I consider myself rather laid back and conservative when it comes to fashion. My wardrobe consists of quality, timeless pieces that I have had for years. Last fall I fell prey to all of the hype and glitz of the fashion world by attending Lviv’s bi-annual fashion week.
Founded in 2008, Lviv’s fashion week is a fashion followers delight with catwalk shows by designers from Ukraine, Russia, Poland, France etc… The atmosphere was electric- cameras flashing with fashion gurus and media hounds dressed to the nines in the “Lemberg” Convention center.
This was a far cry from my childhood memories of Lviv spent in poverty, where one rejoiced when parcels of practical garments arrived from our relatives in the American Diaspora. I also have images ingrained in my mind of the Soviet era where the life essentials were in deficit let alone items of “haute couture”. The totalitarian government of the time repressed any show of personal identity or originality. As “comrades”, were were certainly not encouraged to such frivolities as freedom of expression let alone fashion trends.
Tourists came here with suitcases full of the forbidden blue jeans which were strictly black market items. The few stores available sold strictly utilitarian wear in repetitive styles. The lengthy hair styles of the 60’s were quickly shaved off on the streets by KGB officers.
The collapse of communism was met with an extremist reaction in fashion. The new found liberation was expressed by micro minis, super hiked heels, big glitzy jewelry and excessive make up. This counter reaction was immediately interpreted as women seeking foreigners and luckily did not last long. Lviv very quickly matured, and soon accepted the mainstream vogue of sneakers, blue jeans and t shirts.
In this day and age, Fashion is a very serious industry in Lviv and it has placed Local designers at an international level of respect. Graduates of fashion design from the Lviv academy of art have left their imprint of the global market. Some of the stars include Oksana Mukha whose wedding dresses “par excellence” have taken Paris by storm and have graced such venues as the ” Carousel du Louvre”.
Of particular interest is Roksolana Bogutska. I really respect the way she has incorporated indigenous patterns and fused folkloric elements in her contemporary collections.
Bagutska’s flagship boutique is located in the prestigious “Opera Passage” at # 27 Svoboda Ave. in Lviv.
This state-of-the-art retail center rivals Neiman- Markus Texas hand down! It oozes with luxury with its’ marble floors, wrought iron stairwells and antique fixtures. This upscale department store offers the up-to-the-minute trends from hand made cosmetics from England, Prada sunglasses and bags and even Brioni garments for men.
So who is it that can afford the high price tags attached to these upscale offerings? Not anyone in my inner circle of friends. What I find here are mainly “fashionistas” dropped off in blacked out SUVs. A saving fashion grace for the ordinary people struggling to make ends meet is ” Planeta”. “Planeta” is a series of second hand stores that sells (by the kilo) quality clothing shipped from Europe with fashionable and sensible labels such as “Marks and Spencers” and the “George” brand name.
I am proud of you Lviv- you have come a long way! I would agree with the recent statement by the Japanese designer at Lviv Fashion- Kenzo Takada. He was quoted to say:” The women in Lviv are better dressed that the women in Paris”. Quite a power statement, a strong testimony to the fact that Lviv has become a trendsetting world center- Bravo!