Drawing inspiration from the struggles faced by Ukrainian refugees, fashion house DZHUS crafted its Autumn Winter 2023 collection as a tribute. The collection, named Transit, showcases multifunctional clothing pieces adorned with pockets. With a focus on monochrome hues, DZHUS’ latest collection presents metamorphosing garments that seamlessly transform from one clothing item to another, showcasing the brand’s innovative and versatile design approach.
DZHUS founder Irina Dzhus told Dezeen how the collection was informed by the forced evacuation faced by millions of Ukrainians since Russia invaded the country on 24 February 2022.
“The Transit collection is saturated with symbolism, communicating the painful changes my countrymen had to undergo during the mass evacuation process and their further refugee reality,” said the designer.
“Having lost everything in multiple cases, our heroic people have managed to preserve their identity.”
Another garment – the collection’s “signature look” – is a boxy white jacket with an optional hood that, contrastingly, references the imagery of both guardian angels and bulletproof vests.
“The jacket’s panels, covered with pockets, open as wing-like oversized sleeves,” explained Dzhus.
Pockets feature heavily throughout the collection. One example is a crisp white dress with a statement collar that can be folded down into bag-shaped carriers.
“In the Autumn Winter 2023 line, you’ll see a variety of designs built around pockets and bags, as an allusion to the hard choice each of us had to make when taking with ourselves only what was possible to carry, and often, impractical but memorable things were prioritised,” said the designer.
“With that exaggerated capacity of the looks, I kind of wanted to say, I wish we could take more with us to our new lives,” added Dzhus, who shared her personal evacuation story with Dezeen last year after fleeing Ukraine for Warsaw.
Manufactured in Ukraine and Poland, the collection is also characterised by malleable silhouettes, which can transform from androgynous to more traditionally feminine depending on how the garment is worn.
“This is meant to pay tribute to the radical changes of personality most of us have lived through in these extreme circumstances, which have questioned the very fundamental aspects of our identity,” explained the designer.
DZHUS chose a material palette of textured cotton and knitted fabric as well as see-through rayon for the collection. Angular pleats and distressed finishes enhance the garments’ dramatic look.
As well as paying homage to the experience of Ukrainian refugees, the multifunctional garments also intend to take sustainability into account by encouraging a reduced number of items in a wardrobe that feature more than one purpose, according to Dzhus.
The designer also explained how the Transit collection could benefit “fashion-loving travellers” who want to travel with minimal luggage, without compromising their personal style.
“I create for exceptional personalities, for whom a garment or an accessory is an attribute of self-expression, a material shape of their unique self, a shell in between the inner and the outer world,” continued the designer.
“When I wear my favourite clothing, I’m more me than without it.”
The collection was presented at Milan design week as part of Continuum, an exhibition showcasing the work of five Ukrainian studios including furniture brand Faina. At Continuum, Dzhus personally transformed the garments worn by models during a live performance.