The world is moving so quickly and within mere weeks the landscape in Ukraine has changed. We are witnessing heartbreak and devastation of a beautiful country. We are also witnessing the passion of the Ukrainian people and our hearts break for this culture that is rich in history and arts. While we may be situated across the ocean and thousands of miles away so many are trying to find ways to help the people of Ukraine. We recently noticed Canadian fashion designer, Diane Kroe, as she’s been engaging with her customer base on ways to support the women of Ukraine and wanted to learn more about her plans to feature the works by a Ukrainian artist.
Diane is known for finding inspiration from all over the world by incorporating colours and prints into her innovative designs. As tensions in the Ukraine was mounting, she felt compelled to bring attention to artists of the country. When everything began to unfold she started hearing stories about people supporting Ukrainians by booking Airbnb rentals (and not actually going but it was a way to get money directly into the bank accounts of locals) as well as supporting artists on Etsy.
As a designer, she tells us she uses a platform called Spoonflower which allows her to purchase the artwork for textile prints and the designer receives a percentage.
“I went on the platform and searched Ukrainian Artists and found about 30,” said Diane. “I went through each portfolio and finally chose Olga because I could tell her beautiful prints would work well with my brand and customers would fall in love with them.”
Diane messaged Olga, an artist and graphic designer (according to her bio, she likes to draw with watercolour creating abstract textures and mixed media art collages), through the platform but didn’t expect to hear from her immediately giving the situation there. But was surprised that she responded within a day. “I told her about my idea and it made her really happy,” said Diane. “She is from Kyiv and had to flee to Poland with her 2 daughters. She said this will help her as it’s her only income right now.”
What Diane can tell us now is that Olga is in a safe space and that’s the priority at the moment. “I can only imagine how hard it must be for her.” Diane will keep us posted when she learns more when Olga is ready to reach out once again.
Diane has been working with Olga’s blessing to continue moving forward with her artwork on prints for an upcoming collection. In most recent years, Diane has asked for feedback from her clients when deciding on textile prints for certain collections. Something we think is quite smart. Diane was never about fast fashion, it’s about thoughtfulness every step of the way. The whole “buy less is more” mentality is ingrained in her brand’s entity ever since she began her own label. In fact, each piece can be worn more than one way….sometimes four or five or six ways. We are fans of her innovation and common sense approach. Her pieces have been go-to’s for many years particularly for travel. Ultimately her philosophy means she can also produce her line efficiently. Nothing goes to waste, nothing is mass produced.
Through social media, she presented her customers and fan base a selection of seven prints created by Olga. From there they narrowed it down to two favourite prints which were in the blue, turquoise colour schemes. “My clientele love colour… especially in the blues and greens. They are often business women and world travellers that are always looking for the one piece to update their travel and work capsule wardrobes.”
One print is a gorgeous tie dye, the artist called “Beautiful Water” that Diane knows will appeal to so many customers who love a vibrant yet more casual look. Think of cottaging, boating or topical vacations.
The second print that won over her client-base is called “Japanese Seamless”. “It’s very elegant and makes me think of a mermaid. This is a bit more sophisticated and ideal as a piece to compliment your work or everyday capsule wardrobes,” said Diane.
The final print that was the most popular colourful one and is called “Tropical Surrealism”. “The colours are spectacular in the shapes of tropical leaves on a black background. Now that many of my customers are back to travelling they will fall in love with this print as a cover up for the beach and to add some color to their travel capsule wardrobes. This will be for my clientele that love to have statement pieces.”
The prints will be custom made for the label in Georgia, USA, and will be used in several of her most popular designs. Diane had her customers choose what designs they would like to see in these prints. “It was the Endless that came in first place and the Butterfly a close second. They are perfect for this collection because they fit all sizes, can be styled many ways and are ideal for travel which is the core of our brand but will also work for every day adventures. The designs are multi way, the fabrics are easy care and pack light.”
Through the sales of the collection, Diane will be making a donation to the BCU Foundation, a charity that Diane learned about through her Ukrainian Canadian clientele. “This is the charity they recommended,” said Diane. “I believe charity starts at home. This foundation is run by the Canadian Ukrainian community though their Ukrainian Bank. I feel its trustworthy and the funds go directly into the bank which will handle the distribution of funds. I trust they will use the money where it’s needed most because in the end they are much more closely tied into the needs of the Ukrainian Relief effort than we are. Many of them have family still in the country.”
So, how can we check out this special collection?
Diane will host an upcoming in-person Trunk Show here in Toronto at the Toronto Verity Club for Women. She will have samples of this collection for customers to try on and pre- order. Once she has everyone’s orders, her team will purchase more of the textiles (which will pay out more money to the artist, Olga). Then the all the pre-ordered garments will be made to order in her Toronto workshop. She tells us once she’s paid her team of sewers and for the materials the remaining amount will go to the BCU Foundation.<
If you’re interested in attending the Trunk Show event (they are a lot of fun!) on April 2, 2022, you can register for an entry ticket here: www.dianekroe.com — the entry cost of $25 can be used towards a purchase at the show.
Will any of the pieces be available afterwards online?
After the in-person event Diane will select the most popular pieces and offer them on-line for pre-order with a cut-off date. As like her previous trunk shows, there will be a very limited stock. She will only make-to-order so there will be no extra inventory after all of the pre-orders are fulfilled.
For the past 2 years Diane and her team have been doing Trunk shows virtually. “My team and I are now so happy to finally get to see our Toronto customers in person,” said Diane. “Customer feedback is so important to me and I love having some one-on-one time with my clientele.”
In the past, Diane participated in retail shows across Canada and when they were cancelled due to the pandemic her team decided to bring the shows to customers on Zoom. “This worked out really well because we could include all of our customers world wide. After all, we are a travel brand and specialize in designer multi-way lounge wear that can take you anywhere. Our customers love to spread the word so ladies attend from Australia to South America. Now that things are opening up we decided to test a December Holiday Trunk Show at Verity and it was a great success.”
Diane tells us many of her show customers preferred the relaxed and pampering environment of the Verity Women’s Club rather than the chaotic vibe at some of the previous shows she’s participated in. “They can relax on the couches and enjoy champagne and canapés. We are also encouraging our guests to book a spa day or lunch in the lounge while they visit us so they can enjoy the beautiful amenities and surroundings of Verity. The club also has it own boutique hotel called the Ivy which is perfect for our out of town guests,” said Diane.
How else can we help support our Ukrainians friends right now?
Donate directly to the BCU Foundation here.
Support Ukrainian artists on platforms like Etsy and if you’re a maker, fashion designer or interior decorator you can order your textiles from https://www.spoonflower.com/ or find other platforms the have Ukrainian artists on them. “I suggest reaching out to the artist first and asking them how they are doing. If you are purchasing their artwork to create a design like I am it’s best to tell them about your plans and make sure they will benefit. It means the world to them knowing that we (people from other countries) are supporting them and want to help,” said Diane.