Ukrainian models at Milan Fashion Week can't go home

Ukrainian models who left for Fashion Week and can’t go home: Stars tell of crying backstage and phoning family in bomb shelters as their country was invaded while ‘tone deaf’ designers debuted their latest collections

  • Ukrainian models, designers and editors that left their hometowns for Milan Fashion Week have been stranded in western Europe after Putin’s attack  
  • Kristy Ponomar, 21, said walking for Prada was ‘the hardest thing she’s done’
  • Stylist Anna Mazzhyk is making OnlyFans from Poland to raise money for relief 
  • Model Kateryna Zub said she ‘can hear the bombs on the phone’ to her parents 

Ukrainian models, designers and editors that left their hometowns for Milan Fashion Week have spoke of their difficulty at being away from their friends, families and employees as their country descended into a war zone within hours of their departure. 

Many who expected a week of glamour in the Italian fashion capital have spoken of bizarre parallel worlds as they walk the runway in front of A-listers in designer clothes, while their friends and family hide out in bomb shelters at home.

They described how the ‘tone deaf’ fashion community has failed to properly acknowledge the Russian invasion and spoke of their heartache at trying to helped loved ones still trapped. 

Some are desperately trying to get back to their families in Ukraine while others are heading for Poland in the hope of being reunited with loved ones across the border. 

Together with Russian models, they are using their platforms to raise awareness and money – with one even going so far as to launch an OnlyFans account. 

Ukrainian models, designers and editors that left their hometowns for Milan Fashion Week have been stranded in western Europe after their country descended into a war zone just hours after they left. Among them is Anna Mazzhyk who is creating an OnlyFans

Model Kristy Ponomar, 21, walked in Prada’s show in front of the likes of Taika Waititi, Rita Ora and Kim Kardashian. She said it was ‘so hard’ as she put her middle finger up to Putin

Sharing a teary image, she wrote: ‘F**k war, F**k Putin’. She’s one of the many Ukrainian and Russian models posting anti-Putin sentiment – and sharing ways people outside of Ukraine can help.

Kristy walks the runway at the Prada fashion show during the Milan Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2022/2023. She says it was the ‘hardest show of her life’

Ukrainian model Kristy Ponomar, 21, walked in Prada’s show in front of the likes of Taika Waititi, Rita Ora and Kim Kardashian. 

But said that it was the ‘hardest show of her life’ and that she was ‘walking for Ukraine’.

Sharing a teary picture of herself to Instagram, still dressed for the show, she wrote:  ‘F*** war! F***  Putin! I wanna come back home and stay safe! I just did @prada it’s was the hardest show in my life. I walking for you my Ukraine. Thank you amazing @prada team for support me’.

It’s not known where Kristy currently is, but she has shared dozens of posts in support of Ukraine, and shared photos of her family in make-shift bomb shelters and sleeping bags. 

She’s one of the many Ukrainian and Russian models posting anti-Putin sentiment – and sharing ways people outside of Ukraine can help. 

Model Kateryna Zub, is also stuck in western Europe, unable to reach her parents in Kharkiv, Ukraine. She flew to Milan last Monday – just days before Putin invaded.

The 21-year-old who has walked for the likes of Hermes, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana, told the Evening Standard she was on her way to a casting when she heard that Putin had invaded. 

Model Kateryna Zub, is also stuck in western Europe, unable to reach her parents in Kharkiv, Ukraine. She flew to Milan last Monday – just days before Putin invaded.

Kateryna (pictured) said that some brands offered to help but overall Fashion Week was lacking in acknowledgement and still ‘talking about Prada and Gucci’.

‘I was crying so much I couldn’t do castings. It’s horrible, it’s a nightmare. I can’t believe it’s happening in my country,’ she said. 

‘I call [my parents] and they are trying to tell me everything is fine, but I can hear the sounds of guns. Can you imagine? It’s too late. They can’t go anywhere. Russians are everywhere. Tanks are everywhere. Oh my god, it’s a nightmare. It’s worse than anything I’ve seen in the movies.’

Kateryna said that some brands offered to help but overall Fashion Week was lacking in acknowledgement and still ‘talking about Prada and Gucci’.

Noting she can’t go home, she’s now in Germany and trying to make her way to Poland. 

Elsewhere, Ukrainian stylist Anna Mazzhyk told AFP she was awoken by her parents at 7am before a show, only to hear that ‘Russia is invading Ukraine’.  

‘I was crying before the first show because it’s difficult for me,’ said the 22-year-old Kyiv native, outfitted in a puffy Prada vest and surrounded by her equally spruced-up friends, told the news agency.

‘We’re all wearing sunglasses to cover up our puffy eyes,’ she said.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian stylist Anna Mazzhyk (pictured) told AFP she was awoken by her parents at 7am before a show, only to hear that ‘Russia is invading Ukraine’.

Anna has manage to get to Warsaw. While she isn’t able do join the war effort in Ukraine, she has decided to start an Only Fans page and will donate all proceeds to help. She is pictured

Anna has managed to get to Warsaw. While she isn’t able do join the war effort in Ukraine, she has decided to start an Only Fans page and will donate all proceeds to help.

Sharing a photo to Instagram in her underwear and holding a Kalashnikov, she wrote: ‘Photo to attract attention, Ukraine, I love you.

‘Ok guys, here is something for you. I’m not in Ukraine,  but I’ll give my body for that, if i have to. Subscribe to my OnlyFans account, all money I will donate to Ukraine.

