Anna October’s life and outlook—personally and professionally—are an object lesson in resilience. To wit, the pre-fall collection was produced in Kyiv, amid missiles and electricity shortages and occasionally sheltering in the metro system. And yet, while October was there, she made a point of taking ballet class and attending a rave in the daytime—since curfew makes nighttime impracticable—that felt “beautiful, sexy, with this will to live to the fullest” (at the end of that event, the crowd broke out in the Ukrainian anthem). On her birthday, New Year’s Eve, she dressed up and ventured out in high heels and a fancy boa.
Which is also why this outing has no particular inspiration: “Its all just life happening and celebrating special moments,” the designer said during a showroom visit. If rifling through her own collection for a gown put her in mind of black tie, it also prompted her to incorporate colors—the blue-gray color of the Paris sky, the peachy hue of a Bellini savored at the Opera Garnier—gleaned from her new life in the City of Light (“for me, it’s Bellini or bust,” she offered). Once this collection was ready, the studio threw it into suitcases; one 24-hour train ride later, the designer discovered the full array back in Paris.
The bridge between October’s past and present is apparent in crochet and knit numbers—crochet being more cosmopolitan than one might think, having arrived in Ukraine from France via Poland. Those pieces speak to her life story and process: A bunch of artisanally crocheted table linens, potholders, and the like picked up on a trip to Greece last summer became a dress in the spring collection because “sitting there and putting the pieces together” is what makes her happiest. For pre-fall, she continued that thought with a notable crochet top that is “what I dreamed of when I dreamed of being a designer.” Also new this season is knitwear made using traditional Ukrainian techniques, for example a blue bralette or a white bodysuit reproduced from pieces spotted in the archives at the Ivan Honchar National Museum Center of Folk Culture, days before those collections were packed up and transferred to a safe haven.
Lingerie is October’s signature, and this season it crops up in ways both obvious and oblique. In the first instance were roses, laser-cut and hand-stitched on Japanese organza camisoles. In a similar vein came bodices with topstitched half-moon busts. One dress, in body-con black with dramatic cutouts, was strictly for the body-proud. Sometimes, things got slightly complicated, as on a peach knit dress with a thong-like belt that lets the skirt hang nonchalantly on the hips. The subtle came in suiting, which is new this season, produced in partnership with the bespoke tailor to Zelensky and his ministers (“the more Helmut Newton, the better,” October said). That effort resulted in a women’s blazer with hook-and-eye fastenings running up the sleeves, for example. Unfastened, the piece becomes more cape-like. Elsewhere, a white “balloon” bustier dress in Japanese fabric made from recycled bottles is engineered with an inner corset, “to make it serious.” A dress with a black taffeta skirt and white topstitched bodice was a winner.
Asked to elaborate on the challenges of her craft, October replied, “Everyone has their issues. Our work is to make beauty happen.” That, plus a zealous devotion to delivering on time, come hell or high water—be it via online operations in Estonia or by train or whatever—makes her a force of nature.