Ukrainian Fashion Week

How Ukrainian Brands Create During the War: Darja Donezz

How Ukrainian Brands Create During the War: Darja Donezz

Behind the Scenes

Getting ready for the upcoming Ukrainian Fashion Week SS25, which will take place in Kyiv from September 1 to 4, the UFW team reached out to the participating brands with a question: How is your brand coping with the full-scale invasion? In this article, designer Darja Donezz, the founder of her namesake brand, shares recollections how her favorite business, team and family fought for life and creativity during the war.

I never thought that what happened in 2014 would again be repeated in my lifetime, but it was a wave of even greater height… You cannot get used to this; the only thing that is easier is time is the willingness to leave everything. At six in the morning on February 24, 2022, on the way from Kyiv to my relatives’ house in Makarov, I called the team and said: “The war has started; we are constantly in touch with you; take care.” And later, hiding under the bombardment with two children in my arms, I begged God to take away my work, my dreams — in exchange for a family, alive and healthy. But He kept everything.

When we traveled to western Ukraine, I found someone who could send me the collection from Kyiv. The city was frozen then. I started selling pieces at big discounts because we couldn’t fulfill customer orders at the end of the month. I was in a terrible emotional state because I could not fully repay all the salaries at once. However, the understanding with which we treated each other in the team is of real value.

For over half a year, the Darja Donezz studio did not operate, and all our equipment was transported home to the chief designer, who turned the living room of her apartment into a small experimental garment construction workshop. Masters traveled on foot and sent each other things by post.

For me, it was a repeat of the events of ten years ago, when we, as the newly formed team, at once got scattered by life, but with a few people, I continued to work remotely for several more years. I definitely wouldn’t have managed today if it weren’t for that period or the frantic and sometimes fanatical work through constant obstacles from 2014 to 2022. Our entire team, formed in Kyiv, is together to this day, and new contractors and suppliers have also appeared. Amazingly, until 2022, I didn’t feel ready to present the brand in TSUM. Our first items finally appeared there in the fall of that year.

At first, I was worried that no one would need Darja Donezz’s romantic and fantasy fish, shells, and dresses, but it wasn’t true. I remember how Ukrainian girls bought what would seem the most unsuitable things for the war with the words, “I wanted it for a long time,” “I will hang it in the closet; it will be waiting for the end of the war,” etc. Then, I was once again convinced of what I was sure of throughout my life: the healing power of beauty and the belief that the best is yet to come. After all, there is love, confidence, and peace in beauty.

I only sleep five hours a day and always wake up thinking about work matters. The collection with seashells, shown on the eve of a full-scale invasion, and the “fishes,” presented as early as 2019, formed the emotional and visual component of Darja Donezz’s universe. At the same time, these symbols accidentally linked my country with Portugal: the edge of the Old World, where I never thought I would find myself living.

Now, there is more work and responsibility than when I was in Kyiv; there is constant fear and many pressing questions without answers. But then I remember the whole path of the Darja Donezz brand, and I believe again in the strength that helped me overcome all the obstacles over the years.