One Central Saint Martins Student’s Optimistic Vision for Ukraine

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Eugenia Skvarska Shadowing Project
Eugenia Skvarska Shadowing ProjectPhotography by Ania Brudna, Design by Oscar Ouyang

In a sensitive photo project, Ukraine-born stylist, art director and CSM student Eugenia Skvarska weaves a love letter to her home country. “The beauty of our shoot lies in simplicity,” she says

“War is a complicated and painful topic for me,” says Eugenia Skvarska. Born in Kyiv, and part of the very first generation of independent Ukraine without connection to the Soviet Union, the ongoing invasion over this past year has felt especially fraught for the young fashion stylist and art director. Now based in London and enrolled on the Central Saint Martins MA Fashion Communication pathway, Skvarska continues to create fashion imagery driven by an unwavering optimism that also takes into account a thorny political backdrop felt firsthand.

This project for her Central Saint Martins course sees the image-maker collaborating with MA fashion design student Oscar Ouyang (featured in this exclusive film capturing the graduating class of 2023), whose final collection consists of military-inspired pieces in khaki and camouflage, woven in complex knitwear, hand-felted raw fleece, and antique lace patchworking. Despite Ouyang’s own inspiration coming from the British Kindred of the Kibbo Kift (a 1920s youth-led movement that embraced nature and pacifism), and with technical knitwear design stemming from Southeast Asian plants, Skvarska recognised a deeper affinity with the collection. “For someone who saw the war, as I did, [camouflage and khaki] will forever have a singular meaning – the camouflage colours take me to the military, and the knitwear seems like how camouflage nets are knitted now in Kyiv and all over Ukraine.”

These camouflage nets find themselves in Skvarska’s new project. The delicate shoot utilised a Ukrainian-only team that included photographer Ania Brudna, while further context was added in documentary photos by Yourko Kalichak, lensed in a volunteer centre in Lviv, western Ukraine. “The groups [in the centre] gather daily to weave camouflage nets and pray for victory every day. The war forced women to leave their homes by the war and become refugees in their own country.”

The images in Skvarska’s project choose not to focus on desolate scenes of war-torn environments, nor the tension or the catastrophe that cuts through the nation – instead she considers a meditative craft, and a quiet sense of focus. “If we look at photos from the war, we can see how Ukrainian soldiers made bas-reliefs in the trenches, they painted pictures, carved wood, and wrote poems. If we talk about this project, for me, the beauty of our shoot lies in simplicity and the desire to be part of one great common goal, such as the victory of Ukraine.“