Co-founders of Ukrainian brand Sleeper talk about the “hell” going on in the country

“We get up at three in the morning and watch the news,” says Asya Veretsa. “We wake up and check that our families and friends are alive,” says his business partner, Kate Zubarieva. She is pale, angry and upset. A bright blue sweater in the colors of the Ukrainian flag is draped over her shoulders. She occasionally takes quick puffs from a vape. Asya is outwardly calm, admitting that there are things she just needs to block from her mind in order to continue.

Kate and Asya are the founders of Sleeper, the Kyiv-based fashion label that has been a witty and light-hearted guest at the fashion party since 2014. Her bright off-the-shoulder linen dresses inspired by nightgowns were a major trend. even before the pandemic and its feather-trimmed “party pajamas” – launched in 2017 and worn by celebrities such as Millie Bobby Brown, Brie Larson and Chloë Grace Moretz – went from cult items to bestsellers around the world whole.

But there is nothing light or witty in life now. Although neither of them live in Ukraine at the moment – ​​Asya moved to Denmark a year ago, with her husband and child, and Kate moved temporarily to Turkey earlier this year with her boyfriend – Kyiv has been their home and is the birthplace of Sleeper, who has more than 120 employees who lived and worked in the city until February 24. The Founders watched in horror as Russia invaded their country in the biggest assault on a European state since World War II. As we spoke via video call, nine days into the invasion, the 40-mile Russian army convoy was still waiting outside Kiev. The previous night, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant had been attacked.

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When I ask Kate how she is, she says, “Very badly. It’s hell. Can you imagine?” His parents are currently in Western Ukraine. “Today my stepfather joined the army. My mother makes camouflage nets to help the defense. so they put poems in the nets for the army – to heal the soul and give people strength.

She is moved and angry at what she sees and hears every day from Ukraine. A friend’s apartment in Kiev was destroyed by a rocket, his car was crushed and now he lives in an air-raid shelter. “The Russian army kills people in the street. Using this Smerch system [a multiple rocket launcher] on buildings. They kill people in their cars as they try to get away. In Mariupol, in Kherson, everywhere. Our colleague Anya is in Kherson with her mom. The people there have had no water or light for four days. Yesterday a woman there was raped by a Russian soldier.

Asya is in a different kind of hell. She is Russian. “My whole family is Russian. My mother and father are in Moscow. My mother doesn’t believe propaganda, my father, I don’t really know,” she said calmly. “I know my grandparents believe this they hear from the Russian state, but they are really old people and I can’t do much. My friends don’t know what to do. They are thinking of leaving. I can only support them by being there to them and spreading accurate information but I can’t make them make that choice I try not to think about it but I don’t know when I’ll see my family again The world is falling apart We’ve always been together talking same language, big community, but I don’t think we’ll ever get back to it. Not after this. It’s understandable. When someone comes to your house and takes everything away from you, you’re never going to forgive them or ‘to forget.

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