Venya Brykalin is the fashion director of Vogue Ukraine. He is now based in Paris, where he has been one of the major voices raising awareness on the creative scene in Ukraine since the war broke out in February, 2022. Beyond the magazine, Brykalin along with a number of other Ukrainian creatives co-founded Tripolar, a pop-up series taking place in Paris that aims to promote contemporary Ukrainian culture and design.
What creates an emotional response for you in fashion today?
As banal as it may sound, I think honesty in someone’s work is key. Whether a designer is communicating a personal story through their design, or they make a sociological or cultural comment, one would wish to see it coming from the heart and not as a marketing exercise, or merely aesthetil construct. Watching people with talent and a sense of empathy for who they work with – and, in a way, who they dress – that always feels emotional to me.
Often we see several designers arriving at a similar idea during a season. How do you explain this creative intuition?
I think what makes designers great is their ability to be in sync with the times – maybe not always anticipating what’s coming but reacting to what is already happening. To me, great design is always an anthropological study. Talents who are observant and have keen interest in other people and their lives and experiences, they usually get the spirit of the times and manage to reflect this in their work. Then it happens that different people hit the same cord.
How do you feel about designers expressing or interpreting their worldviews in their collections?
Given where I am from and what is happening in Ukraine, I wish designers wouldn’t shy away from making bolder political/sociological comments on the state of the world. I’m not saying anti-war statements or t-shirts printed with sentiments of support. That feels unnecessary on the most part. But I keep thinking of early work of designers like Hussein Chalayan, Walter van Beirendonck and Raf Simons. To me, that would be exciting – seeing younger designers reflecting on the state of things and questioning where we are as humanity and where we’re heading. This would be controversial, sure – but isn’t any good and bold design?
How would you like to see fashion evolving this year?
That would be a bit of a Trojan horse move on my side, but I would love us as the industry rethinking the role of runway shows. I’ve seen some great small presentations this season that felt sharp and intimate and impactful. So I would hope designers and brands reconsider their approach to the show extravaganza. Not every collection needs a runway show. And there are so many alternatives that are so exciting.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.