From the Faces issue
The title of this issue is "Faces". What's the first thing that attracts you to a face?
Ears. I'm obsessed with big ears. In fact, I married my husband because he has big ears. But the bigger the girl's ears, the more obsessed I am with her. They're usually very careful about their looks.
What is your first memory of fashion?
It's not a typical childhood memory. I spent my early years in Mariupol, Ukraine. I grew up on a farm surrounded by nature and animals. I remember my grandmother tending the garden in exquisite blouses or Gabriel Chanel dresses. Her sense of style was impeccable. But I think the most memorable was when I secretly borrowed my grandfather's classic suits and modified them to fit my own. It's only now that I realize this was my first foray into upcycling. But I really immersed myself in the world of fashion when I moved to Kiev at the age of 17. The beginning of a new era.
As a teenager, which artist did you admire?
I deeply admired Maria Callas. Her opera was a source of comfort for me, an outlet for my thoughts. On the other hand, I'm an unconditional fan of techno, which I've been immersed in since a very early age. It's the heart and main influence of my cultural upbringing.
Even today, you're a real raver, it seems to me.
Techno remains a guiding principle for me. I make it a point to attend an event with good techno at least once a month. I feel a certain nostalgia if I go too long without it. I'm also drawn to the more intense, harder versions of techno - even my husband can't stand them!
How did Bettter come about?
Initially, I wanted to adapt menswear for women, offering them a range of impeccably tailored, functional and comfortable suits that showcase their bodies and give them lasting power. It gives me immense pleasure to see women exude self-confidence. Offering them this extra potential to showcase their power and beauty is a joy like no other.
You received the LVMH Karl Lagerfeld Award in June 2023. What does this award mean to you?
The most important thing was the recognition from influential leaders in fashion and the industry itself. It validates the efforts made to develop Bettter and our platform, and motivates us to persevere with the project, given the complexity of building such a system. The financial support also played a vital role in enabling us to invest in technology, which was particularly difficult for us in wartime. But the most valuable thing was to get feedback from the industry. It was a litmus test.
Do you remember a memorable encounter during the Prix?
I remember Sidney Toledano making a fantastic statement, saying he didn't expect recycled clothes to look so good. Marc Jacobs was very encouraging, very romantic and honest. He told me he was impressed and that it gave him hope for a better future. Stella McCartney also paid me a fantastic compliment.
Can you tell us about Bettter and the system you've developed?
My main objective is to convert a substantial proportion - around 30 to 40% - of the world's fashion waste into recycled products. That would be a remarkable achievement. I don't harbor any illusions that this approach alone will fix the global fashion system, but I do hope it will contribute to significant changes and movements. For the past few seasons, recycled pieces have featured prominently in ready-to-wear collections. This is a significant trend that signals a real demand for this type of product.
Where do you find inspiration?
Not in fashion! Mainly from unexpected facets of life, authentic moments. Workers on the streets, fishermen in Sri Lanka or surfers. But what intrigues me most are office workers on their lunch break in cities like London. The way they dress, the way they smoke. These little details of everyday life inspire me a lot.
Do you design clothes with the intention of wearing them yourself?
The first garment I designed was for myself, because I'm tall and felt self-conscious about my height, so I wanted to balance my look. Through this process, I realized that I could help other women. But today, I'm more interested in exploring different morphologies. It's an exciting journey.
You're very involved in supporting the new Ukrainian creative generation with your Given Name Community platform.
It all started because of the war, and I wanted to be as useful as possible. I knew the Ukrainian creative community intimately and understood their distress when they had to leave the country. So I restructured the entire Bettter team, created a support platform and drew up an emergency plan to unite Ukrainian creatives and help them. But I almost lost Bettter, so I refocused my efforts on the brand and we came up with the idea of joining forces and bringing the two communities together. We're currently working on a series of projects, and I'm fully committed to them. It's a different dynamic to the one we started with.
How do you feel today, two years after the start of the war?
I've seen people promise change without delivering, but it's never all black and white. On the other hand, it was an incredible experience to see how some people showed solidarity and did their best to help us. Today, I feel we're at a stage where education is crucial. Over the last few years, I've learned that the smallest gesture, the smallest effort, really does make a difference. It triggers something in others, an example to follow. It shows that you're aware, that you care, that you're not neutral.
What's the most valuable piece of advice you've received in your career?
I've always had this phrase from Kate Moss engraved in my memory, "never complain". Recently, I was told not to apologize for one's own strength. To embrace her power, her beauty, her high standards and values. It made me realize that I have the ability to inspire other women. It's a powerful lesson.
When's your next rave?
Good question. It'll be in Ibiza to close the season. It's going to be a very romantic trip with my husband, and I can't wait!