Last night, the Ukrainian Embassy hosted the opening of D.C. Fashion Week–or, in Ukrainian, “D.C. стиль тиждень” “вашингтонский тиждень стиля.” The kick-off runway show featured five designers from Ukraine, a host of towering, barely-teen models from Maryland, and plenty of chunky techno beats layered with Ukrainian chants and the occasional ABBA.

In the small embassy space, models strutted an abbreviated catwalk down the foyer, took a hard right into a parlor, paused in front of a framed portrait of George Washington, sat briefly at a piano, stared fiercely, then repeated. Ukrainian dignitaries looked on, appearing respectful, bored, or aroused, depending.

For me, the show peaked with the first designer, Aleksey Zalevskiy. The other designers–including Elena Burenina, Oksana Karavanska, and Liliya Poustovit– played it safe with such choices as “precise cuts,” “modern minimalism,” and “architectonic schemes.” Not Zalevskiy. Here’s how EVA Fashion Magazine (your guess is as good as mine) describes his work:

Somebody must be crazy to give the birth of Ukrainian avant-garde fashion. Aleksey Zalevskiy have done it and forced all country to develop the real beauty of his widespread creative madness. To understand his fashion world one have to feel his sense of beauty. Reality for Aleksey is internal values that are not dependable only on fashion.

I wasn’t able to get a photo of Zalevskiy’s collection, but this visual equation should suffice:



equals Aleksey Zalevskiy.

Zalevskiy dressed his women in layers of hot-pink lace, patent leather Broadway musical street gang jackets, stripper heels, and howling wolf screenprints. The looks were topped with leather muzzles and those clear medical cones that dogs wear to stop them from scratching their ear infections. At the show’s finale, a male model emerged, un-muzzled, in a flowing white lace dress, signifying, like, female oppression, maybe.

Everything that came afterwards was a snooze in comparison.

Perhaps in Ukraine, Forever 21 dresses crossed with a puppy motels outside Ocean City, MD are considered “avant-garde.” But be warned, Zalevskiy: America is way ahead of you.