Ukraine couture-to-wear brand Frolov, founded by Ivan Frolov, presented its debut standalone London Fashion Week show over the weekend, as the Kyiv-based designer continues to use his creations to spotlight the pride and resilience of his homeland and the challenges facing the country due to ongoing war with Russia.
Frolov, who has gained recognition in recent years for creating custom looks for the likes of Beyoncé, Dua Lipa, Gwen Stefani and Sam Smith, presented a poignant and heartfelt salon show in the Bulgari Hotel’s cinema room, combining his signature sexy womenswear with archival video and music showcasing Ukrainian culture and his home city of Kyiv.
For spring/summer 2024, Frolov took inspiration from the themes of youthfulness, playfulness, and freedom with a collection entitled ‘Moloda,’ which in Ukrainian means ‘young girl’. This was reflected in sculpture-like silhouettes decorated with roses inspired by Ukrainian artist Zhanna Kadyrova, alongside the brand’s signature hearts incorporated in the form of an ultrasound print on silk robe dresses.
The collection also included a number of Frolov signature bestsellers, including corsets featuring heart detailing alongside dresses and stockings embellished with Swarovski crystals. A further homage to the Ukrainian capital was seen in the golden lace detailing used on dresses featuring chestnuts, the symbolic tree of Kyiv.
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Ahead of his LFW show, FashionUnited chatted with Ivan Frolov over e-mail about the inspiration for his SS24 collection, how the war is affecting him and his team, and his plans to expand the brand in Europe, the US and the Middle East.
Can you share a bit about yourself and the story of your brand?
I can vividly recall my earliest sketch, drawn on the wrapper of a chocolate bar when I was just a 4-year-old child. From that moment onward, I knew I wanted to become a designer. What always intrigued me most about this path is not merely the creation of fashion pieces in isolation but rather their role in expressing the messages I aim to convey.
That’s why almost ten years ago, when I founded my brand, our mission was clear: to use fashion as a platform for addressing provocative and sensitive topics. We have explored various subjects, such as transsexual culture, the ethics and aesthetics of BDSM, fetishism, LGBTQ+ rights, and the objectification of women.
Each of our collections begins with deep research and an understanding of the messages we wish to communicate. We approach fashion as a powerful medium for conveying these messages to a wider audience, sparking meaningful conversations, and challenging societal norms.
How does it feel to be having a standalone show during LFW?
We are deeply honoured to present our first solo show and be on the official schedule of London Fashion Week this season. This recognition holds particular significance for us as Ukrainians, given the ongoing challenges we face amidst the war with Russia has started against us. We view ourselves as cultural warriors, determined to keep the conversation about Ukraine alive on every possible frontline.
British Fashion Council and London Fashion Week have generously embraced our vision, allowing us to utilise this platform to showcase our pieces to a global audience. It is an opportunity for us to persistently convey our unwavering commitment to our core mission, regardless of the circumstances.
What was the inspiration behind your spring/summer 2024 collection?
Its name is Moloda (Ukrainian for ‘young girl’), as we have a tradition of giving names to our collections. But for me, it is not about the age. It is about the feeling of youthfulness, blossom, energy, freedom and metamorphoses.
We use several elements to show this, for example, some of them are roses in grey colour, inspired by sculptures from stones and cement by Ukrainian artist Zhanna Kadyrova. These works of art pushed me to the idea of sculpture-like silhouettes decorated by roses. The collection also includes Frolov’s eternal bestsellers, such as corsets and corset dresses embellished with Swarovski crystals, which the brand has specially designed by crystal masters.
The work on the collection, as well as the show, was also accompanied by songs from the Ukrainian variety music scene of the 70s. 'A Red Rose' and 'Chestnuts are falling' by Yulia Pashkovska; 'My love' by Lina Prohorova; 'Fog in the valley' by Mykola Kondratiuk. They all convey the spirit of the collection - youthfulness, playfulness, inspiration and freedom.
How is the war in Ukraine impacted your business?
Despite the unique challenges we face, which many international brands do not encounter, our commitment to our craft remains still. These challenges range from the absence of reliable air connections that result in logistical complexities to the ever-present fear of missile attacks. We endured one of the harshest winters in our memory, marked by severe electricity shortages, and it's likely the coming winter will also present similar hardships.
It remains of utmost importance to us to maintain our production here in Kyiv, to establish and grow our company in this city, and to contribute as much as possible to our country.
How do you implement sustainable practices into your designs?
We take pride in sourcing our high-quality fabrics from companies that prioritise sustainability by implementing cutting-edge technologies to monitor and reduce waste and pollution in their production processes. Our commitment to sustainability extends beyond sourcing materials, it also encompasses our manufacturing practices.
Our dedication to sustainability is not limited to how we produce our fashion pieces but also how we communicate our values and the lasting impact we aim to leave. We strive to provide the best working conditions for our employees. Even during challenging times, we view responsibility, ethics, resilience, and thoughtfulness towards both people and the environment as essential principles that we uphold and nurture within the ethos of Frolov.
You’ve created looks for Beyonce, Dua Lipa, and Sam Smith – who would you love to dress and why?
We have one upcoming release very, very soon, and it’s a dream come true for me personally! So, I won’t disclose our secret, but just to intrigue, I will say that a world-known superstar is just about to wear Frolov very soon!
What’s next for your brand?
Our primary strategy revolves around the global expansion of Frolov, where we aspire to create a new fashion ecosystem that transcends geographical boundaries. This ambitious vision walks along the dream opening of being represented in key regions across Europe, the United States, and the Middle East.
However, it's essential to recognise that, at this moment, our foremost objective is to secure a victory in the Russian war against Ukraine. Only when our country is free and secure can we wholeheartedly pursue our dreams and plans we have envisioned for Frolov.
One piece of advice you’d give a student fashion designer starting out?
Stay true to your unique vision and persevere, even if it seems that the world around you falling apart.