Ukrainian designer Svitlana Bevza showed her latest collection, for Spring/Summer 2024, in New York September 9, as a tribute to ‘a conscious generation determined to contribute to a peaceful future’. The show, which included clean silhouettes and soft colors accented with marigolds and tulip buds to represent revival, came hot on the heels of a recently launched jewelry collaboration with Mastercard, which put red viburnum berries center stage, as a symbol of resilience.
At the core of the brand’s identity, is the idea of exploring Ukrainian heritage and traditional motifs, and re-purposing them for a contemporary audience, something which has become all the more pertinent over the past 18 months. “We reimagined the red viburnum accessory for the BEVZA x Mastercard collection with the goal of spreading that symbolism around the world, to raise awareness of our country through its key cultural symbols,” the designer tells me
The label continues to design and produce collections in its Kyiv atelier, taking a sustainable approach to both materials and production. After a two-month hiatus when war broke out in February 2022, Svitlana set up an e-commerce site, to strong demand which has not waned since: “we received tremendous support from our foreign partners, which moved me very much, and I realized that behind the scenes of the industry there are real people who are with us,” she says. After testing production elsewhere in Europe for logistical reasons, Ukrainian factories began opening again: “the production in Ukraine and the support of the Ukrainian manufacturers with whom we work is very important for me, both to symbolically support production here, and show the world our quality.”
Bevza began in 2006 in Kyiv as a fashion brand, but Svitlana soon realised that fashion needs accessories, and made her first earrings, ear-of-wheat drops inspired by the country’s abundant crops, using a motif common in traditional Ukrainian crafts. They went viral and she began developing more jewelry, like the red viburnum — known as ‘kalyna’ — earrings she was working on just before the Russian invasion. They became a symbol of hope: “at those times, all my thoughts were dedicated to the growing danger, and when you feel danger, you start looking for symbols intuitively. I felt like a strong heirloom of protection was needed.”
Earlier this year, she reworked the kalyna design for the latest strand of a now five-year collaboration with Mastercard, from which she is donating proceeds to help Ukrainian children injured in the war, providing prosthetics and rehabilitation therapies via Ukraine House Foundation D.C.. The three-piece, zero-waste collection channels the brand’s characteristic minimalism, with clusters of red berries on earrings, a brooch and a necklace, worked in gold-plated brass, available on the Mastercard Priceless platform.
“This collaboration brings value through generations, through our children, who are our future. We, who were raised by our parents surrounded by love, must carry these values into the future,” says Svitlana, echoing the sentiments of many other Ukrainian and international creatives working to raise awareness of the effects of the war and bring Ukrainian culture and creativity to an international stage. Creatives like Valeriya Guzema, the Ukrainian jewelry designer whose charitable collections help support both civilians and the military, and Venya Brykalin, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Ukraine, who works hard to promote his country’s creative industries from exile in Paris, through initiatives like Tripolar, with art director Sonya Kvasha .
Svitlana would like the collection to become a symbol of support for Ukraine around the world. “Fashion is the best and most beautiful way to tell a story,” she says, “and translating Ukraine’s cultural codes into jewelry is my statement that Ukraine is, and was, a country.”