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Ukrainian Fashion Week Opens With Lilla Poustovit

Godfrey Deeny
October 16th, 2008 @ 00:00 AM - Kiev

Turns out there is one perfectly good designer in the Ukraine, and she is Lilla Poustovit, a romantic figure whose collections already retail in some of Europe’s best boutiques. Her dreamy, yet elegantly practical collection shown Wednesday night, opened Ukrainian fashion Week, a 41-show season staged in leafy and historic Kiev.

And just to be clear, we’re talking about Corso Como in Milan, Dover Street in London and L’Eclaireur in Paris, i.e. three of the best half dozen big boutiques in Western Europe, in a word, as good an imprimatur as you can get.

Poustovit’s spring summer 2009 collection had lots of virtues, from its crumpled chic silk dresses, forgivingly cut yet cunningly draped, great graphic print tops and some very charming polka dot sheaths, draped with aplomb and finished with sophisticated lace detailing. Though clearly influenced by her country’s ethnic traditions, Poustovit is a smart enough designer to know its best to use small doses of tradition leavened in a contemporary silhouette and mood.

“I had in mind an image of an Adriatic sunset when making this collection. So I wanted something romantic, yet clothes women could understand and wear easily,” explained Poustovit, in very good French, backstage.

Lilla also injected an architectural element into her cocktail dresses, with vertical pleats that evoked Grecian columns. It was another mark of Poustovit’s talent that her collection recalled to mind the beautiful, Antique World mosaics and ruins Miu Miu show that climaxed Paris fashion week. Two women designers - Miuccia and Lilla - working in distant countries, reaching similar goals, but getting there on widely different paths.

Like all the shows here, Poustovit’s collection was staged in a conference center in Pushkin Park, where thrusting TV hosts, actresses, Kievan rappers and local politicians all made the scene.

The 700-seat show space was packed out for the Poustovit catwalk show, which featured some great local models, like Masha Tyelna, a moody new star who worked the boards in Givenchy and Christian Dior earlier this month in Paris.

The cool girls on the catwalk also highlighted a major difference between shows here in Kiev and catwalks in Moscow; none of the major league Russian models appear in shows in their capital. The, more loyal, Ukrainian gals do.

One also had to admire a great soundtrack by local DJ Derbastler, and a great mass ranked finale to a show by a designer who should be watched and, more relevantly, worn.

Also impressing was a cool club girl collection called NB Karavay, a display of posh hippie duds for spring that had sass and humor. Ranging from natty multi-flap and pleated cocktails to street chic short sleeve coats, this collection showed that Ukrainians can make commercial collections that connect with young consumers.

NB Karavay also featured hip new catwalker Kristina Kristova, a fresh face whose novel bob, featuring a shaved back of head, rendered her an eastern European Joan of Arc.

“Actually, I shaved it myself last night,” revealed Kristova, a student of TV production in Kiev who is the local answer to Agnes Deyn.

The opening day’s two other shows were less happy affairs. Victoria Gres was a lackluster collection of predictable denims and formulaic jackets, where most of the models wore fedoras and carried pistols, not perhaps the wisest styling idea in a city unfortunately known for a certain gangster culture.

The evening finished with an elaborate show called Gromova Design, where the runway was decorated with giant Styrofoam mushrooms, on which were projected large images of models mouths, gabbing infinitely. These, quite frankly, were a cheap replica of works by the great American video artist Tony Oursler, and an annoying one at that.

The actual clothes, worn by blackened eyed models that recalled Victorian tarts, had a certain energy - layered silk dresses in garish hues of violet and imperial purple. But in the end this show was almost a cliché of Westerners views of eastern European fashion, i.e. a pastiche of over the top ideas.

Kiev, judging from Lilla Poustovit and NB Karavay, is a lot better than that.

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