Like many Ukrainian designers, Anna October went through a time of incredible hardship, which she bravely overcame by finding solace in creativity to turn fantasies and dreams into reality—like making her debut spring collection happen, or having a garden built from scratch as if by magic.
While spending time abroad during the war, she decided to buy a small piece of land in a forest in Ukraine, which she managed to transform into “a pleasure garden. I did it remotely,” she said at a preview, making it sound like a no-brainer. “Planning the garden’s layout and working on the collection simultaneously was so exciting and beautiful.” A friend sent her a pertinent quote from Vita Sackville-West’s book The Garden which reads: “Small pleasures must correct great tragedies, therefore of gardens in the midst of war I bold tell.”
For her first ever presentation in Paris, October set up a romantic reverie in an art space, which she filled with buckets of flowers, delicate glass vases, and a tent made from a patchwork of white textiles and crocheted pieces, which were also a recurring theme in the collection. They were intended to honor traditional Ukraine craft; she explained that museums there are still closed, so she asked the curator of the Ivan Honchar Museum in Kiev to visit its archives, where she found beautiful crocheted doilies from a domestic household in the ’50s. She reproduced and transformed them into a handcrafted one-of-a-kind sinuous long slipdress, and into a tiny brassière, paired with fluid high-waisted trousers with delicate lingerie details.
October’s creations are about sensuality, grace and the beauty of the female body: “I’m not concerned about the styling, or the merchandising, as I believe that the body should shape the dress,” she said. “I hope my work is a way to bring harmony and beauty into a woman’s life. A new dress has to be striking, that’s why we don’t do hoodies or sweatshirts, but special pieces for moments of happiness and excitement.”
It’d be easy to feel special in one of her sensuous bias-cut satiny dresses revealing a thin-strapped, crisscrossed open back, or patchworked in smooth upcycled silk in delicate shades of shell pink and cream. Drawing attention to the décolletage, a primrose yellow bustier was shaped as a corolla of tulip petals, while a lingerie-inspired top was handstitched in a plait pattern, hinting at a Ukrainian symbol of femininity.
In Anna October’s vision, life is a place where senses have to be celebrated. It’s a brave, optimistic attitude, which most likely comes when you’ve experienced being so close to losing everything that the miraculous beauty of life and love just jumps at you. “I like my label to be perceived as a date-ready brand,” said October with a smile. “If you want to go for a date, if you want to fall in love, if you are in love—I want you to live that moment in one of my dresses. They’re occasion dresses—but the occasion is just to live a beautiful life, and to fully enjoy the way you feel and look.”