Why this Ukrainian upcycling brand is determined to carry on in the midst of war
When Ksenia Schnaider woke up to the sound of shelling in kyiv on the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she didn’t register what it was like at first. “It was around four in the morning and I heard explosions, but I didn’t realize what was going on, so I continued to sleep,” the designer says. vogue. “Then my mom started calling like crazy, so I picked up. She said, ‘The war has started. It was the worst time of my life.’
After spending the following night in an underground shelter, Schnaider and her husband Anton – with whom she founded her eponymous brand – decided to leave for western Ukraine, with the safety of their daughter in mind. “When we were fleeing kyiv, we thought it would be for three days maximum,” she recalls. “We didn’t realize it was going to last this long.”
As the war began to spread to western Ukraine, Schnaider and her husband made the difficult decision to flee the country – first attempting to cross the Polish border before making their way to Hungary. “We didn’t really have a plan; we just jumped in the car,” Schnaider continues.
Fortunately, some former colleagues from Budapest reached out and offered Schnaider and his family a place to stay for a few weeks. Since then, they have moved countless times, as various friends across Europe have offered them accommodation. “I think we have [stayed in] around 11 apartments in four different countries,” says the designer – who is currently in Nuremberg, Germany.
For the first two months of the war, Schnaider halted all production in Kyiv, his team not restarting manufacture until the beginning of the month. “We are slowly trying to go back and rebuild everything,” she explains. “I drove to Kyiv two weeks ago to meet some of my team members who have decided to stay there and we have decided to reopen our production. Only five people are there so we are operating at around 30 %, but it’s really impressive and I’m really proud that we’re able to work somehow.
Since launching Ksenia Schnaider a decade ago, the brand has gained international acclaim, in part thanks to recycled jeans and shorts worn by Bella Hadid in 2017. had a lot of success locally,” says the designer. “Then I created a pair of jeans, which was created from two pairs that I had deconstructed, and somehow it became a trend.”