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How much can a suitcase hold? For Ukrainian designer Irina Dzhus, this question has informed a uniquely sustainable approach to avant-garde fashion for the past 12 years but has gained new meaning in recent months. When she had to flee the war in Ukraine, she only brought one suitcase of her collection and her three cats. Yet, this limited set of her garments can morph and transform to achieve dizzying arrangement of outfits. In her Fall/Winter 2022 lookbook, Pseudo, the designer demonstrates the full styling potential of her radical collection.

It is a dress, hood, pair of trousers, and a skirt, and each iteration would draw the eyes of even the most fashion versed. Garments like Metamodernism show Dzhus at her best, toying with distorting silhouettes and using an extremely technical approach to materiality and fabrication. The collection demonstrates a metamorphosis at the heart of her brand. The pleated polyesters and crumpled linens are materials with little maintenance required; the garments can be pulled from a small bag, transformed, and worn with little prep. The collection notes say the styles cut between two logics, escapist cocoon and more classic – although classic for Dzhus still comes with a creative inflection. Pseudo is at its finest with moments that feel as surprising as the furniture transformations of Hussein Chalayan’s Fall/Winter 2000 collection yet result in outfits that are still functional and wearable.

Irina Dzhus’s work is done with sustainability in mind. As outfits have become moments, used once or twice and then thrown away, her collections radically reassert an extended lifespan. It is difficult to exhaust the styling possibilities of her work. As some have taken to a uniform as a way of resisting endless trend cycles and consumption, Dzhus presents another option; you can buy less but still dress creatively. A cherry on top is her exclusive use of cruelty-free materials.

Pseudo was designed before Russia’s invasion yet has gained new meaning. The collection meditates on unexpected changes, shocked states that lead to new normals. Irina Dzhus has fled somewhere in the European Union, but her business partner and husband, Anatolii Elgert, as well as much of her team, have remained in Kyiv to continue production. The label is donating thirty to fifty per cent of its profit to Ukrainian animal rights organisations, to provide support for those who have cared for the many pets left behind in evacuations, and to the army. The rest of the proceeds will keep the label afloat during a quite precarious time. Dzhus’s new collection is available online now in limited stock – for made-to-order pieces the team welcomes requests, but allow them a bit more time as their production has become quite disrupted. For a final touch of sustainable, creative ingenuity Dzhus’s clothing comes packaged in a tote bag that can, of course, transform into tank top.

Isaac Crown Manesis

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