Ukrainian Fashion Mini Series: Elvira Gasanova of GASANOVA

Little Red Village Season 2 Ep. 2 with guest Elvira Gasanova of GASANOVA part of the Ukrainian Fashion Mini Series.


Season 2 Ep. 2

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Rachel Elspeth Gross (Host)

Jonathan Joseph (Host)

Elvira Gasanova (Guest)


Rachel Elspeth Gross  00:00

Hey everyone, it's Rachel, with Jen stary and I first connected she told me that Jonathan and I really had to talk today's guest, Elvira because on ABA. If you look at the show notes for the Little Red Village podcast, the information on our website, or Gasanova's on his profile on ANGEL for, you will immediately understand the quality of work that Elvira produces. It is excellent objectively. Because Annika was the first Ukrainian brand to be worn on an Oscars red carpet. If you Google crystal dress, you'll see some very fancy celebrities wearing her clothes. She loves color. Her work is playful. Sometimes it's sumptuous, and beyond her incredible talent of Elvira is a really nice person, a good person. Like most Ukrainians, she does not want pity. She wants her family to be safe. She wants to be able to do her work. She employs almost 140 people, and she would tell you that they feel like family to her. I really hope that these conversations make you feel more connected to Ukraine. And I hope that after listening to today's conversation, you'll feel the same way that I do. Which is that a viral because lanova is one of the strongest women I have ever been lucky enough to call my friend. Here's her story. We met Jen Sidary. And she I met her through a friend of mine who also works in fashion here in the United States. And through Jen, we really heard a bunch of wonderful stories including your own. So we were curious how you met her How did that relationship start I


Elvira Gasanova  01:53

I know that Jen many years love Ukraine, love Ukraine, fashion love Ukrainian designers. And she so our brands are crystal dress and Ukrainian to some key. And she said that she loved that she has a platform and just in fashion she creates she wanted to do that a long time ago. But the war was like pushing to do it faster, faster to help the designers. So that's why we're so happy to be with all these designers. And Jen really, I don't know what she was have in your mind for this name of the platform. But I think Jen is really angel for Ukrainian fashion because it's so hard time for all the Ukrainian fashion for all the Ukrainian people. It's really a great job.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  02:44

No, she's everything we've heard about her everything we've done with her. She's got such a huge heart. And we like her so much. This is not the first time you've had to leave your home because of what has happened from attacks. And do you mind talking to us about some of that? Is that okay?


Elvira Gasanova  03:02

Second time because I'm from Donetsk. I was born in Donetsk it's and the first time when we leave our form, it was the 2014 when the Russian army come first time to Donetsk scrum. It wasn't like now like we're, we see now. It the people who live in done it don't doesn't see anything we don't. So killing people. We just know that russian army comes and they wanted to take this country. That's all we know of them in this town. We can live for like all all of our life. That's why we moved. I moved in 2014 and my parents two years to go come in. And when I come to Kyiv, I saw that my parents doesn't want to live in the flat and that is a nice house. And we bought a house. I don't know it's really laugh, because we don't know how it's how it's work. Why Bucha if we imagined their plans like in Donetsk, where in Donetsk relief in our house is not in the plan in and it was safe. It wasn't safe if it doesn't have our life, but it was safe. Because it's why we bought a house for parents so great in Bucha they live two years like they were had life. It was really all we're all fast. No one that all is okay. Five months ago we bought house with my husband for us in Bucha too, when the war started in February 24. We was in our flat in Kyiv and five o'clock in the morning. I say I say to my husband that we need to go from key to Bucha because key will not be a safe. That's why all a sudden like that. And really, we have such a good memory is about to enter for February's starting because we we was all together I have to my sisters were three sisters my parents my husband all will be okay I have a little baby when we come to our house it's all will be okay we will we will be sure and then after the two days they starting to fight in Gostomel. Gostomel it's maybe 10 kilometers from Bucha after that you know all of us know what roads from Bucha, Irpin, Gostomel I don't know how to say it's really really terrible and scary a lot of people was killing and was in the street we sittin there seven days it was a war seven days all of my friends write to me that you need to go you need to go why are you sitting there but my parents like Donetsk you understand that eight years was a certain six years there are they say know where we go and why we don't at all we'll be okay with that. Okay, and when the last day the fire was rock solid Street is the street that New York Times has been covered with New York Times it's our street as street one street before when we sit in at home.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  06:23

I saw some pictures on Instagram of of what happened and it breaks my heart and thinks my family had to go through that your neighbors


