The Culture Bridges grantees Ukrainian clothing designer Yana Chervinska and founder and CEO of the Ukrainian eco-clothing Framiore brand Nataliia Naida talk about participating in the leading international fashion exhibitions, prospects for sustainable production and textile recycling in Ukraine, as well as ideas for future collaborations with European partners.

Yana Chervinska, clothing designer, founder of Sustainable Fashion Pad

Yana Chervinska – a Ukrainian clothing designer and founder of the Yana Chervinska brand and the Sustainable Fashion Pad, Ukraine's first platform for a conscious approach to Fashion and rational consumerism. In autumn 2019 Yana visited the world 's largest professional exhibition of textile production Premiere Vision Paris, where last year the emphasis on the theme of socially conscious fashion was held in its own dedicated pavilion. There, more than forty companies and producers presented ecologically friendly, organic, sustainable fabrics made from recycled trash, textile waste and other solid materials. The designer also visited the headquarters of the companies producing environmentally friendly fashion to learn about innovations in the textile industry and presented our new Yana Chervinska line to buyers and the press at the Pop Showroom during Paris Fashion Week.

In Ukraine, socially and environmentally conscious fashion is not very well developed due in particular to a lack of internationally recognized certified production. Our textile industry is so deformed that it would be impossible to think of it as a working, sustainable industry. Designers and brands here consume international textile products. The objective behind Sustainable Fashion Pad is to develop an ecosystem of conscious fashion in Ukraine. I was curious to learn both how it was arranged in Europe and the rest of the world and to communicate with people who present their products at the exhibition and who could talk about things like sorting textile waste products, sustainable production and cooperating with volunteer organizations on waste collection and more. In addition, I planned to connect with foreign experts on remote consulting work aimed at the implementation of sustainable environmentally conscious production in Ukraine.

In between the exhibition and Fashion Week I had a five-day break when I took meetings. On one of those 'free' days, there was a large conference on circular fashion—the Circular Fashion Summit--where I got loads of useful information during panel discussions and made a lot of professional contacts. This summit was the first-time initiative of the circular fashion innovator Lablaco, with whom I also met. The Circular Fashion Summit has as its stated goal finding a solution to environmental problems and accelerating the digital transformation of the fashion and textile industries by bringing industry leaders together to share their expertise. They announced three measurable goals for the fashion community to act on over the next 12 months and then to report their concrete results.

I visited a presentation of the best -selling book by Dana Thomas about conscious fashion 'fashionopolis' which outlines the true cost of fashion and the future of the fashion industry, and also managed to get into a few invitation-only parties hosted by international sector magazines, chat with columnists from ID, Dazed and the Guardian. I also got to see how to organize a pop-up showroom and presentations of new lines from Yves Saint Laurent, Y Project, Joseph and other brands.

The exhibition introduced me to a number of companies engaged in the large-scale production of sustainable, ecologically friendly and organic fabrics. One interesting case is that of the Pinatex brand, where they make vegan leather from pineapple leaves in the Philippines. They also create jobs for locals who live near the pineapple plantations. If you're talking about resistance to wear, this material isn't inferior to typical leather and is suitable for making clothing, bags and shoes.

In Italy they have an excellent way of working with food industry waste. For example, they produce silk from orange peels and pulp left over from the mass production of orange juice. This alternative to silk feels to the touch exactly like classic silk and is already in use at Gucci, Versace and Ferragamo. There is also a startup that works with dregs from wine production and makes an eco-leather product grapeseed and skins.

Following my trip, I began working with the contacts I made: I'm corresponding with organizers, have reached agreements with international brands and manufacturers, and have taken delivery over thirty times of fabric samples from ecological textile factories. I plan to work with the private Instituto Marangoni London (the London branch of the Italian university) to develop a Conscious Fashion course for the Kyiv National University of Technology and Design. The professional community working in this sphere is very open and it was easy to reach an agreement with them to come to Ukraine and lecture on conscious production methods.

I want to to establish an incubator as a part of my platform for sustainable brands and the mentoring programme. To that end, I entered into a partnership with international experts from the exhibition and they are ready to join, all that's left is to figure out the budget. I am also planning to develop an audit and consulting system for Ukrainian brands and manufacturers. I'm currently using the knowledge I got from the exhibition to consult on Ukrainian sustainable brands: how to make the product more sustainable, how to alter production, how to be certified in sustainable production, how to change the fabrics you use and what accessories to employ.

