Ukraine designer Ksenia Schnaider, founder of the sustainable brand Kseniaschnaider, speaks about her brand and how she is facing the present dramatic situation of her country after the bursting of the war.
Physically I am safe, but mentally I am not sure. I am in Germany now, before I was in Hungary and Western Ukraine. I had to run and change places for two weeks with my daughter. We left everything behind.
What about your dearest people, family and employees?
Starting from May 2nd, my team who stayed in Kyiv are at our production studio. We are slowly trying to get back to work, but safety is now our main priority. Most of the team are abroad or at Western Ukraine. We moved our stock to the city Uzhgorod near the border with Hungary and our sales team are working with customers and sending orders from there. Our flagship store in Kyiv, instead, is closed.
As a business we are operating on 30-40% as we did before the war. And I am really proud of this percentage, knowing the whole situation. I am in constant contact with my team, and I am even trying to work remotely on the new s/s 2023 collection.
My parents and relatives are all in Kyiv. They decided to stay there and do not want to leave their homes. It is heartbreaking for me to check every morning how they are, how was the night safe or there were problems.How many employees does your company count?
Before the war, we were a family of 30 people. Nowadays, some of them cannot work anymore as some divisions of our business have stopped. Actively at work during April, we had 17 people.
Are they all safe? Can they work?
Almost most of my team are safe - only one person is not replying to me, but some colleagues know she planned to move to Russia. So, probably, this might be the reason I haven’t heard from her, but I hope she is fine there.
I am living in a hotel room with my sister and our kids, and I do not have a place for my employees here, unfortunately.
My own future is blurred and unsecure. This is huge stress for me as a CEO, as I have to care about my team. I am trying to find solutions for our brand to survive and for our business to develop.
Are you selling your products? How?
We are selling our collection through our website kseniaschnaider.com and donating 15% from each order to "Come Back Alive" foundation.
You said you are working at a new collection? Can you tell us more about it?
Yes, I started to develop s/s 2023, and I hope we will produce a nice meaningful drop before September.
For the moment, we confirmed our participation at Pitti Uomo. They will have a Ukrainian pavilion there. I will bring our bestsellers and some new pieces.
I am also in touch with Premium Berlin, as they are willing to support the Ukrainian fashion industry, too.
Did anyone - for instance, entities, private people or Governments - show solidarity, offer you support or financing?
Since the war started, we created a “Support Cards” section in our website. As we were not able to sell anything in March, this support was extremely important. Our customers and our partners purchased such cards and helped us to go through the most difficult times. Cards are still there, and we are grateful for every US$5 people can send to us.
I am sure that Ukraine has already won this war. We proved ourselves worthy, we rallied, we help each other, and we are defending. I believe we can make it. I am very grateful to everyone who did not turn away and did not leave us in this terrible pain. Everyone who continues to help - informationally, morally and financially - are my heroes as well as the armed forces. I have always been afraid of war. Now I know that it is even scarier than I imagined.
What about people working in fashion as you? Ukraine also hosted some fashion brands and textile production companies. What's going on with them?
We are all in the same situation. We all were not able to receive orders for next winter collection, as buyers did not want to risk. Furthermore, we all invested in fall/winter 2022/2023 collections, and we lost. Most of the designers are still delivering s/s 2022 orders, and some could not do so, because their warehouses or productions were burnt and ruined during the first month of war.
We all are supporting each other - we are organizing pop-up events in Europe, sharing useful information is common group chats, we are producing limited drops in collaborations with each other, we are no longer competitors.