ORsee the past fortnight, the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag has become a familiar sight of solidarity – from stands at football stadiums to posts on social media. And now it has hit the red carpet.
At the SAG awards, celebrities including Tyler Perry, Michael Douglas and Shari Belafonte wore ribbons or pocket squares in yellow and blue, while actor Greta Lee wore a blue skirt and yellow polo neck. With the Baftas taking place in London this Sunday, this trend is likely to grow.
At Balenciaga’s fashion show last week, each seat had a Ukrainian flag, and the show ended with a model wearing a full yellow outfit, followed by one wearing all blue. They were mirrored by celebrities attending – Salma Hayek wore a half yellow-half blue tunic – while Isabel Marant took a bow after her show wearing a yellow and blue sweatshirt. Outside the Prada show earlier this month, a group of Ukrainian influencers staged a protest – with street style photographers snapping them posing with their flag rather than for their outfits
It’s an idea that has even reached royalty. To visit the Ukrainian Cultural Center in London this week, the Duchess of Cambridge wore a sweater in the blue of the flag, combined with a badge of the colours.
If these gestures come from a place of support, the clash between the glossy world of non-Ukrainian celebrities and the grim reality of what is happening in Ukraine could be seen as insensitive. “[It] could not be more at odds with current political situation,” says Grazia’s Hannah Banks-Walker. “I totally get that people might think it’s an empty gesture.” She does believe there is some merit to the fact that the crisis is referenced even in this world of high glamour. “It is a very visual signifier of standing in solidarity with Ukraine,” she says.
Rose Forde, who will be styling several clients for the Baftas, says “visual statements always hold an amount of power but are best when paired with direct action such as donations”.
Making a political statement on the red carpet has become something of a trope in recent years. After the Harvey Weinstein revelations, women at the Golden Globes in 2018 wore black as a way to, as actor Alison Brie said, show solidarity “with all the women who have come out about being sexually harassed and abused”. While the awards ceremonies after the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 were from home, actors on video calls, including Regina King, Sandra Oh and Uzo Aduba, wore clothes in support of the campaign, and bringing the killers of Breonna Taylor to justice.
Sunday’s Bafta red carpet may see a more subtle way to support those in Ukraine, suggests Banks-Walker, through celebrities wearing items by Ukrainian designers. “I feel like that’s actually even more of a statement because you’re not making a big song and dance. It’s more like you’re actually financially contributing to their economy and society.”
Anna October is a Ukrainian fashion designer, now in Paris. She has mixed feelings about the red carpet trend. “I understand for them it’s not their war, sometimes they just want to show solidarity and bring the audience’s attention to a war,” she says. “It’s also good but I would more appreciate the collaborative kind of support.” Forde is making a stand by “only working only with the luxury brands that are taking action by either closing stores in Russia and or supporting Ukraine-based employees”.
Forde points out that “Ukraine is an important cultural and artistic force in the modern fashion industry”. October is one of a number of Ukrainian designers who have built an international profile over the last few years. For her, working with designers would be a more meaningful way to help. “I urge all members of [the fashion industry] to collaborate with our creatives. Throughout the last eight years we managed to prove that we deserve being put on the international fashion scene and right now it’s the best time to build tighter connections for a collective benefit.”