The designer's job is to create, to expose to the world her personal vision and to offer her interpretation with the aim of improving people's lives. The creators depend on their context, and this is the one that impacts and directly inspires their work. How can you continue this work when that context is a war that has resulted in thousands of deaths and forced you to flee your country? Ukrainian designer Anna October answers this and more questions, showing how passion and love for what you do are unstoppable forces.
Two months have passed since her forced and sudden arrival in Paris, after having to leave her workshop in Kyiv, Ukraine and flee as she saw the war getting closer than ever. Despite the war the designer had the courage to move forward, help others to do so, and finding more creators willing to join forces.

As part of Bettter.Community platform, Anna October helps fellow designer (and EX-Vogue Ukraine Fashion Director) Julie Pelipas to manage a space for promotion, interaction, and support for Ukrainian designers, artists, photographers, and all kinds of creators who need support whether monetary, through visibility or opportunities. An immediate initiative to meet needs in a situation as urgent as it is unpredictable has proven to be quite effective.

However, the main priority is Anna October, her eponymous brand. Anna maintains a constant contact with her team, working on what will be the next collection produced in Ukraine. The brand hasn't stopped operating and continues to support Ukraine.
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Hi Anna, it is a pleasure to have you speak to METAL. Can you please introduce your brand to our readers who might not already know it?
Anna October is a Ukrainian womenswear brand expressing a spirit of sensitivity and freedom. I design to inspire women to perceive themselves happily and courageously. It is a brand contribution to the female empowerment movement - by blessing women's desire to be pleased by the way they look. We, at Anna October, developed a sustainable ethos within the brand. Collections are created using deadstock textiles. The brand maintains expert tailoring. A significant amount of the pieces are handcrafted by using re-imagined artisanal techniques for modern clothes. Our ethical strategy is enhanced by willing to design with an aspiration to create clothes that will be loved and lived in. Anna October clothing is available in more than 30 online and offline stores including Moda Operandi, SSENCE, FWRD, and Shopbop.
Where are you writing to us from today and how are you feeling? We know that you are in Paris and that you are trying to relocate your team. How is that going? Do you have a bit more clarity on the path you are going to follow in the near (very near) future? Because we now understand how fast everything can change.
After the first week of the war, I moved to Paris on the 3rd of March. Since that time, it's been an internal fight to start feeling something except deep suffering. I see the beauty around us, like a ray of sun trying to get into the darkest room, step by step it comes deeper. I relocated the team at the beginning of the war, they are in different places in the west of Ukraine, working remotely and part of the team is in Estonia, we are now operating sales out of the Estonian office. My team is very strong and we started to work from the 7th day of the war, all our production partners are relocated now and we are producing the pre-Autumn and Autumn/Winter 2022/2023 collections now in Ukraine. I started to work on the Resort 2023 in Paris now, and we will be showing it in June. Work is a solid ground for us and we are starting our lives [again] out of it.
You've previously stated that you wish the fashion community showed more support, not just by wearing blue and yellow or posting a flag on Instagram, but by actually getting involved and contributing more significantly. Do you believe this is happening more now that it's been more than a month since the war started? Can you feel this more tangible support or is it still quite vague?
It becomes more and more challenging to find support. People get tired of the war and want to live their lives as if it's not happening in Europe, and I feel a much lower response and attention to the matter from the fashion community. People want to think that "it's getting better," but unfortunately, it's the opposite and we need to think about the situation from a long-term perspective. People who already donated to some big funds don't want to contribute again to the smaller initiatives, platforms, or local Ukrainian volunteers; that would be more useful and help people faster. It takes so much time from the donation to the final beneficiary to get the money in big organisations, and the war is happening now; it's not over, and there is no time to wait when saving lives. I wish the fashion community would pay more attention to the war in Ukraine and people who were forced to leave their homes and provide more collaborative support, as they would do if this happened to their neighbour.
Your beautiful Resort 2022 collection uses organic earthy tones like olive, lemon and chocolate. Where did those colours come from?
I’m always starting the collection around the woman and the colour palette is always meant to compliment her and her existing collection of features. This colour story was inspired by Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty film, tones of faded green of its Italian countryside, some lemonade on a hot day and transparent whites of window cloths.
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Is it a simple coincidence that the patriotic yellow found in your home country’s flag and sunflower, a symbol of Ukraine, features so heavily?
Yellow and sky blue are my favourite colours. As for me, they embody the lightness and freedom of the sky and joyful energy of the sun, you can see shades of them in every Anna October collection since 2010. Coincidentally they are the colours of the Ukrainian flag, but I never used that initially to make this coincidence obvious. Now when this topic is so accented in the world, I’m afraid that people would use them to make a statement, but I am more about action not statements, so my use of these colours is not connected to the Ukrainian symbols.
When did you decide to create AW22 centred on a joyful trip through Paris?
It was September 2021 when I came to Paris after two years of lockdown. I spent the most fantastic week seeing my favourite city, going to museums, opera and dancing the tango at night. This very night with a street tango at Place Vendôme was the main inspiration for my collection. Details of that night found their places in the lineup: furniture in my hotel to the Tour Eiffel that was shining and blinking, so was I that night. This is such a fate that now, after half a year, I had to flee the war in my country and Paris welcomed me. This love letter to Paris means even more now.
