Litkovskaya: traditional Ukrainian couture with a cosmopolitan feel
The atelier of Ukrainian designer Lilia Litkovskaya is steeped in the heritage of four generations of tailors. It is a space bright with natural light, a stone's throw from Kiev's city centre, home also to the eponymous label's showroom. The atelier is accessed through a walkway within a French-style building whose ground floor is occupied by the Café Charlotte, with its unmistakeable Parisian feel. French influences permeate the entire building and are mirrored in the designer’s style, which combines family heritage, Carpathian craftsmanship and a cosmopolitan Parisian aesthetic, a nod to the city where Litkovskaya showed its latest collection in September.
Lilia, a shy, diminutive woman, seemed much more at ease once she began burrowing into her design archives to show us her perfectionist work with samples of different fabrics. She even struck a few catwalk poses, as she tried on a number of asymmetrical men’s blazers and a reversible oversize coat. “I prefer my clothes to do the talking for me, they are much more eloquent than my English,” she said. Litkovskaya emphasised the fine detailing on some of the jackets, decorated with song lyrics embroidery that is so delicate to be almost invisible. “Crafting the garments’ inner side is essential; sometimes, it is even more important than the outer,” she said, wrapped up snugly in a fine coat with an ample collar, well-suited to the frigid Ukrainian winter.
Litkovskaya’s passion for her craft is evident in the materials and finely wrought cuts of her creations, and is reflected in the yellowed pages of books and photo albums that bear witness to the evolution in the skills of her family’s four generations of tailors. A kind of personal fashion bible, with an aesthetic that is strongly influenced by the production of military uniforms. Litkovskaya is constantly perusing these albums, looking for fresh inspiration and learning new techniques and finishings, which she then teaches her team herself. Her collections are entirely made in the Ukraine, using fabrics sourced in Italy and Japan, as well as surplus stock from various luxury labels. Litkovskaya is committed to sustainable manufacturing, and the label currently employs 25 people.
The label was founded in 2009, and its collections feature a complete wardrobe for “women who are looking for sincerity.” Litkovskaya’s creations are clearly influenced by menswear, and range from architectural coats and jackets to minimalistic dresses, as well as skirts and handbags, all with a premium positioning, prices starting from €150 and going as high as €1,900.
E-tail currently accounts for 40% of Litkovskaya’s revenue. Asia and Europe are the markets that generate the highest sales volumes, and the label is present in 11 countries, often at well-known retailers like Selfridges in London, L'éclaireur in Paris, Hlorenzo in Los Angeles, The Republique in Hong Kong, Showroom Uno and Je cherche in Japan, Edem in Munich, More is love in Georgia and Invogue in the Ukraine. Bespoke creations and online pre-ordering are among the services offered.
“I find inspiration by looking at the world around me. I learn, discover new things, and transfer this information into objects. I would define this approach as one of radical exploration,” said Litkovskaya about her creative process. The label was on the official calendar of the Kyiv Art & Fashion Days event, held on October 7-10 to promote the local fashion scene.
“The Ukraine is still developing as a fashion market, but it has always been a gold mine of exceptional talent,” she said, adding that “our fashion industry is increasingly recognised abroad, and this recognition is well deserved. Fashion is a sector where it is difficult to make a breakthrough in any country, but in the Ukraine even more so because the industry is still very young.”
To contribute to the growth of the local fashion industry, Litkovskaya launched the ‘Artisanal’ line in 2018. It aims to “bring the mountain spirit to the big city” by adopting ancient carpet-weaving techniques to fashion original coats and jackets, creating jobs for women in the region. Litkovskaya also launched the ‘School of Art x Craft’ project for emerging designers, artisans and artists, a training initiative whose mission is to support young people through sponsorships.
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