Interview with BEVZA: Ukraine’s Fashion Star

May 2, 2017  15:39  |  Let’s talk

BEVZA - SwO magazine

Photo by Daria Derunova

Recognized among the fashion industry worldwide, including Vogue Italia Talents, L’Officiel France and awarded with “The Best Womenswear Designer of 2013″ in Ukraine, BEVZA clearly stands out from fellow Ukrainian fashion labels. Partly because of its success, partly because of its strong concept that runs inside the veins of each garment. The key idea is simple, everything has to be white, more or less. Pure, simple, minimal, fresh and WHITE. BEVZA’s “white dress concept” explores the idea of this achromatic colour replacing the popular “black” dress in order to create new, unprecedented vision of “iconic”, “timeless” and “classical” piece of clothing. We talked to the creative mind behind it, the designer Svetlana Bevza about her unique vision, emerging Ukraine’s fashion scene, what it’s like to be one of the country’s oldest and most respected fashion label and how one bet on a champagne bottle turned her career upside down.

BEVZA - SwO magazine

Photo by Daria Derunova

Svetlana, tell me how did you get into fashion?  

Well, it started from a wish to own a fashion house in my early childhood. That’s what I’ve told my mum when I was 5. Literally, I was thinking of a building with wardrobes full of clothes. As long as I remember myself I mainly have been drawing dresses. However, after graduating secondary school, I enrolled to the Economics University in Kyiv. The profession of fashion designer was so unpopular in Ukraine in 1999, that my parents insisted me to get the “normal” education first. I had no possibility to study abroad at that time, so I ended up being the economist with a diploma. Meanwhile, I was taking tailoring and sewing courses. In 2006 I made a bet with my friend on a bottle of champagne that I’ll manage to open my first atelier and prepare my first womenswear collection in 60 days. I won that damn bottle.

Having achieved the global recognition, including participating in “Vogue Italia Talents” and being awarded with “The Best Womenswear Designer of 2013″ in Ukraine, you are one of the most promising talents today, alongside fellow Ukrainian designers like Paskal, Litkovskaya or a nominee LVMH prize, Anton Belinsky. Where do you see yourself in the context of current Ukrainian fashion scene?

I must admit that being a fashion designer in Ukraine is so popular today, that so many new brands emerge in Ukraine every day. Yet they are usually very temporary. BEVZA is one of the most stable and established Ukrainian labels with 10 years of history and is always among the top labels on Ukrainian fashion scene.

BEVZA - SwO magazine

Photo by Daria Derunova

How, in your opinion, fashion climate in Ukraine has changed during recent years?

New trends, influx of fresh ideas… It feels that both Ukrainian and Georgian fashion terrains are getting stronger each season. Due to the political circumstances in Ukraine, our country is observed closely by the media worldwide. Fashion is a kind of cultural stream that connects Ukraine with the world. Nowadays, post-Soviet styling became so popular in the world, it’s crazy. Foreign media and buyers are very interested in the way our women dressed themselves in 90’s. It was a huge deficit at the time. Post-Soviet women didn’t have fashion magazines, clothing, etc. and therefore, the style came from a mix of foreign information that was available. Usually it looked really different and ridiculous, because the main goal was to dress like someone from a foreign Vogue magazine. I like to include this styling in my collections in rather ironical way. I remember my mom’s wardrobe pretty well, so it all seems very clear to me.

Since BEVZA is pretty much always under the radar of global fashion industry, have you ever felt a pressure to stand out or to come up with something rule changing every season?

I just do things that I like most and it comes naturally. I don’t feel a pressure to prove something to people. The best way to success is to be honest to yourself and to what you do.

BEVZA - SwO magazine

Photo by Daria Derunova

What role does the Ukrainian identity play in your work?

I always try to separate fashion from the national costumes. Yet, it can be exciting to show the world something from Ukrainian archives. There are many inspiring elements in our ethnical legacy that I’m proud of, but I always maintain BEVZA’s key style as a priority. I experimented with ethnical Ukrainian shawl called “hustka” for this autumn-winter season. I inserted its floral print on the silhouettes that are characteristic to BEVZA.

