At 28, she is Ukraine’s unof­fi­cial fash­ion en­voy

Kyiv Post - - Lifestyle - BY OK­SANA TORHAN [email protected]

When a Ukrainian de­signer’s cloth­ing ap­pears in a lead­ing street-style blog, it’s usu­ally be­cause Daria Shapo­val­ova wore it.

Shapo­val­ova, 28, is the cre­ative di­rec­tor of one of Ukraine’s two bian­nual fash­ion events, the MercedesBe­nz Kiev Fash­ion Days, set to take place on Sept. 3 – 5 in Kyiv.

In the past sev­eral years, she has gone from host­ing a fash­ion show on a mu­nic­i­pal TV sta­tion to es­tab­lish- ing her­self as the main am­bas­sador of Ukrainian fash­ion in the Western world. Her photos have ap­peared in pop­u­lar mag­a­zines and blogs, and she made it to the Busi­ness of Fash­ion’s list of 500 most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple of the in­dus­try in 2014.

Her se­cret is brav­ery, she says. She dared to mix clothes of Ukrainian de­sign­ers with big-name brands when dress­ing for Western fash­ion events, even though the strat­egy risked go­ing un­no­ticed by pho­tog­ra­phers.

“The eas­i­est way (to get pho­tographed) is to come to a fash­ion show in a look by Louis Vuit­ton or Prada,” Shapo­val­ova says. “You will def­i­nitely be pho­tographed by ev­ery­one, be­cause they know these clothes. When you come in the clothes of a Ukrainian de­signer it is a ques­tion, and when you re­ally show that you are not afraid to wear these clothes and ev­ery­one likes it, it fas­ci­nates the fash­ion world.”

Sit­ting in her of­fice in Vozd­vyzhenka, an ex­pen­sive new neigh­bor­hood in cen­tral Kyiv, Shapo­val­ova shines with the same kind of im­mac­u­late beauty that is cap­tured in the thou­sands of pho­to­graphs of her. She is cap­ti­vat­ing, has fair skin and her broad, friendly smile warms up her clear eyes. Not that her en­chant­ing ap­pear­ance fools any­body. Shapo­val­ova looks like she be­longs more in a busi­ness set­ting than in a fash­ion shoot.

In fact, she looks com­fort­able in both set­tings.

Her sched­ule is packed with trips around Europe, where she vis­its fash­ion shows, gets pho­tographed for mag­a­zines, and meets big shots in the fash­ion in­dus­try. She owns More Dash, a sales and public re­la­tions agency that rep­re­sents Ukrainian de­sign­ers

at home and abroad. The agency has re­cently opened a show­room of Ukrainian de­signer cloth­ing in the world’s fash­ion cap­i­tal, Paris.

She is also present at all the main fash­ion weeks – which can be ex­haust­ing. What looks like an ex­cit­ing se­quence of events packed with celebri­ties and so­cialites is ac­tu­ally hard work.

“You change clothes sev­eral times a day. It’s a job,” Shapo­val­ova says.

Her work doesn’t stop there. Shapo­val­ova runs a Rus­sian-lan­guage web­site about fash­ion,, a blog www.dari­as­di­, and works as a video di­rec­tor at French web­site Now Fash­ Some­how, Shapo­val­ova finds time for fam­ily life in her hec­tic sched­ule. She some­times shares photos of her three-year-old son, David, with her 38,000 In­sta­gram fol­low­ers. Her hus­band Kazbek Bek­tur­sunov, a po­lit­i­cal tech­nol­o­gist and media man­ager, is Shapo­val­ova’s part­ner in her fash­ion busi­nesses, and ac­com­pa­nies her on many of the trips. She says Bek­tur­sunov was al­ways in­ter­ested in fash­ion but en­tered this in­dus­try be­cause of her.

A s Shapo­val­ova’s name has gained recog­ni­tion in the fash­ion world, glob

al pro­mo­tion of Ukrainian de­sign­ers has be­come her main mis­sion. She says that Ukrainian cloth­ing has good cut, col­or­ing and de­sign. What is even more in­ter­est­ing –lo­cal de­sign­ers have a non-stan­dard vi­sion, hav­ing never grown up or stud­ied in the West.

“The de­sign­ers have other cul­tural val­ues than Western ones, so they can of­fer dif­fer­ent prints and cuts,” she says. “It is a nov­elty and new breathe that for­eign fash­ion crit­ics like.”

Her fa­vorite Ukrainian brands are Anna K., An­ton Belin­skiy, Kse­nia Sch­naider, and Anna Oc­to­ber. Her PR agency has signed all of them. Her fa­vorite Western brands in­clude Christo­pher Kane, Prada, and Miu Miu.

While it never is easy, pro­mot­ing Ukrainian fash­ion has be­come an es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult task in the past year. The war in the coun­try’s east is scar­ing off po­ten­tial buy­ers.

“They see the in­sta­bil­ity and it raises the ques­tion of whether Ukrainian de­sign­ers can sew and de­liver clothes in time,” Shapo­val­ova says.

The Euro­Maidan Revo­lu­tion at the same time put Ukraine in the lime­light, and de­sign­ers can ben­e­fit from it.

“To some ex­tent the revo­lu­tion played to our ad­van­tage, be­cause even those who did not know about Ukraine, they have learned, but in a neg­a­tive way. Now we must show them that we have tal­ented peo­ple,”

Shapo­val­ova says.

Daria Shapo­val­ova wears a So­nia Rykiel dress as she heads to a fash­ion show dur­ing Paris Haute Cou­ture Fash­ion Week on July 8. (Cour­tesy)

Daria Shapo­val­ova talks to Kyiv Post in her of­fice in Kyiv cen­ter on Aug. 13, in the mid­dle of prepa­ra­tions for Mercedes-Benz Kiev Fash­ion Days, a bian­nual fash­ion event that she or­ga­nizes. (Cour­tesy)

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