From Donetsk Fashion Days to a Celeb Favorite: GASANOVA

From Donetsk Fashion Days to a Celeb Favorite: How GASANOVA Creates Clothes for Red Carpet, First Lady, and Plus-Size Women Amidst the Ongoing War

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Ukrainian women have demonstrated remarkable strength, resilience, and fortitude amid turmoil and uncertainty. They have stood up against adversity and taken charge of their lives and country. This spirit of determination and ambition is embodied in the Ukrainian fashion brand Gasanova.

What sets this brand apart is its commitment to empowering women of all beauties. It celebrates women's strength and unlikeness, encouraging them to embrace their inner spirit.

Today we invite you on a journey of once a dental assistant who founded her business in Donetsk just before the beginning of the war in Ukraine in 2014. And whose brand's clothes now wear the First Lady of Ukraine, the biggest Hollywood celebrities and people worldwide: Gasanova

Category: Fashion

Year & place of establishment: 2013, Donetsk, Ukraine

Founders:  Elvira Gasanova

Number of employees: 25

Current location: Kyiv, Ukraine

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1. How and when did you develop the idea for your brand?

The brand was founded in 2013 in Donetsk. I was the student who wanted to create something, to try myself in a more artistic way. Initially a dentistry major, I was finishing my studies and worked as a dental assistant and a dentist when I made the first clothing collection. 

All that time, I had a strong will to prove I could do it: create and design, found my brand and business. I always had that entrepreneurial streak, which finally mixed with an inner call to the fashion industry. And then, in 2013, Donetsk Fashion Days was first held, so I decided to take that chance to challenge myself, test my skills and talent, and try participating. The first collection was a hit and sold out fully. As for the style of clothes — it got shaped around my clients and personal growth and experience.

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2. Your vision and big mission?

Our big mission is to help all the girls — no matter their height, size, nationality, or skin colour — understand that they are unique and help them to feel that way. Our size chart is very diverse, and many clothing pieces will sit nicely on the girls, from extra small to extra large sizes. We want to give all the girls an understanding that Gasanova will always help them show their beauty unlike any other.

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3. How has the company grown since the very first day?

We started as a team of two — I and the tailor girl. The first collection was created just by the two of us. After the success of our first show and seeing how well the debut collection sold, we understood that we needed a bigger team. 

At first, we started as a "Jeans jacket" — as those words were painted on the back of the jackets. Loving what we were doing, we began trying to connect with celebrities all over the world. We were writing something like, "Hey, we are a Ukrainian brand, and we will be happy to send you a present". I think we've sent and sold maybe two or three thousand jackets throughout that year back then. Among our buyers were Victoria's Secret angels and Ukrainian celebrities.

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4. How has the war affected your business?

As well as for all Ukrainians and Ukrainian brands, the war made us take pause. It was around a month and a half before we understood it was time to get back to work, as we now have a big team. Two years before the 24th of February, we started working hard on creating our franchise and the war "helped" us — if it's even okay to say something like that — to sell the first one. A franchise is quite a big deal for people who want to create their businesses.

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5. What is your brand's most popular item?

It's a Crystal dress, and a Crystal mesh naked dress. We were the first Ukrainian brand whose dresses, as well as the crystal one, were worn by celebrities on Oscar's ceremony red carpet.

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6. We know that Olena Zelenska wore Gasanova costumes for some official meetings. How is it to see the First Lady wearing the clothes that you have created?

Making clothes for Olena Zelenska is our most significant achievement, and we feel proud that she chooses our brand. I meet her personally during every fitting, and she is a wonderful woman, I have to say,  incredibly lovely and sincere. We are honoured to have an opportunity to work with her.

The First Lady Olena Zelenska in Gasanova suit at a presentation of Olena Zelenska Foundation in London

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The First Lady Olena Zelenska in Gasanova suit during her visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg

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The First Lady Olena Zelenska in Gasanova tuxedo jacket at the Forbes 30/50 Summit

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7. Can you tell us the story of a map brooch pinned to Olena Zelenska's jacket at the World Economic Forum in Davos?

The brooch was initially created for me, and as I am from Donetsk, I wanted it to be encrusted with a small jewel in a place of my hometown. Eventually, preparing one of Lady Zelenska's looks for an event, we were asked if we could produce the same brooch. We did make a new one for her later, but that one you could see the first time on Miss Zelenska was actually mine. By the way, the second brooch also has a little jewel placed the same way, as Olena Zelenska loved the idea of symbolism: Donetsk is Ukraine like any other of our cities.

The First Lady Olena Zelenska wearing a map brooch by Gasanova at the World Economic Forum in Davos

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8. Do you have more national or foreign customers, and why?

It's pretty even. Half of our customers are Ukrainians, and half are from other countries. If talking about Ukraine, it's mostly because our shop is located here, and the first franchises were here. 25% of our customers are from the USA. Our brand is well-known in the States, thanks to Courtney Kardashian and Gigi Hadid.

Gigi Hadid in Gasanova Crystal pantsuit

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Courtney Kardashian  in Gasanova Crystal dress

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9. Please describe to us your perfect customer.

It's a woman 30 to 35 years, who lives her best life, works at her favourite job and understands what she wants. She is like any Ukrainian girl: she knows what she will do even if all the lights are off and the war comes to her country. She understands that she is the person who will support herself, her family and her country in the most challenging times.

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10. What are your most significant insights from entrepreneurship? Your superpower?

To help different kinds of girls feel special. For example, we have many plus-size customers who choose large and extra-large clothes, and I talk about it so openly because I have that proportions myself. Thus, it's important that girls see me wearing a Crystal dress and a Cashmere suit, knowing that it's not even a special tailoring. It's standard clothes in my shop. I feel perfect, I love myself, and I want to show them that they don't need to wait. They are just like other girls, simply come by and feel special, just like that.

Kazka wearing Gasanova embroidered dress and taffeta cape

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11. And now, how are YOU doing?

Very well, thanks. I feel so much love for our country now, and I have a feeling that just a few more months — and there will be our victory. I'm sure about that. Ukrainian people will stand, Ukraine will stand, and our president, a really heroic person, will stand. I hope we will be known for that and continue supporting each other, even after a hundred years.

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