White colour is the primary colour you work with and build on your further designs. Your signature white dress concept might suggest that you turned the idea of timeless black inside out and reached the other end of colour scale. I suspect that white infuses designs with sterile effect freed from intrusive visual obstacles and excess of meaning. Why, according to you, did you choose white and what does it symbolize in your work?

I do not think about black at all. Black is just one of additional colours for me. White is an absolute. It is the most interesting and complicated colour to play with. It symbolizes a new day, a rebirth with every single piece you wear, a new page of history to be fulfilled with. White is for personalities, for those who want to discover life. Energetically, white is also the most positively attractive colour. It is a colour of honesty. I prefer to live a life being honest to myself. It is not the easiest way but it is the only one acceptable to me.

BEVZA - SwO magazine

Photo by Shkoda Lena

In couple of interviews you said that you are inspired by the work of performance artist Marina Abramović. There are the similarities in terms of how you approach the basic form, as you seem to start from a pure, uninhabited space, a blank ascetic garment. Tell me more about your minimalist approach to design?

I believe in a beauty of simplicity. Life can be so complicated but the most precious values and truth are always obvious. I think that clothes can help to feel this life a little easier.

For BEVZA Fall 2017 collection, you introduced ethnic Ukrainian elements and prints, particularly that of “khustka”, a traditional head cover of XIXth century. Heavy patterns, granny-like dresses, retro silhouettes seem quite different from your trademark plain canvas-like garment and strong clean cut. How did you decide to experiment? Was it a tribute to your origins?

Yes, and it was an interesting piece of work actually. Ukrainian ethnical legacy is so unique, it inspired me a lot. Yet, retro silhouettes are much more taken from my mom’s wardrobe of 90’s.

BEVZA - SwO magazine

Photo by Kargina Ksenia

I loved BEVZA Spring/Summer 2017 collection presented during Tbilisi Fashion Week. It appeared very close to BEVZA’s original look, it’s DNA and carried this timeless aura, the one that is both aristocratic and yet comfortably peasant-like. Tell me more about the collection, inspirations and vision? It also marked 10 years of your journey in fashion, right?

It seems you’ve answered your own question just perfect. The main thing is that you saw the most important codes from BEVZA in this collection and the idea of that collection was to literally show it. As for the inspiration, I took the characteristic stylistic decisions taken of the post-Soviet women in Ukraine, paying attention to the most popular clothing elements of those years and brought it all to the modern context. We’ve chosen “Kyiv Civil Status Registration Office”, for look book shooting location – a place where interior has been left untouched since the 90’s. It is a place where white dresses are worshipped and to shoot there was quite an irony.

Could you tell me about the technical side of your work. How do you arrive from the idea to the finished piece?

It is a very fast process. The best-selling pieces are those that I just create in my head and immediately explain it to the production office. Rarely we take off some samples from collection once it’s ready. I like to discover technical process also. For instance, for Spring-Summer 2014 collection I helped the factory to reload the machine in order to make a double high-temperatured “gaufre”. As a result, we created a very unique texture. Actually, this collection was among the finalists of “Vogue Talents” contest.

How did BEVZA evolve and change during the period of 10 years? Did any of your personal views, taste preferences change too?

The main idea of BEVZA is a sophisticated simplicity. For 10 years my vision of the brand has not changed. I experiment with cut, details, elements. I gain my own vision of BEVZA more clearly through these experiments – whether successful, or not.  It is like traveling – meeting new people, immersing in their culture, tasting something new. I “travelled” for 10 years and I came to the conclusion that you should always listen to your inner self. I don’t consider trends to be important, I simply make the clothes that I would wear myself.

BEVZA - SwO magazine

Photo by Kargina Ksenia

What is your personal taste like and what role does your style play in the overall vision of BEVZA fashion brand?

To be honest, there’s a lot of myself in BEVZA collections. Yes, I do think about other people who could wear BEVZA too, but it all happens instinctively.

Tell me something more about your interests and inspirations outside fashion and how do they affect your work.  

Perhaps, it sounds trivial, but after 6 pm I’m a housewife. My 3-year-old son is my inspiration, the absolute example of pure sincerity. The way how children think and react amazes me – it is so simple, just like it should be. I think children are wiser that adults.

What will we hear from BEVZA next?

More BEVZA. I prefer to keep it as secret until it’s done. Stay tuned and thank you.