Freshly relocated to Berlin, Kyiv designer Jean Gritsfeldt’s latest collection, Born in Kyiv. Sculptor of Love became one of the most applauded phenomenons of this year’s Berlin Fashion Week. And for a reason. Jean’s designs play around with the idea of deconstructing fashion, both the materials and the ideas behind it, resulting in bold and playful pieces with a deeper meaning to them. With each garment being a statement on its own, Jean has proved that in times of uncertainty and distress, being political is becoming less and less of an option and more of a moral duty for one.
Shooting a special selection of Jean Gritsfeldt pieces, we decided to ask Jean about some of the words he put on his statement-driven designs and what they represent in his story and to the community he represents.
I think when you learn how to live in the present is when you can start listening to the voice of your creativity. To me, expressing what excites me is like broadcasting the voice of a higher self. I think I’ve always made statements with my collections. We live in a world that substitutes concepts and making one seen and heard is more a matter of bravery than ever.
I grew up in Kyiv’s Borshchahivka neighborhood which is very much the Ukrainian equivalent of New York’s Bronx. Whenever I left the house for some party, wearing heels or a blanket, I triggered a silent outrage among the neighbors, especially the grandmothers. Every time it was a little challenge for me, overcoming my fears and every time it got a bit easier. Probably that’s how I learned moving forward without looking back.
Courage is about accepting yourself for what you are and allowing yourself to experience the full range of feelings and emotions. As children, most of us weren’t taught how to love ourselves. Guilt, fear of rejection, or prejudice can hold one back from learning from their mistakes. With everything happening in the world right now, people should open their hearts to their neighbors and take responsibility for their own happiness.
Freedom is the strength of the spirit and a birthright. The war only strengthened this belief. Ukraine is transforming, setting the tone for the future of Europe. Things will never be the same as they were. With Berlin, maybe it wasn’t me choosing to come here, but the other way around. The creative atmosphere of the city is very strong: there is a reason why so many try their luck here or fall in love with the idea of Berlin. I’m not sure why the Berlin Fashion Week doesn’t always get the same media coverage as the ones in Paris or London, but – and this might sound bold – it seems like we might just have a chance to fix that by bringing new blood into the German market
The way we create clothes permeates them with poetry. Poetry is always about the state of the soul, an essence of a feeling. And I like to dress people in feelings, not in clothes. Leaving my country and setting up a new life has been a stressful experience. Sometimes it hurts, it makes me sad and it can be scary too, but I do believe that in the end everything will be fine and goes according to the Creator’s plan.
I design clothes that give you confidence and can be worn at any party. I also produce music with the same rule: once you attend you must dance at the party that is life. It’s all about combining fashion, music, and magic, the three main facets of my personality.
Being in Germany, I actively study my German roots on my father’s side and they were living through times of war and peace and witnessed a change in the world. Peace means keeping the world in a state of balance when there is a storm around. This is a fragile balance and there are social, political, economical, and ecological factors to it. I was experimenting with recycling way back when it was yet to become part of the mainstream. No planet – no party. We make our pieces mostly out of recycled materials. And with the latest collection, we are revisiting and reinventing ideas from our archives, celebrating our last ten years.
I have a peculiar understanding of love. I understand that it has been limited and misinterpreted for many centuries of human existence. Now, as the world changes, the concept of love is transforming with it. Love is about soft intentions, bestowal, partnership, and about being true to ourselves. These qualities are rooted in self-love, which is the most difficult of all. If we can understand and accept ourselves, we will continue to understand and accept others. My latest collection, Born in Kyiv. Sculptor of Love is supposed to awaken the most loving version of yourself. Your inner superstar. Like reaching for the inner light and purity that flows through the debris of the obsolete. It’s also a tribute to the Ukrainian people, their unbreakable spirit and resilience.
True beauty is what makes me cry. Tears are cleansing and they make you think about what’s inside. Many of my designs are about the deconstruction of ideas. It’s very much about letting experiences pass through me as if I was a filter.
Fashion overcomes the obstacles of fashion. My goal is to design clothing that is bold, never too formal, and full of individualism, maybe at times even anarchistic. I love to work with corduroy, linen, wool, synthetic fur, silk, and chiffon. I combine floral patterns with military prints, thick fringes with sequins, ruffles and embroidery. I distort classic silhouettes. I use pop-cultural references and deconstruct them. Cause imagination knows no limits
It is impossible to take a step forward without thinking about the past. It is the bridge to the future or, as I call it, the transformation of youth. It helps continuity. Today, just as ten years ago, my work is permeated with thoughts and dreams about love, struggle, freedom in art, desires, and self-expression. About finding yourself and faith in tomorrow.
Ukrainians today – wherever they are – are ambassadors of freedom and independence, with a mission of drawing attention to important topics. At the moment the entire Ukrainian fashion industry has spread over the world and it’s impossible to predict what will happen to the scene in the long term. Ukrainian designers are very talented and hardworking, but we need to push even harder to give others faith and support them with love.
Every evening, at the dinner table, I thank Mother Earth for the moments of beauty I got to experience and all the good things that happened to me. My gratitude is toward my teachers and all the people who gave me invaluable lessons and experiences that brought me closer to myself.
Not long ago, I was on a flight into the unknown. I still need to let go of habits and attachments from my past and accept that I have to start from scratch. A new chapter of my life has begun and all that matters now is that I keep my heart open and trust the universe.
With Love Brands, we put the spotlight on labels that are taking steps towards diversity, inclusion and sustainability – this time with Jean Gritsfeldt. Photography Shauna Summers, Styling Ana-Marija Knezevic at Bigoudi, Hair & Make-up Christine Be, Set Design Pelin Gebhard, Models Ibrahim Gaye at Izaio Management and Beca Michie at Mirrrs Models, Production Javier Zamora-Kalazich, Robin Kulisch and Julia Sergienko, Photography Assistant Julia Lee Goodwin, Concept and Creative Direction Studio Christian Ruess, Art Direction Yasmin Faith Momodu, Art Direction Assistant Jan Baszak