‘Every Lithuanian helps’ – this is what comes into my mind when I reflect on the mainstream British media perception of the Eastern Europe. It was a cartoon by the British newspaper The Independent that portrayed migrant workers (i.e. Lithuanians and Poles) as a value pack of cheap meat in Tesco. This cartoon with the above mentioned slogan (mimicking Tesco’s original slogan) has been published after one of the many debates about Eastern European migrants who come to Britain and become cheap labour ‘stealing’ vacancies from the British.
This is the mainstream vision of who I am. It is not worth fighting stereotypes, they don’t exist without a reason. Other legends say that Eastern girls are tall and pretty (Irina Shayk, Edita Vilkeviciute, Emily Ratajkowski), the beer is cheap and the language is Russian. And just the latter is false. Even if these facts are partially true there is so much more to Eastern Europe than that. Geopolitically, Eastern Europe is often referred to as Eastern Bloc – former Soviet countries that have been formed or reformed after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. These are relatively young countries with unique history and quite different projections of the future. Together and separately they can offer a very rich cultural and artistic scene that is usually underestimated or overshadowed by other subject matters (hence, cheap labour). It might be a good timing to see the less popular part of the Europe in a different light.
Although one might think that Eastern European fashion is glitter and gold chains (yet another partially correct stereotype) it is so much more than that. It has been almost 25 years since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, which is enough time to seed and cultivate an independent sense of creativity in fashion. Ukrainian fashion scene is a perfect example of the creative potential in Eastern Europe. Ukraine has been hosting two separate fashion weeks and both have become the to-go destinations for the international fashion publications. Every year Ukraine is raising a new generation of talented and super original fashion designers from the colourful Anna K to the conceptual Dzhus. Poland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Bulgaria and other former Eastern Bloc countries are the ones to watch. Fashion is so much more than New York, London, Milan and Paris. It is enough to open the eyes to see more.
A London based creative project Fashion Bloc (standing for Eastern Bloc) is bringing Eastern European fashion scene closer to the International audience. By introducing hand-selected designers, fashion and culture news and hosting a gallery-like curated online shop Fashion Bloc is trying to shed the light on the brightest talent and most interesting fashion happenings from Eastern Europe. With a mission to spice up the European fashion selection it also aims to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western Europe. Fashion in this case has become a tool for cultural enlightenment. Although migration debates and cheap-labour is still prime-time topics related to Eastern Europe it is time to open the horizons and discover new fashion destinations.
Ieva Zu, Founder of Fashion Bloc.