At 28, she is Ukraine’s unofficial fashion envoy
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, www.fw-daily.com, a blog www.dariasdiaries.com, and works as a video director at French website Now Fashion.com. 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,”
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)