Fashion diplomacy cannot broker peace in wartime but it can build ally networks. It connects individuals, comminities, brands, and institutions. Valencian CLEC Fashion Festival is commited to its role as Spain’s alternative fashion platform. Last year, it opened with a dance and poetry recital in honor of the Afghan women artists. This year, it lent creative and institutional support to Ukraine. The event featured four Ukrainian women designers based in Valencia. Some have found refuge here recently, others have long been a part of the diaspora in the region. Comunidad Valenciana welcomed the largest intake of Ukrainain refuges in Spain (with almost 40,000 temporary protection permits granted in 2022). I had the privilege to attend CLEC. Here is my frontrow report from the Fashion United for Peace showcase.
Korotenko is a successful textile designer who expanded her reach into garment design as well. Her basic wardrobe staples are attracting a growing fanbase of consumers who may enjoy bolder statement prints without wanting to steal and hoard the attention. Brands like this are the backbone of all domestic/local fahsion markets. The collection is available at Loranso e-boutique.
Eastern Europe knows its way around a ballroom. For a change, it was gowns galore inside the iconic City of Arts and Sciences. Lukashyk has built a devoted clientele among the Ukrainian luxe who-is-who with her bridal couture and eveningwear. Moreover, she has been the official dressmaker of the Miss Ukraine pageant for the last five editions. She has created my favorite look of the evening … which is accessible to my Patreon supporters along with a brief story re: Ukrainian flag on the runways.
This was, perhaps, the most awaited presentation among the four, because it was also most readily recognizable as Ukrainian of the lot. It featured traditional craftsmanship elements like the yshyvanka embroidery and the “Ukrainian Boho” streetstyle made temporarily ubiqutous by the reigning Eurovision winners Kalush Orchestra. Part fashion show, part heritage exhibition, part history lesson. This is fashion diplomacy at its most direct, practical and best.
The most surprising and exciting presentation came courtesy of the event’s youngest designer. Alina Firtas launched her label Protezka at CLEC. It is named after her mother and rooted in the resilience and rebellion of the femme/punk ethos. The brand was invited as a case study for a fashion communications seminar at International Fashion Academy in Paris. You can read the students’ interview with Alina here.