Elvira Gasanova  06:37

yeah we leave our home and come into Truskavets here my husband's friends fled it was really so hard because the baby was three months it was with maybe 20 hours we was in the car. She's sleep in the car, she eaten in car it was really hard time but learning that much we're happy that we live our home from in Bucha the time because after the day, the terrible times like just started. Just started and a lot of our friends known that we leave Bucha and they got saved for your savior that all of my family is going from Bucha.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  07:26

Yes I can not I imagine you're running a business though at the same time. You have two different factories you have I understand you've got one in the East that's making army supplies and then you have one in the West that's making a regular collection I cannot fathom doing both of those in normal circumstances. So we are so impreseed, I tell you what we hear on the radio what I read on Instagram? I'm so impressed by everything but the people of your country or are doing we are so on your side i hope that is clear. How did you get the transition into the military uniforms? How did that end up happening?


Elvira Gasanova  08:07

My best friend's husband say that I wanted to start to do that and he asked can I give my production for doing that? Are they not selling it they given it to Army and the reality of course of course we will run production made it every day one people do 20 runs it's for a day we know that it's hard time but I think the Ukrainian never be so brave and so like like one family really we understand that all that we wanted just peace and just to take our life before like the life we live because we know that I don't know in USA show or no we were so a lot of video with Russian army who comes to Ukraine is people who even don't understand why Ukraine live so good because Irpin Bucha and Gostomel it's a little new city all of the people who come there is the people from the Donetsk because the people who work every day have like grandma, the founders, all of that was new that's why they're there so they don't understand how they live in Russia like I even don't want to save their life. Every day in Donetsk. We work in both the house all of the house and independent Bucha it's a new house we don't have listen one of our video call from Russia army to his wife and to say Do you know that in Ukraine they in their own little house the toilet it's now it's not in the street, Its in the house. Do you understand in Russia in little houses? Not in the city? They don't have a second house.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  10:08

Like an out house like it's outside of the house.


Jonathan Joseph  10:10

I would imagine that Russian government makes a point of that in terms of showing their people in Russia of the Ukraine that's not based in reality whatsoever because they don't want their people to understand the difference in that standard of living.


Elvira Gasanova  10:27

Yes, they Oh, they also say that, Do you understand they have a lot of clothes and it's high quality do you understand that they live so good with was a have ever seen. That's why all of the army take from the house all the technique, all the clothes, my client, my good friends and clients to live in Haiku. Kanika. And to say that they take all of my clothes all. Why do you need it? Why you need the clothes? Okay, take money, take some I don't know jewelry, why do you need clothes for what you have? Ukraine is a really brave people, because we have a lot of funny stories about Ukrainian army.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  11:18

I know, in the fashion industry, traditionally, the workforce is women, right? The only way I can imagine that you would have two factories working is if women chose to stay. Because they believe in their country. And they believe in their culture.


Elvira Gasanova  11:33

Even when we have some investors in the start of war for a lot of my clients say that we can be your investors if you want to take your production to Europe. And when I asked my girls, they say we don't want we will be in Ukraine. We will not go anywhere. And we all have their own love for them. And my family will say that we don't need to go anywhere. We will wait. When the wars ended, We believe that it will be soon so soon because I don't know, most scary of all that. It's if it will be like Donetsk. If It's eight year, It's really scary. That's why all of us prayed for I don't know, one week, one month, someone says till September. But if it will be more, I don't know how it will be. Pray, it will be faster.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  12:30

We will and we believe the glory of Ukraine and we believe that you will be victorious.


Jonathan Joseph  12:34



Elvira Gasanova  12:35

The victory is right now we know that a lot of girls was asked all of the Ukrainian people wanted to stay here even as such many country to give for for settlers, some documents for leaving. Nobody don't want to leave. They're really all of us wanted to live our life in Ukraine we know how we work we know that we will do all for us and all for our country every day I saw that the Bucha in Irpin now every day, it's like a new city we don't see some technique of farming nothing. We just need to anything one week for communication like electric water, something like that and all the people will come will come to home.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  13:28

I believe you I want to just say I really love your work I've been looking at a lot of it online there's a particular collection in 2016 and 2017 I think your fall winter and it was so bright and it was so cheerful I mean I see that in you now speaking like this but I hope that can continue I feel like fashion in general needs more joy are you able to work now? Are you able to design is that possible in these circumstances now


