Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska continues to show solidarity with her native country with her fashion choices.
Last week, Zelenska made a historic 15-minute address before the US Congress wearing a custom-made dress designed by Olena Bettiar.
Lawmakers and spectators zeroed in on what Zelenska said during her address — namely that the U.S. and NATO would provide Ukraine with air defense systems to help fight Russian aggression — and showed pictures of Ukraine’s damaged and war-torn roads. Invasion of Russia. Speaking in person at the US Capitol is something the Ukrainian president’s husband, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has yet to do, although he did address members of Congress a few months ago.
For that look, Zelenska wore Bettiar’s brand AMG. Betier said she knew she would make a custom outfit for a business trip, but she didn’t know where, when or why she would wear it.
Zelenska’s black and white pantsuit had some markings on it. The weathered black jacket was meant to evoke strength, the elegant white dress to convey fragility and the collection’s local embroidery reflected the country’s heritage, the designer said in an email. In general, those elements “include all Ukrainian women” from her point of view.
The dress worn by the First Lady featured a unique embroidery on the region where the “Vyshyvanka” was produced, typical of traditional Ukrainian shirts. The embroidery worn by Zelenska was a traditional shirt piece from eastern Ukraine, a region of the country that is the center of military activity.
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as of Sunday, the Russian Federation’s armed offensive against Ukraine has left 12,272 civilians dead, 5,237 civilians dead and 7,035 injured. In addition, more than 12 million people have fled Ukraine since Russian troops invaded the country five months ago.
“Very grateful and honored” that the first lady chose her outfit for such a historic event, Betier Zelenska said how she continues to be “a great supporter of Ukrainian fashion businesses and talent.”
During a trip to the Beltway last week for a White House photo op with President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, President Zelenska wore a statement piece from last year’s Guzema x Gunia capsule collection called “Nezalezhna,” a Ukrainian statement piece. Like Bettia, Guzema designer Valeria Guzema is helping war victims through the Guzema Foundation.
Betier, interested in working with the first lady, took the initiative a short time ago to apply to her office and soon had a meeting. Before the fight begins, Bettiar discusses costumes and any necessary protocol with Zelenska’s stylist, Natalya Kamenska. After that, another meeting will be held to discuss drafts, as well as fabric and hardware options. Then one or two joints are needed. Due to security protocols, the process is very specific and has never been in person.
Highlighting how every single business and person in Ukraine was severely affected by the Russian invasion, AMG’s founder was forced to suspend all production for three months. During that time, she and her team focused on charity work to help women and children affected by the war and to benefit those with thyroid problems.
AMG opened all business operations in Kyiv and continued its charitable efforts. Shipping is “very complicated these days,” so the brand relies on a few companies to help ship the clothes overland to Europe. In general, the group did not change except for a few who emigrated to Europe to escape the war. “But I think and I hope that the whole team will be together again soon,” Betier said.
Several Ukrainian brands, such as Sleeper, Frolov and Gunia Project, have shown great determination despite the severe challenges they are facing due to the ongoing devastation. And although there’s no official concerted effort to keep the industry going, each brand is “simply trying to do what they can to keep their business afloat,” Betier said.
That said, international partners, local clients and celebrities are providing a huge amount of support, which “makes it a little easier to work and develop the fashion industry in Ukraine in these difficult times,” the designer said.
The best way for the Ukrainian fashion industry to try to build sales is by creating media that showcases the products it produces. AMG has added charity sections to its site, allowing consumers to purchase apparel and support fundraising efforts through the various charities the company tries to help.