Founder & CEO of Angel for Fashion, an eCommerce site designed to support the Ukrainian fashion industry, Jen Sidary is no stranger to fashion. With over three decades in the industry, in fact, Sidary enjoyed an accomplished career spanning the retail and luxury sector, the last ten as the Head of Zappos Couture and as President of Sales for Vivienne Westwood America.
But, with the start of the war in Ukraine, Sidary’s focus took a turn. She’s now dedicated to mobilizing the global fashion community to ensure that Ukrainian fashion continues to thrive in the face of chaos. Aside from her Angel for Fashion platform, Sidary works with USAID showcasing Ukrainian fashion designers to foreign markets at trade shows from New York City to Paris.
SEE Change spoke with Sidary and asked her about her newfound passion, the power of fashion, her efforts on the ground in Ukraine and around the world, and what gives her hope for the future.
You launched a global ecommerce website called Angel for Fashion. Tell us about its mission and impact so far?
I launched the website almost one year ago to help the Ukrainian designers survive the war. Now it seems to be a platform not only to increase global sales for the brands but for the retail stores to discover even more of the industry at large. We couldn’t showcase all 33 designers at a showroom or a tradeshow in NY and Paris but everyone can discover the talent on the website and we now have customers shopping with us from around the globe. Over 175 countries have visited the website so far and we are successfully shipping orders from Ukraine to so many of these cities.
What inspired you to bring these Ukrainian designers to Paris (and New York)?
Paris is of course the fashion capital of the world. These Ukrainian designers are so talented it’s the best place to showcase them as the most elite stores from around the globe come to Paris to discover new collections.
Tell us a bit more about the designers and their unique offerings to Paris and New York?
We are showcasing seven Ukrainian brands this season and I work hard to choose a diverse selection so there is something for every store. We have Katerina Kvit who is making the most luxurious leathers I have been wearing everyday in the showroom. I’m not sure I can even fit in my luggage all the outerwear I bought from her this trip. Olena Dats is here showing dramatic gowns, stunning fuchsia colors and 3D printed ornaments which I haven’t seen from other designers before. My Sleeping Gypsy the Ukrainian heritage brand took it to the next level this season adding lush cashmere options to their assortment with incredible stitch details from the artist Beth Rodway.
Paskal is here showing her playful feminine collection with laser cut butterflies in rainbow colors which is sure to make you smile. FROLOV who just dressed Beyonce and Sam Smith with his famous stretch corsets and heart details throughout the collection plus added footwear this season to give his customers a head to toe look. Chereshnivska the upcycled brand who completely focuses on sustainability in every style. Last but certainly not least our signature footwear brand Kachorovska who developed a new anatomic pointed toe last that’s extremely comfortable and a crackle gold material I will need to own in multiple styles. I wear her shoes almost everyday.
What brought you to Kyiv recently?
I was actually in Kyiv twice recently once in April and I returned in May for many reasons. I have 35 designers on Angel for Fashion and some of them I hadn’t met in person yet. Some of them were inspired by the showrooms we had put on in NY and Paris so they decided to do the same for their customers around Ukraine. It was so magical to meet everyone there and it meant the world to them for me to come and show my support.
I went back in May as I was speaking on a panel discussion for USAID where many of the brands on the website were attending. We are also launching a new project on Angel for Fashion that I will be announcing very soon. I plan to return again to Ukraine in August for more projects there and continue to show my support for the country and its people.
How do you feel your work can help the situation in Ukraine?
Prior to the war I didn’t realize why I was led to the country. Now after launching the website, helping them grow their businesses in foreign markets and even just mentally supporting them by being there as a friend, I realize the impact I’ve had on the fashion industry. Some brands even told me it was because of the email they received about being on Angel for Fashion that gave them the strength to restart their business’s after the war broke out. I’m inspired everyday by their strength and I plan to help grow these brands to household names for customers around the globe.
For those who say that fashion is frivolous and we should focus elsewhere, how do you respond?
Prior to my work with Ukraine I felt I worked in a very shallow industry but that has all changed for me now. This is predominately a women’s industry and it’s even more important to support it as the women need to continue to provide for their families while the men flight this unjust war on Ukraine. It is imperative to begin the recovery effort now so when the refugees return to the country they have jobs to go back to and when you shop with a Ukrainian designer you know the money is getting to the people immediately. It is key to winning the war on multiple fronts.
What can we do to help boost your efforts in Ukraine?
Tell your readers to continue to support Ukrainian companies. By shopping on Angel for Fashion or hiring a tech company in the country, you keep their people employed. It’s a way to win the war on multiple fronts and begin the recovery effort prior to the war ending. When this is all over and Ukraine has won we expect the world to go to Ukraine and experience the magic I discovered there when I first visited in 2020. We even have plans to make Kyiv a fashion hub for retailers to come and buy their designs from all over the world.