Working 20 hours a day, “My weekday includes dealing with clients, creating new models and bringing up my two lovely daughters,” says the prêt-a-porte designer, most well-known for her skewed-cut knitwear. Despite the constant rush, she is all smiles as we sit comfortably in her studio. Telling me about a phone call she received from Tetyana Gabrielyan in early 2010, her Cinderella story begins.
“Why don’t you sell your collections in the States?” was the basis of the conversation. Shrugging her shoulders, Bobkova knew that Americans weren’t in any dire need of fashion from Ukraine. Nevertheless, she gave it try, and within just two months, she had her first orders. A year and a half and eight boutiques selling her wares later, the success still bewilders Christina. “I’ve been to the US. They wear jeans, sneakers and jerseys. I’ve learned, that Silicone Valley, however, is quite comfortable in Ukrainian fashion.”
At the L’officiel Awards ceremony held in Kyiv in spring 2010, both her talent and industry won Christina Bobkova Most Promising Designer. It was said the judges (all foreign) were looking for glamorous and luxurious. Bobkova presented something diametrically opposite. And for her intuitive yet creative nerve, the pros from Paris gave her carte blanche
Despite being in her fifth month of pregnancy, Christina grabbed the opportunity to study at the Instituto Marangoni for three weeks. “There were young designers from all over the world! It was such an astonishing experience!”
Invited to participate in two exhibitions this September, Christina spent a few days in New York at Fashion Coterie and then flew to Milan to take part in the WHITE expo with Ukrainian designers Elena Burenina, Luvi, Viktor Anisimov and Svetlana Bevza. The philosophy was simple: Commerce with a Concept, with all the brands presenting their own vision.
As an event every designer wants to be a part of, this was huge; especially since there are buyers who still have no idea fashion even exists in Ukraine. “They think we are too poor to care about fashion,” relates the designer. “And yet we were being examined by buyers from all over the world, receiving praise from Italy, Korea, Taiwan, UAE, Greece, Spain, Germany and China.”
Wondering how that translates to business back at home, Christina just cracks a smile. “Ukrainians are looking for the stars of Dolce & Gabbana and the leopard prints of Cavalli. They don’t want the ‘smart’ clothes of Ukrainian designers.” Sighing, she says, “What’s even more interesting is that brand-name clothing is often bought at the market for a laughable price and then resold in the high-end boutiques for a fortune.”
The reality is that Ukrainian fashion makes its money across the border. And as unfortunate as that is, Bobkova says, “Women who wear my clothes are free from prejudice. The garments are light and easy to care for: they’ve been created for open-minded women on the go who feels comfortable with herself.” It occurs to me this is exactly the description of the woman sitting in front of me.