Natasha Zinko, a Ukrainian, London-based jewelry and ready-to-wear designer with thick red cork curls, has been holding private appointments since she graduated from Central Saint Martins. Regarding her decision to go on-schedule for the first time, she said simply: "I can, and I will."
A neon sign with the same phrase hung on the wall of her presentation Saturday and that ferocity and self-confidence, the fashion equivalent of "leaning in," came through in the collection. There was a lot of leather, boned corseting, laser cutting and rouching that was easy on the eyes — yet clearly had a lot of technique behind it. She only used primary colors, adding to the collection's primal scream feel: "This collection is a lot about confidence in women — so many of us believe we don't have it, but each one of us has a strength we are not aware of — and that needs to come out. A lot of women undercut themselves when they shouldn't. What's with us? Why can't we be more confident?"
In Zinko's world, confidence doesn't cancel out femininity, so she added a few floral details as well as lace and satin. It was a huge departure from her last collection, which had a lot of safe-yet-sound nautical themes, and tons of cuteness. I wondered: Does this new ferocity and confidence have to do with her Ukrainian heritage, and what is currently going on there politically — or is that a no-go question for fashion?
On that note, Zinko is clear. "Up until a decade or so ago, people just thought that Ukraine and Russia was the same thing. Ironically, since the conflict, it's made me more aware of my Ukrainian roots and the difference between us — and believe me there is one, in a good way. Now that the Ukraine is more on the map, it's made me feel stronger and more confident to venture into areas I wouldn't have before – just like my country."
Perhaps the same could be said for other designers from the region. Fellow Ukrainian Vita Kin is already an Instagram star for her colorful dresses inspired by traditional Ukrainian folk embroidery, which can seemingly only be found on street style stars. We've been promised Vita Kin for months on Net-a-Porter and Matches, and we're still waiting. Talk about demand outstripping supply.
Though she doesn't show during fashion month, Russian designer Olga Vilshenko is also noted for her exquisite Russian "folkloric couture," which can be found at Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi.
Says Zinko: "I think the division of lines between the Ukraine and Russia has brought out the best of many of us. We are all focused on our regions, our backgrounds, our experiences, our language. And it all comes out in the expression of fashion. You know, sometimes, good things can come out of conflict. Now let's hope the conflict ends."