a three-story building now stands, filled from top to bottom with Ukrainian-brand clothing and accessories from young fashion designers. Right across the street, three more floors are populated by locally-made home decor, fabric, and furniture.
There’s a quarterly festival with Ukrainian food enthusiasts baking all kinds of dainties; a tsunami of third-wave coffee shops with the best damn coffee you’ll find north of Istanbul. (Developed countries mostly serve burnt, undrinkable mush.) Most of these events started after and specifically because of the revolution and the war.
Somehow, the sense of community and of what is possible has changed. Ukraine is no longer a distant concept that we slept through in history classes, it’s a palpable, true space that we occupy and mold to our liking.
The visual aesthetic that developed in these six years is extremely distinct and, while initially borrowed from Berlin and London, is no longer a product of those cultures. It’s fused with a blooming rave scene and wrapped around musical shifts towards hip-hop as a mass genre. And naturally, the Ukrainian fashion scene, as any emerging phenomenon, is really full of itself.