Speaking to Vogue you talk about staying brave and cool. Are there any particularly independent women that inspire you?
This way of living is something in my blood and in the identity of my girlfriends, we have always lived like this. I was always inspired by the bravery and strength of Coco Chanel, she is the only icon I am inspired by for years. But all the women that I’m meeting who combine talent, strength and kindness, I’m so inspired by them. I’m lucky to have them among my closest friends and usually when I'm working on the collection - I’m imagining my girls and playing around with their style.
Back to relocation, why did you find Julie Pelipas the perfect companion for this hard but important journey? How did you both realise you could work together?
We haven't been relocating together; we met here in Paris and gathered our powers and will to help Ukrainian creatives with the joint project. Julie had already built a platform at that moment with her team. I came to see her and told her I wanted to help other designers as I knew their needs and specifics. She invited me to become a leader of the fashion designer division. We have known each other for ages, and I am happy that now this friendship and our own professional experience are gathered in a way we can help others. She has a strong team, and my team is also sharing our experience with designers to find production, fabrics, legal support and ways of relocating the stocks.
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Have artists and designers been forthcoming to be part of your initiative, or do you sense any kind of fear? How has the platform been received by both creatives and consumers?
It was a powerful moment when we had a first group call with designers after we launched, and they were saying that now, when we all gathered, they feel stronger and they have the power to work again. So it's been a positive response from all sides, but I wish people would engage with it more and look at the creatives' profiles that they can commission for work.
In your personal case, how is the development of your next collection going? Are you trying to keep up with the schedule as much as you can, or is that not your main priority right now?
I always follow a schedule, no matter what happens in my life, this structure organises me and I am inspired by this framework.
One of the main values of your brand is expressing sensitivity and freedom, do you believe the recent events and traumatic experiences will have an impact on your upcoming designs and concepts? Are we going to be able to perceive some of these strong emotions on your garments, or would you rather try to use design as a way of escaping these negative thoughts?
Life will win over death, and beauty will fulfill our broken hearts, while this sounds very romantic — I genuinely believe it. I also want to dress women more than suffer from war. I like the beauty of everyday life and appreciate it even more, that is the message I am bringing to my new collection. We have to get back to the delicate senses and intimacy to become friends with our bodies. When such traumatic experiences happen to humanity, we can easily disconnect with our bodies and sensuality — then we are becoming just citizens, which is not correct at all, as we are humans. I want women to enjoy themselves and appreciate their bodies that give them the ability to feel. So the new collection will be an ode to my brave and big-hearted girlfriends and their sensuality.
For creating your pieces, you are known for using deadstock materials from Ukrainian factories as well as making use of local handcrafting techniques. As you’re currently living outside your country, how will you handle these aspects of your creative process, since they are important to your brand identity?
All the productions I am working with are based in Ukraine and operating now, so I will continue to use these deadstock and handcrafting techniques. We have a community of women hand-knitting our knits, so when customers receive their orders, they will feel the warmth of their hands. And the tag will be Made in Ukraine. The brand is the people who work on it and all these Ukrainian craftsmen who are putting their love and professionalism into making. This is part of my brand's DNA, and I will continue to develop these.
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How do you see the job of the designer or creator in this complicated context? Do you see any particular advantage in doing what you do compared to other jobs?
Art and fashion are always reflections of the cultural and social context we live through. Today we have the power and a voice to speak with our audience, through our platforms as well as media to bring awareness to what is happening in Europe, and bring more of a Ukrainian culture into the world. I appreciate that I have this opportunity and that I relocated all the team and myself so we can continue working. I feel the importance of each dress we make and then sell — this money saves lives now. I wish more of the creatives, and other professionals would be able to sustain their media and creativity.
The campaign is ongoing and growing, and the online store recently started operating as usual again, with the initiative of donating 30% of the profits to the Children's Emergency Fund. You are already doing a lot, and your will to help is admirable, but I'm curious if you have more humanitarian plans or ideas you want to dive into, or if you want to focus all your efforts on what you are currently doing.
I wish to complete the main goals for the and to find deadstock fabrics for designers to make new collections, the wholesale showroom and agents to support their next season's sales. I am willing to continue supporting the craftsmanship community in Ukraine by placing all the orders there, the industry has to live and develop. Overall I wish to help more creatives from Ukraine to find work in Europe, not just now but always, they are real talents. Then I want to focus on the brand, and its development since this is bringing the most purpose to the team and my country — we have to build up the country’s economy.
I feel like going through everything you've been through; you must have a lot to say and a lot to transmit to the others that haven't lived through this first person. What is something that you would like all the fashion and creative industries to hear, realise or be aware of?
The war cannot just stop unless we win it. We are not waiting; we are fighting and need continuous government and industry support. The horror of war my country and people are facing is beyond scary and I don’t want other countries and people to go through it. I know humanity has the power to stop this war; people have the power to demand it. So please do it in any possible way.
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