Elvira Gasanova  13:57

we produce some more simple pieces like T shirts, hoodies, sport shoes something like that because when the time that the people in Ukraine don't need some special dress and crystal dress but we send all over the world and then summer is our season for linens usually is our best pieces and we sell it maybe I don't know three or four years that's why we think that this year will be like that. And of course a lot of retail stores that want our personal pieces and we all that we have in stock with them.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  14:36

Yes. I'm so glad that there's so much support from the industry that way and that's a lot to consider. I think you're very brave. I have a five year old daughter. I feel so much for you as a mother to be in so you


Elvira Gasanova  14:48

You understand. It's so good that my daughter is only three months was when recovered that she don't have the time and lesson. My sisters have five years old that And she asked everything, why they kill us? Why is it coming? Why? Why we go from our home when we will come when we will come to Truskavets. She  say that I have a lot of collection of my little dolls and I say its Okay, we will buy through your new collection and you will have. Yeah, it's scary, but she dont understand, she eating, sleeping and getting love and thats why its ok.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  15:30

Now that makes complete sense. I mean, wonderful that she will not remember this. It's absolutely wonderful. And I'm so sorry for your nieces, your sister's children, my daughter, I can understand a question every two minutes. Sometimes. Yeah.


Jonathan Joseph  15:44

Never. It never stops always always asking questions for sure. That's the hallmark of that age. I was curious to know, from your perspective, what has the Ukrainian fashion industry as a whole? How would you describe it? In its response to this unjust aggression? How would you describe the industry's response? So not just your response, but overall, what have you observed in the industry as a whole


Elvira Gasanova  16:13

I think will be more like after 2014 Like we have made I think we will be more symbolic, more like receipt now in Ukrainian colors, more pieces. And I think that it will be so so special for us for all like after my done, I think you know, that VTech keen brand should do some special dress. Yeah, I think we will be a lot of pieces like that. And of course support every celebrity to support us. Now. A lot of Ukrainian brands known for all over the world respond against key and pm K, a lot of and I think it will be only more and more. But for us, I know that all of Ukrainian designers try to do their pieces in Ukrainian colors for all of the people known how we have see. And nobody say that Ukraine is this in Russia. We don't want to even someone say that the country is near as Russia.


Jonathan Joseph  17:17

Understandably, understandably, I would imagine, because of this unique period, we might see would you say a resurgence in interpretations of traditional Ukrainian dress and fashion in new ways to reignite that pride and carry in forward.


Elvira Gasanova  17:32

Yeah, we will do a lot of a lot of new collection to take the brave to show the brave of Ukraine and like my brand is to do in the crystal dress, I know that we will do a new collection. More more for Oscars event for red carpets, we don't want to stop, we know that all of the rules supporters dress will be more shiny and more naked differently if needed. And of course, some Ukrainian symbolic because it's really, for us, it's not only to say that we are from Ukraine, it's about that we really love Ukraine. And we know that all of the world known that the Ukrainian people love Ukraine, they don't need to go anywhere, or they don't need to help to live in their country. We know how to do it. And we're really proud of our president. Really, I think it's the first time when the country was all over people of Ukraine, really proud of our president.


Jonathan Joseph  18:35

I think everyone all over the world is proud of him. He has really shown himself to be the definition of a leader in so many ways. I think he's fired, at least from everyone I've talked to and that I know the world. And I think he's a symbol for everyone like yourself, who is pushing forward and keeping the Ukrainian fight and spirit alive through their work through the way that they're navigating this crisis and the son just aggression. And I think fashion, in particular is such a great torchbearer for that cause because the him go out of Ukraine and into the world and act as a way to shine a light on everything that's going on. Yeah.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  19:19

I love the idea of red carpets filled with celebrities wearing Ukrainian designers, fanciest, most beautiful gowns. I think that's a great idea. I think that would be a wonderful way for the world to support the incredible brave efforts. Yeah. That idea makes me happy.


Elvira Gasanova  19:37

And one more about Zelinsky. All of the people asked him, they known that the worst starts in 24 February, all of the Ukrainian parliament is known. And they don't leave Ukraine. He don't give a his family leave Ukraine. They really here as they sit in here. They understand that they live like all of Ukranians, and it makes his mind more here real real man, real man, real President.


Jonathan Joseph  20:11

Yes, he definitely met them. He met the moment as they say he was called to lead. You can't do it better than the way that he has navigated and stood for his people, his country and freedom.