‘Deed and body. For your people and country. I didn’t think that I would ever do it, but already f*** for everything, I will help in every way that I can.’

She’s also shared snaps of her outside the Prada Foundation in Milan, looking typically stylish as you would expect.

She then zoomed in on her bloodshot and teary eyes, explaining: ‘The first two photos are what you see. The rest is what actually happens. Now my morning begins like this and I am infinitely happy that I see “so far calmly”.

‘The first photos are what you see, the rest are what is really happening.’

Belgian model Louise Robert also told AFP that Ukrainian bookers backstage at Prada were ‘visibly upset, trying to figure out when and how they could go home’.

‘It was like a bomb, an emotional bomb,’ she said. 

Kristy shared pictures of her home in Ukraine – showing it stripped bare as her family rested

Dima Ievenko, the designer of outerwear brand Ienki Ienki, is also stuck in western Europe. 

Speaking to GQ he explained how he presented his collection, then on Thursday work up at 5.20am in his hotel room to see messages from his family, friends and employees telling him Russia had invaded. 

He said his primary concern was to protect his 120-employees, some have fled Kyiv trying to get to Poland, while others are fighting. He says he’s ignored the shows and spent ‘every waking minute’ getting them a safe place to stay.   

‘My parents are in Kyiv, they cannot leave. I have a team of 120 people, all of them are young people, young girls and boys, and there are bombs flying straight at Kyiv. We never expected anything like this,’ he explained.

Speaking about the reaction of others at Fashion Week he added: ‘Nobody cares. I’m here with some other Ukrainian people, and we’re meeting with each other, and when we go out in the middle of fashion week it’s like we’re in a capsule.

‘Here in Milan there are tons of people, the weather is beautiful, the COVID restrictions are not that high, and people are dressed up for the street style. And we are going in between them in a completely different reality. Because my reality now is in Ukraine.’

Anna also shared snaps of her outside the Prada Foundation in Milan, looking typically stylish as you would expect. She then zoomed in on her bloodshot and teary eyes, explaining: ‘The first two photos are what you see. The rest is what actually happens. Now my morning begins like this and I am infinitely happy that I see “so far calmly”.

Dima Ievenko, the designer of outerwear brand Ienki Ienki, is also stuck in western Europe. Speaking to GQ he explained how he presented his collection, then on Thursday work up at 5.20am in his hotel room to see messages from his family, friends and employees telling him Russia had invaded. 

Elsewhere, Vogue Ukraine’s Vena Brykalin added that Milan Fashion Week has proved that the industry is ‘tone deaf’.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, the journalist said that he flew out to fashion week from Kyiv a day early which ‘might have saved his life’ because hours later airspace was shut down.  

Brykalin has skipped many of the shows in Milan Fashion Week and has not posted about fashion on social media – saying that he’s ‘grateful to be safe’ but most of his team are ‘hiding in basements’. 

‘Being a male, there’s a pressure to return and sign up to the military effort.

‘I have female friends even looking for rifles and guns because they are that committed to helping the defence,’ he added.

Taking to Instagram, he said that Giorgio Armani is the only designer that has even acknowledged the Ukraine crisis, by putting his show in complete silence.

Vogue Ukraine has since called on an embargo for fashion and luxury goods to Russia.

Brykalin added that ‘turning your music off isn’t the most radical thing in the world’ and that he doesn’t think designers should scrap their hard work and ‘just stop’.

‘But I do think this industry is really tone deaf and Milan has shown that this week,’ he added.

‘I don’t expect models walking out wearing Ukrainian national flags or burning a portrait of Vladimir Putin on the runway… The lamest thing you can do is to throw in Ukrainian dress into your collection just to show your support. But there are things you can do.’

He added he doesn’t know if it’s ‘laziness, insensitivity or the fear of alienating certain customers’ as Russia is a huge market for high-end designers. 

Vogue Ukraine has since called on an embargo for fashion and luxury goods to Russia.   

Other designers have made nods to Ukraine at Milan, as Marni sent out model in the Ukrainian national colours of yellow and blue. 

Katya Kulyzhka, a Ukrainian model who lives in New York, has posted ways the international community can help and asked her 113,000 followers where she can buy bullet proof vests.

Sasha Pivovarova, a Russian model who is known for being the longest appearing fashion model for Prada also shared a picture showing Ukraine’s flag with a yellow and blue heart.

Ukrainian designers that didn’t leave Kyiv – including  Alina Kachorovska – has taken shelter underground, according to WWD. 

Ivan Frolov, designer of Frolov, wanted to go Poland, but cannot due to rules preventing men between the ages of 18 and 60 leaving the country.  

Jen Sidary, a global fashion brand strategist who is showing six Ukrainian brands in New York this week, told WWD she has been in ‘constant contact’ with Frolov.

Elsewhere, Russian and Ukraine models have used their mammoth Instagram followings to draw up support.   

Katya Kulyzhka, a Ukrainian model who lives in New York, has posted ways the international community can help and asked her 113,000 followers where she can buy bullet proof vests.

Irina Kravchenko, another Ukrainian in New York, has also used her platform to promote defending Kyiv.

Meanwhile, Russian supermodel Vlada Roslyakova shared a video urging peace, while Natalia Vodianova, who is also Russian, said she was going to donate to Ukraine.

Sasha Pivovarova, a Russian model who is known for being the longest appearing fashion model for Prada also shared a picture showing Ukraine’s flag with a yellow and blue heart. 

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