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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Pleasant and useful

The Mystetskyi Arsenal is hosting the exhibition “In Progress. The Dress Code of Independent Ukraine”
27 June, 2017 - 10:54

A total of 40 Ukrainian fashion designers and 200 most famous clothing designs they have created since 1991 are representing the brilliance and chic of the domestic “beauty industry” at the exhibition “In Progress. The Dress Code of Independent Ukraine,” which was organized to celebrate... the contemporary history of Ukraine.

“The Dress Code of Ukraine perfectly fits into the new direction of the Arsenal’s work. We want to make projects with a broad cultural context,” director general of the Mystetskyi Arsenal Olesia Ostrovska-Liuta told The Day. “The exhibition features people’s stances, their living thoughts... The project’s curator fashion historian Zoia Zvyniatskivska examines the history of independent Ukraine through the prism of fashion history, and puts the fashion itself into the context of contemporary art...”


According to Zvyniatskivska, the idea of such an exhibition arose a decade ago, when she began to write a book in which she analyzed how our society and Ukraine were changing during the years of independence. The Arsenal has performed that task almost perfectly. The only drawback of the gigantic display that has occupied almost the entire first floor of the Arsenal’s huge building (only imagine now how hard it was to collect so many exhibits created by our designers since 1991!) is its somewhat excessive pathos. For instance, along with the dress which First Lady Maryna Poroshenko wore at the inauguration of the sitting president, one can also see a whole stand of Roksolana Bohutska’s ethnic style designer dresses (with handmade embroidery, netting, lace, beads), which were created specifically for Kateryna Yushchenko...

By the way, humorous subjects are also well-represented at The Dress Code of Ukraine. Do you want to read jokes about the “new Russians” – gangsters in crimson jackets, fashionable in the early 1990s? A whole room is devoted to that period of our history, decorated with murals portraying these “heroes of the time” and also the texts of jokes. Meanwhile, the gaudy fashion of the modern pop culture milieu is symbolized by... an equestrian statue made of “mirror” glass, which looks like a disco ball on which a dummy is perched wearing a stage costume made of rhinestone-studded silver brocade – it replicates the stage costume made for the singer Olia Poliakova by Hanna Bublyk...

The exposition is divided into thematic sections “1991-97. New Liberties. New Elites”; “1997-2010. Dialog with the National Tradition. The Ukrainian Glamour”; “2010 to the Present. New Urbanism. Anti-Glamour and New Criteria for Success.” Each section is divided into two rooms, and when entering them...

The time itself seems to have gone back and rages with bright colors! Here are golden, brocade, stamped leather, hippie and rave-chic clothes of the 1990s. (When looking at them, I remember the early years of Viktoria Hres’s career, who started as a theatrical artist, or the reverential awe of the public when shown the collections of Oleksii Zalevskyi.) Meanwhile, another stand features a jacket created by the artist Illia Chichkan which comes from the collection of the art critic and exhibition curator Kostiantyn Doroshenko.

Following luxurious designs of the late 1990s and early 2000s which featured gold and rhinestone, the Orange Maidan era made a lasting impact in the form of ethnic motives entering the work of most designers. (Yes, it is this section of the exhibition that features fantastically beautiful dresses and accessories created by Roksolana Bohutska, Oksana Karavanska, and their ilk – the designers who saw their heyday in the middle of the past decade.)


Our time’s fashion is exclusively hi-tech, minimalist, and pragmatist, and also favoring recycling, pioneered by the designer-artist Yasia Khomenko (she makes clothes using recycled materials, which practice is considered especially environment-friendly today).

“At the Alta Moda competition in 1996, I sent to the catwalk a model ‘dressed’ only in a cubical polyethylene construction. The light fell into the cube, and it seemed as if a naked human floated in an aquarium. The play of light so inspired me that I went on to create more ‘light-filled’ shapes. These shapes formed the background when Maryna Poroshenko opened the exhibition,” the artist Oksana Chepelyk told us.

After winning the competition, she visited France at the invitation of Pierre Cardin the same year. The memory of it is still there, as is the beauty itself that was created by our designers at one time...

“The history of material culture tells a story about us, citizens of Ukraine. About our fears and dreams, desires and prejudices and how they changed during all the years of independence,” reflected Zvyniatskivska, the curator of the exhibition. “It has been 26 years since 1991, and now I am just physically sensing how the phenomena we witnessed are disappearing. We have to keep these memories alive!

“‘In Progress. The Dress Code of Independent Ukraine’ is not only a theoretical reflection on ‘the time and oneself.’ There is also an educational program here, which I hope will interest not only art and fashion connoisseurs.

“Linor Goralik will deliver a lecture ‘Glamour et al.: New Aesthetics and Post-Perestroika Costume.’ We will arrange public discussions later. One of them will be devoted to a problem that has become relevant for Ukraine in recent years: how old, ‘historical’ embroidered clothes should and should not be treated. People redesign, ‘modernize’ old clothes now, but students of folk culture oppose it. Who is right, then: the research community or ordinary consumers?

“Another discussion should take place after the presentation of the famous website ragu.li. We want to invite its representative, as well as experts, including lawyers, and to find out together: is it legal and ethically sound to use photos of people in the public sphere like ragu.li does?

“The program of the exhibition also includes displays of works by young Ukrainian fashion designers, in particular Yasia Khomenko and Masha Reva.”

The exhibition can be visited until August 6.

By Hanna PAROVATKINA. Photos by Artem SLIPACHUK, The Day