Today, more and more Ukrainians tend to buy Ukrainian, driven not only by patriotism but also a desire for quality. And more and more Ukrainian producers claim to produce just that – quality.
The harsh realities of life in Ukraine have forced people to re-evaluate their lives and priorities. That was the case with three friends who went into business in April 2015 amidst the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, confusion, and the economic recession. “What was happening in the country inspired us to create our brand,” says Taras Volkov, co-founder of GRASS, a young Ukrainian brand producing trendy casual women’s wear.
Against All Odds
Though coming from different backgrounds, Volkov, along with co-founders Kseniya Konstantynova and Oleksandr Kolybabchuk, share one thing in common – a passion for clothes. “We grew up surrounded by fabrics, spools of thread, patterns and sewing machines,” says Konstantynova.
They had no experience, yet tonnes of enthusiasm. Working for a large Ukrainian company representing a number of international retail chains, Kolybabchuk was the only one with some comprehension of the industry. The timing was bad and the assessed risks were far greater than benefits. Nevertheless, they were determined to launch their brand – on any budget. “We invested 12 000 UAH in our first collection. We worked on a very small scale, producing just two pieces of any item,” Volkov explains.
Business is Business
Wherever their creativity may take them, they still apply a systematic approach and distributed their roles – Volkov is responsible for marketing; Konstantynova communicates with clients; and Kolybabchuk manages production. However, when it comes to designing collections, they all play equal parts.
Konstantynova says they constantly monitor the fashion world. “We cannot ignore global trends. Let’s say, if floral patterns are fashionable in this season, we have to introduce them in our collections.” Based on feedback, they adapt the latest trends to local demand.
Strong Social Statement
GRASS supports social movements delivering a positive impact across the world.
That is particularly true of Konstantynova. “I am personally inspired by Dior’s ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ T–shirts. When new creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri joined Dior, she added a social aspect to their lines.”
Following suit, last February GRASS launched a spring collection with T-shirts emblazoned with slogans such as ‘Fight Like a Girl’ and ‘Women’s Rights are Human Rights’. On 8 March, the three donned their T-shirts and took to the streets of Kyiv to stand with women’s rights marches happening on a global scale. Volkov says the effort paid dividends: “The entire collection was a bestseller.”
Ukrainian Clients Are Special
GRASS, like many Ukrainian fashion companies, uses more natural fibres in their clothing than foreign brands, something the Ukrainian market prefers, Volkov says. Known as a ‘textile mecca’ to many big-name fashion companies, Turkey is where they make most of their purchases. Yet, they don’t just buy ‘ready-made textiles’. Last summer they developed their own print – red poppies against a white background. “We got our clients involved… We took a poll on social media and asked what kind of print they would like to see,” Volkov explains.
Encouraged by the experience, the trio designed another print for autumn – big pink roses against a dark blue background. A third print – dark green floral patterns – will appear in their winter collection. What makes Ukrainian clients unique, Volkov says, is they have an opinion. “It is cool to create something they like to wear.”
Future Prospects for Growth
The GRASS founders position themselves not as designers but clothing producers – a mass-market brand. “Designer clothing is hugely conceptual… Our items are more moderate – for a wider audience and for everyday wear,” Volkov says.
GRASS has to compete to produce quality inexpensive outfits (GRASS prices range from 600-700 UAH for a skirt or blouse up to 3 000-4 000 UAH for a coat). “We are not a big brand. We have to fight for clients against international brands like Mango, Zara, and all Ukrainian brands presented in the Vsi Svoi store,” says Volkov.
However, their own flagship store is coming, and they are also considering a line of perfumes, accessories, men’s and children’s wear. And, like grass, they can only grow from here.
Where to buy GRASS
Vsi Svoi store