Elvira Gasanova  20:22

I'm interested in if he had known when he come to be Ukrainian president, if you known that, it will be so scary, so terrible, because it's really, nobody's sold that, because you need to understand that the war, the die people, the people died every day. And he understand that it's not only 1000 to 2000, because we know that a lot of people, they say about 20,000 of people that died. But it's really hard to understand hard to understand, like my friends say me yesterday, when we when we see that when people die to once, then it's terrible. But when one turns out and we don't understand how much it.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  21:10

It is unfathomable.


Jonathan Joseph  21:12

The scale of it is hard for a lot of people to relate to. And it's a large number


Rachel Elspeth Gross  21:16

It reminds me of the Holocaust, and I hate it. As Jewish, and it reminds me a bad and I hate it. I hate it so much. I oh my goodness, one of the things that we would have been hoping to Elvira by speaking with people like you that we can make this conversation and the appreciation more common in our country's fashion industry. Hopefully in other countries, fashion industries, we want this personal type of story to be heard, because my feeling that I understand my ancestors went through something similar. I want people to look at what you're doing and know that you're just you need only the supplies and the effort to work and you are going to do it. I see that in you. And that is so powerful. And thank you. I do have a question about children. Do children learn to sew in the Ukraine? Is that a typical skill that little kids get?


Elvira Gasanova  22:24

Ah, yeah. In school we have still 9-10 class maybe. But really, I don't like it in school. I hate that because we had not great teachers have. So I don't know how to say it really, I dont like it. Yeah, some of my friends doing it without me and I'll pay for them.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  22:57

That's amazing.


Elvira Gasanova  22:59

I don't like it was so terrible. But I know it's only about the teacher. She was not nice. So it was nothing interesting.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  23:11

We've all had bad teachers. It's, I don't know, I I remember learning to sew because my mother taught me she would make me clothing when I was a little girl. And I'm beginning to teach my own daughter and I was just curious, you know, do you think you'll teach your daughter to do it? Do you think she will?


Elvira Gasanova  23:29

I don't know Know. Because now, it's early to understand what she will love and because now the thing that she is she will be president because she liked my husband. She's very serious she even don't laugh. She's so serious. She don't cry. Don't laugh. Only serious when she want some water, when she she needs to eat. She's so serious, because I don't understand. But my sister's daughters, she say that I will be a dentist and designer. I'm a dentist I learned to in Medical University and say that I will be dentists like you and I will be designer like you. It's okay. I know that my empire will be yours if my daughter will not.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  24:18

That's wonderful. That's wonderful to know. Is there anything that you would want the United States to hear? Or is there anything that you would want to say? We just wanted to offer you a chance to tell us?


Elvira Gasanova  24:29

No, I think I just want to say really a thank you for all of the support from all the Ukrainian because it's so hard time when we know who's our friends who really want to support us and we understand that Ukraine. It's a country that no one was they want to end the people will do all for the country. I think it's so important to have the support of USA but it's right. It's like support from them support from other people and support for all the country. It's really big deal for us.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  25:10

We are trying and I wish our country was doing more. But we are trying, I'm glad that it's, we really appreciate you making this time to speak with us. It's been so generous and so kind.


Elvira Gasanova  25:21

Thank you!


Jonathan Joseph  25:23

Thank you so much. Truly, you know, with the Little Red Village podcast, our goal is to tell the untold stories of the fashion industry to inspire kids and their grownups. And nothing could be more inspirational than the work that you're continuing to do and your fellow countrymen and women are doing in the fashion industry in Ukraine at this time. So anything we can do to amplify your voices is of course, what we're all about here. A Little Red Fashion, because fashion is for everyone. And through it, we can really tell important and vital stories.


Elvira Gasanova  25:53

Thank you. And I'm sorry if my English is not super well, but I try to do my best


Jonathan Joseph  25:58

It was great.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  25:59

You are incredible. There's not a thing to complain. No, you're wonderful and generous. Thank you so much.

Ryan Kendall


Little Red Fashion Co-founder and COO Ryan Kendall is a book lover and outdoor enthusiast. Ryan fell in love with fashion when he became a stylist, merchandiser, and personal shopper while attending university. Since graduating his focus has shifted to technical and sustainble fashion. After moving to Los Angeles, Ryan was appraoched by Jonathan to help write and edit The Little Red Dress. During the editing process Ryan and Jonathan realized kids who love fashion lack the same level of targeted resources from books to tech that their peers who love music or sports have had for ages. Ryan Co-founded Little Red Fashion to inspire and educate kids about the fashion industry.


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