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Women Who Launch: Authentic_UA

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By Lily Niu on 15th November 2022

Meet Yulia & Eka, two trailblazers who have launched Authentic_UA, a Ukrainian Fashion pop-up showcasing Ukrainian creativity, culture & fashion in London.

Authentic_UA came to life through the visionary efforts of Yulia Rorstrom and Eka Kapanadze, both born in Ukraine. Their aim was to establish a significant platform in London that celebrates and showcases Ukrainian fashion while also raising much-needed funds for their homeland, which is currently facing conflict with Russia. Yulia, the founder of Duck & Dry, joined forces with fashion stylist Eka to organise and curate an event that highlights over 20 Ukrainian brands. This event spanned a four-week period from November 7th to December 4th, hosted in Yulia's London salons: the Mayfair Duck & Dry location until November 20th, and the Chelsea Duck & Dry location until December 4th.

This initiative not only encourages London residents to offer direct financial support to these Ukrainian fashion brands and designers, thereby assisting an industry navigating an uncertain future, but Authentic_UA has also committed to donating a substantial portion —ranging from 30% to 50% — of each sale to 'Rebuild Ukraine Together'. This charitable organisation, founded by Yulia, focuses on aiding Ukrainians during the conflict and collaborates with on-ground volunteers to source and distribute essential supplies.

The Sybarite was fortunate to engage in a conversation with Yulia and Eka, delving into topics such as Authentic_UA, the state of fashion in Ukraine, and the personal motivations that propelled them to create this remarkable endeavor.

Yulia Rorstrom, founder of Duck & Dry and co-founder of Authentic_UA

After being introduced to these two incredible women, I sat down with them to discuss their philanthropic venture. Kind, charismatic and clearly passionate, I spoke to Yulia first - picking her brain to discover what led her to starting her own business, the success of Duck & Dry, and assisting in the creation of Authentic_UA.

"This war has affected me deeply and from what I have observed, through the darkness the fearlessness and bravery of the people of Ukraine has emerged. Many are designers, artists and talents who remain at the forefront of supporting Ukrainian culture and authenticity through their creative work at the time when the country is fighting its identity and existence."

What pushed you to leave your career in finance behind and launch Duck & Dry? Is there a reason you wanted to enter the beauty industry?

I come from a very entrepreneurial family, so I've been around my parents and listened to those types of conversations since I was young and knew that eventually I would want to build my own brand - but it was about finding the right opportunity. Entering the beauty industry with no previous experience, I approached Duck & Dry from the consumer's perspective to create a unique salon model. I may not know how to style hair myself, but I know good hair! So my aim was to make beautiful hair easily accessible to all through a skilled team of stylists and an expert-led product line.

What's one memorable moment that will stay with you for life since launching Duck & Dry?

Seeing how a single salon can evolve not only into a brand, but a business with multiple channels, has been truly amazing! For example, we have formulated our own hair products that we now use in the salons regularly on 100s of clients. Also, due to popular demand, we are now franchising nationally and globally!

It's an incredibly noble decision to host the Authentic_UA pop up at your stores. Can you tell us a bit more about the project, and why it's close to your heart?

I was born in Ukraine, but the UK has been my home for the last 20 years whilst my family has remained in Ukraine. This war has affected me deeply and from what I have observed, through the darkness the fearlessness and bravery of the people of Ukraine has emerged. Many are designers, artists and talents who remain at the forefront of supporting Ukrainian culture and authenticity through their creative work at the time when the country is fighting its identity and existence.

So I wanted to have a twofold objective from this project. Firstly, I wanted to shine a spotlight on Ukrainian creatives in London and showcase the authentic culture & identity through the work that they are continuing to produce in the most challenging of times. And secondly, to raise much needed funds for a unique local charity that works with volunteers on the ground who distribute key essentials. 

Who approached who regarding creating this project? How have you worked collaboratively to launch Authentic_UA?

Eka and I met one another at a Ukrainian fashion event in London, and we thought how we could come together to execute this authentic project. I wanted to utilise our great locations in Central London, network and supportive clients that we have, and then combine it with Eka’s fashion background and contacts with Ukrainian designers. In any project, it is important to divide and conquer. It takes up a lot of dedication and energy to do it well. Combining our unique skill-sets; Eka curated the collections, and I provided the space, staff and loyal contacts.

Eka Kapanadze, Ukrainian Stylist and co-founder of Authentic_UA

The beautiful & charming Eka then joined us, spotlighting the cultural significance of Ukrainian fashion, and how we can all do our bit to help Ukraine!

"Fashion has been at the forefront of establishing our cultural identity along with other art forms such as music and film."

Ukrainian fashion seems to have really kicked off in the past couple of years, is there a cultural link that ties the clothes to the country? 

I wouldn't say that it's just been the last couple of years, but since the Maidan Revolution (Revolution Of Dignity) in 2014 and the annexing of Crimea and big chunks of Eastern Ukraine shortly thereafter by Russia., the Ukrainian identity has been placed in the front and centre of the country.  Identity has become very important, and I think fashion has been at the forefront of establishing our cultural identity along with other art forms such as music and film: fashion has really flowered.  In 2014 I started one of the first retail shops in Ukraine that focused exclusively on Ukrainian brands, which had been unheard of before then. I wanted to showcase the huge creative spirit that was unleashed amongst Ukrainians after the Maidan Revolution in 2014, as before then the country was creatively suppressed under President Yanukovych. When he fled, Ukraine flowered and hasn't looked back since.

Do you have a favourite designer whose clothes are being featured at the pop up? 

As a stylist, I have relationships with brands that have spanned nearly 10 years, and working with many of them over time has allowed me to see how they have grown and matured. I’m inspired by all of the brands, but  I must say I do love Luvi - they're one of the brands at the forefront of Ukrainian fashion! I adore their capsule Collection with Tripolye culture symbols, and currently they're working with one of the most famous Ukrainian singers: Max Barskix.  I love how fashion can work in conjunction with other art-forms to push the Ukrainian identity.  Max also attended our launch event, as did Olga Freimut (a famous TV presenter in Ukraine).  Their personalities and profiles not only help Ukrainians explore their culture further through fashion, but have also pushed the awareness of our philanthropic cause. Other brands I also think are great are Vikele studio (amazing bags!!), and a new brand, Moofta, which focuses heavily on sustainability.

And finally, would you like to share any other initiatives that are currently supporting Ukraine?

Ukraine needs support every day.  The help from the UK has been staggering and gives us a belief to fight for everyday. Personally, I think the best charity to donate too is UNITED 24.  It's an initiative from the President Of Ukraine and acts as the main venue for collecting charitable donations.

Support Authentic_UA

Ukraine is currently fighting for its right to exist as an independent country, with its own unique language, culture and heritage at risk of being eradicated. The Ukrainian fashion industry continues to be at the forefront of the fight for Ukrainian identity; designers, artists and talent in every corner of Ukraine are continuing to create their beautiful works, provide employment for their teams, and support the economy.

Follow Authentic_UA on Instagram to learn more about the initiative, or visit the pop-up in store and donate to the cause!

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