I would like to run a textile sorting station in Ukraine and create a certification of production, so right now I'm looking at financing options for this. I plan on bringing in professionals from GoodPlanet in order to be able audit the sustainability parameters for Ukrainian manufacturers in order to be able to issue certificates. This will be the first site dedicated to ecological issues and humanism and which will act as a springboard for everyone interested in creating a more sustainable world. Using the approach used by the annual Fashion Transparency Index report issued by the Fashion Revolution volunteer organization, I want to develop a similar index for the Ukrainian fashion industry.

Nataliia Naida, founder and CEO of the Ukrainian eco-clothing Framiore

Natalia Naida is the founder of Shuflia, a family-run manufacturer of leather goods, and the Bukvica workshop, a clothing and silk-screen manufacturer. She is also the co-founder of the children's experimental educational workshop, Dribnota, and head of the Ukrainian eco-clothing FRAMIORE brand. In Ferbruary 2019 Nataliia visited Great Britain and participated in one of the most important designer clothing exhibits in the world, Pure London, that brings all the sustainable industry players under one roof. Framiore creates clothing that ignores popular trends but reflect the principles of quality and sustainability, ethical production, environmental friendliness, and fabrics that correspond to the notion of sustainability. The brand was presented in the section called Pure Conscious, that focused on a sustainable fashion and presents conscious, progressive brands.

During my three-week stay in the UK, I met a lot of people and was engaged in networking in the field of ethical consumption. I also attended museums of fashion and design, showrooms and clothing stores whose employees shared their experience in uncovering new brands and working with customers. I talked with them a lot about the specifics of the market and the conditions for cooperation. In this way we greatly expanded our professional contact base in Great Britain, Germany and the United States.

On 10-12 February we took part in the exhibition and then took meetings for several days. On 18 February we went to Birmingham and the Moda UK exhibition. This is one of the largest B2B events in UK fashion. Following that, we went back to London where London Fashion Week would be starting in a couple days. It's a large-scale festival open to the general public, and is very simliar to traditional fashion weeks where you can visit shows, buy clothes and attend lectures by fashion industry leaders.

The intellectual business network for the fashion and sustainable business industries, Common Objective, has included Framiore in its list of brands that built successful businesses that produce a positive impact on people and the environment. And our stand at Pure London was listed on their tour for people looking for conscious brands. We met with their director in London—a pioneer in the sustainable fashion movement.

Decisions affecting the development of the fashion business and sustainable production in Britain are taken at the government level. Consider the fact that the UK buys more clothing per person than any other European country. The current business model of the fashion industry is unsuitable, especially considering population growth and consumption levels around the world. The United Kingdom has taken a most important first step in its transition to sustainable development, starting with the use of cleaner sources of electricity and entering into discussions on other important issues like the social cost of clothing, fashion's environmental price tag, textile wastes, and new economic models for the fashion industry, etc.

British Fashion Council is a non-profit organization that focuses on boosting sustainability in British fashion and strengthening its position in the global economy. In 2020, they're continuing their focus on their Positive Fashion initiative, a platform developed to acknowledge industry best practices and encourage progressive business solutions to bring about positive change.

In addition to researching the culture, consumer culture and industry it became clear that without a reliable partner located in the UK that our strategy wasn't going to work. During my mobility, I got acquainted with Iryna Zeldes Le Broussois, a Ukrainian who has been living in the UK for more than a decade. She assisted me with negotiations with potential partners during the exhibition. We soon saw how well we worked together and decided to establish a British arm—Framiore LTD. Out of this mobility tour was born a collaboration and a friendship. We are currently working to expand our partner network and looking for investment to establish high-tech production capacity in our hometown of Ivano-Frankivsk.

In addition to the principles of sustainability that guide us, we must show that Framiore clothing meets all market requirements, and building on our production, we've decided to form a research workshop where we will develop and test our products. In the long term, R&D Centre will also help solve a number of local issues—the loss of manpower, the discrepancy between the approach taken by our educational-vocational schools and the needs of the market, and the very weak connection between our educational and production processes.

Framiore is a brand that celebrates world culture, and as part of our acknowledgement of this responsibility we've decided to create a supervisory where we've been joined by the UK's Dr. Savitra Bartlett—an individual of incredible personal experience and a desire to share it with the world. Her area of expertise is in circular economics and the management of supply chains, the cultural history of clothing and the sociology of fashion.
Cooperation with WORTH has given us a tremendous mentor and the potential to work together on a second FRAMIORE collection.

Photo credits: Yana Chervinska, Nataliia Naida