They are a dynamic duo but have no need for superhero costumes to turn heads. Identical twins Ivan and Vasyl Kostenko have, in 10 years in Kyiv, carved out their own niche. It helps to be an identical, of course, and has worked as a great springboard, but they are much more than just a double act.
It may be cliché, but these two fit the ‘classic mould’ of twins. They finish sentences on behalf of the other. They inevitably dress separately but look the same. Yet despite being as inseparable as they are (to the untrained eye) indistinguishable, these two have gone beyond novelty to identities in their own right, and are up-and-coming players in Kyiv’s cultural whirl. In Paris this November, they are sure to cause people to take a ‘double-take’, but it is the culmination of slow, steady, work that has brought the pair to this point.m It is something they credit as an advantage at the beginnings of their career.
As they tell it, their arrival in Kyiv in 2007 almost immediately saw them involved in promotion of the Koktebel jazz festival. While the experience was a steep learning curve, it also presented an opportunity. Their uniqueness opened doors,” Ivan says. “In the main it was advertising; but we also acted in music videos and film.”
The pair played roles in director Ihor Podolchak’s 2012 film Delerium. The catwalk also beckoned, with the twins modelling for various Ukrainian designers. Show business was to prove a launching pad for their main goal and as an introduction to future clients. “At some point, we felt that we were ready to create our own design studio. We had no problem coming up with the title – Braty (brothers in Ukrainian), something we came up with in school at the age of 12. We always knew what we wanted to do.”
That work still comes in, although at the age of 32 the humble pair freely admit to the fact those days are waning.
The first major success for the fledgling Braty brand came with postcards they designed using their unique collage signature style. Initially it was “just for friends”, Ivan says. However, they posted the designs on Facebook. “To our surprise, they became very popular. No one had done this with Ukrainian images of ordinary people. After that, customers came to us.”
This year, their design studio marks five years. The brothers’ unique style is something they constantly adapt to meet client requests. It sees them participating in various art projects and creating their own personal exhibitions, which, outside of Ukraine have also taken place in Italy, France, Germany, Poland, and Georgia.
The pair are already established as being behind the graphic design for various events and commercial organisations, notably the Odesa International Film Festival. However, they credit their proudest achievement thus far to be their involvement in the Festival of Culture between East and West to take place in Paris on 15-20 November. The focus is Kyiv and the Kostenko twins will take part alongside 30 other Ukrainian luminaries, such as author Serhiy Jadan and cabaret act Dakh Daughters.
This double-act seem poised to firmly cement their place on Ukraine’s cultural map.
The two recently released a comic, entitled Французька Прогулянка (French Walk), in collaboration with Très Francais family of restaurants and Renault, based on the excursions of guide Marina Chaika through Kyiv’s French Route. Published in French and Ukrainian, it connects interesting places and events in Kyiv with French culture.