After a short break, we are pleased to present another interview from ARYS Talks, where we delve into the worlds of creatives, artists, and brands that inspire and resonate with our ideals and vision of fashion. In this edition, we converse with the founders of the Ukrainian fashion brand, M0D44 – Oksana and Anton, whose commitment to both fashion and their homeland is a testament to the power of creativity in hard times.

M0D44 is a brand that emphasizes the aesthetics of digital workwear through innovative design. It was created in a space between two diametrically opposed cultures and philosophies – democracy and totalitarianism, West and East. In a place where the largest nuclear disaster in the world recently occurred, and now there is a full-scale war. And despite the fact that Russia bombs Ukrainian cities every day, claiming innocent lives of thousands of civilians, amid all the challenges posed by the ongoing war, this brand persists in pushing the boundaries of fashion, embodying the fortitude and creativity of the Ukrainian people's spirit.

Hi, guys! First of all, tell us how and when the M0D44 brand started, and how did it evolve before the war?

We launched M0D44 in 2019. Before that, we were engaged in another fashion project for 9 years. With the experience and understanding of how everything works, we decided to launch our own brand. We presented the first collection at Pitti Uomo, but then COVID-19 hit. As soon as the epidemic ended, a full-scale war began. Therefore, we have become a brand born in crises.

Could you share your emotions and experiences on February 24, 2022, when Russia attacked and invaded Ukraine?

I must say that for us, the war began in 2014. In the last months before the start of the full-scale war, we were already mentally prepared for it. However, it was undoubtedly a frightening experience – not just a fear of death but rather an existential fear. It was hard to understand how such a thing could happen in the 21st century.

How is the ongoing war affecting you personally at this moment? Additionally, how is the brand's hometown, Kyiv, coping with the current situation?

Probably, like all Ukrainians, we have reassessed our priorities and felt the value of life. We survived the first month when Kyiv was practically surrounded by Russian troops and endured a challenging winter with almost no electricity. Despite this, we continue to work.

What challenges are you currently encountering in the fashion industry due to the ongoing war? Furthermore, how have the social, economic, and political changes in the country impacted Ukraine's fashion industry?

At the very beginning, it was very difficult. We did not fully understand what to do next. In the first month of the full-scale invasion, there was nothing we could do. Our production partners were in occupation. However, after our troops liberated the Kyiv region and the northern part of Ukraine, we resumed our work. In the initial months, logistics posed huge problems, making it difficult to plan anything. Moreover, when Russia started shelling the power plants, we couldn't work without electricity. Therefore, we made the decision not to plan large collections but to release small drops. In general, everyone has to adapt to new realities.

Are there any current difficulties in producing and distributing your collections worldwide and within Ukraine, especially in terms of production aspects?

There are enough difficulties; for example, some industries were directly affected by missile strikes. The skies are closed in Ukraine, and some of the large courier companies have left. Despite these challenges, the fashion industry continues to develop. We find alternatives and persist in our work.

Ukrainian street culture and music have gained significant recognition worldwide. How do you view this cultural resurgence, and how does M0D44 play a role in preserving and showcasing the distinctiveness of Ukrainian culture through fashion?

It all began in 2014 after the Revolution of Dignity and the start of the war. However, in 2022, many processes accelerated. Ukrainians rallied and began searching for their identity, leading to a true cultural renaissance. Ukrainians are reclaiming their cultural traditions, which Russia had tried to eradicate in every possible way. We have numerous interesting musicians, artists, and various cultural projects. We do not directly address our cultural roots; instead, we look to the future and discuss, among other things, the potential of Ukraine.

We recall how the global fashion industry was captivated by the post-Soviet aesthetics of decay during the mid-2010s. How do you believe this phenomenon has impacted Ukrainian fashion and your brand? Do you perceive yourselves as carrying forward this tradition, or are you distancing yourselves from this aesthetic, particularly in light of the onset of the war?

Yes, we remember those times. In Ukraine, there was a wave of brands that imitated the aesthetics of Gosha Rubchinsky. However, it somehow bypassed us. After 2014, many lost interest in this aesthetic. This once again highlights the differences between Russians and Ukrainians. While we all lived 70 years in the Soviet Union and still have some Soviet aesthetics, for many Ukrainians, this period left painful scars. In aesthetic terms, not everything related to the Soviet period is deemed bad, but the love for Soviet sockets and similar things is not something we resonate with.

Even in times of war, people often turn to fashion for escapism. Could you share some insights into the fashion trends that have emerged in Ukraine during the war, and how these trends might reflect the mood of society? Have you noticed any shifts in consumer behavior as a result?

It's a difficult question. Firstly, there are regions that have suffered the most. Secondly, Kyiv, as the capital of Ukraine, is now relatively safe due to increased protection. People here continue to live a normal life, going to the movies and buying clothes. However, many Ukrainians have shifted their priorities. Now, a lot of people think first about making donations for the army, and then consider everything else. The economic situation is also impacting, with people losing their jobs. Nevertheless, in general, people continue to buy clothes as well.

During times of conflict, designers can often serve important social functions. What role do you believe designers, including M0D44, can play in such circumstances? How does M0D44 embody this role?

Many brands and designers are involved in volunteer activities. Some help physically restore the destroyed infrastructure, others raise money for drones and cars for the military. There are also those who distribute their clothes to the military, the wounded, and internally displaced people who have lost everything. We, too, participate in military fundraisers and collaborate with volunteers who donate our clothing to those who need it most. 

Given the current conflict and beyond, how do you see the future of Ukrainian fashion and culture unfolding?

Ukraine possesses vast potential and a rich cultural background. Despite the ongoing war, cultural institutions continue to work. High-quality modern films are being produced in Ukraine, and music festivals are held. Many Ukrainian artists organize exhibitions abroad, and foundations are dedicated to the restoration of Ukraine's historical and cultural memory. All of this significantly influences the fashion industry. Despite this, Ukrainians continue to work and fight.

What dreams and plans do you have for M0D44 after victory?

As part of the team remained in Kyiv while another part was forced to leave the country, our strong desire is to reunite everyone. We have numerous exciting projects in our plans, but, for various reasons, we are currently unable to implement everything. Therefore, after the victory, we aspire to bring all our planned projects to fruition. We look forward to returning to international exhibitions.

And finally, what ways can readers offer their support to Ukraine during these challenging times?

Financial and informational support are very important for our country. We still lack the necessary resources, including weapons, to defend against the Russian horde. There are several Ukrainian funds where you can contribute donations, such as 'Savelife' 'Prytula Foundation,' 'United24,' and many others. Equally important is supporting Ukraine with accurate information. In Europe and other countries, fatigue from constant news about the war is setting in, and Russia takes advantage of this by spreading misinformation about Ukraine. Therefore, it is crucial to convey the truth about Russia's war crimes.

Thank you for your time!