Meet Gunia Project, a Ukrainian brand that mixes folklore with fashion

Meet Gunia Project, a Ukrainian brand that mixes folklore with fashion

When Kiev woke up to the Russian invasion last February, Natasha Kamenska and Maria Gavryliuk, founders of Ukrainian-based fashion and home brand Gunia Project, were among the many who temporarily moved to safer regions (Berlin in their case). Reflecting on the harrowing first months of the war, they recalled a growing sense of responsibility—not just to their country, but to the Ukraine-based ceramic, metal, glass, and textile artisans in their employ. As the two friends brought their business back to life, they also thought about their wider community. A nation’s morals were at stake.

“Many friends and customers talked about the things they packed on the first day,” says Kamenska. “Almost everyone took something from us – an accessory, a scarf or a small little bag. For them it was like taking a piece of Ukraine.”

The Gunia project celebrates the country’s ancient folklore and history – so much of it threatened by Russian aggression. “Ukrainians can see the small signs,” says Kamenska, referring to Gunia’s design motifs. But the collections are modern enough to also provide a vision of the country’s place on a global stage. “We are inspired by Ukraine, but we make objects that could be in every house around the world,” adds Kamenska.

A bowl, plate and jug from Gunia Project’s ceramics line.

Images: Courtesy of Gunia Project

A current range of colour-splashed, hand-painted ceramics (recently available in a Moda Operandi trunk show) feature mythical oceanic creatures inspired by 16th-century Ukrainian tile work. Among them are trident symbols, or tryzub– seen in the coat of arms of Ukraine. A necklace with a fist-shaped pendant evokes the village superstition that hiding your hands in your pockets will ward off the evil eye. You could call these talismans, but Gunia Project’s wares are less tchotchke Hamsas and more Schiaparelli surreal. After all, Kamenska and Gavryliuk come with fashion credentials, having worked in the industry for over a decade; the two met at Kyiv-based cool girl label Lake Studio before launching Gunia in 2017.

In March, the pair were part of a New York City-based design fair and silent auction, I Am U Are, which showcased a range of Ukrainian handicrafts – a bid was signed by Ukraine’s president and first lady. Next, they will produce a coffee table book dedicated to the journals of Ivan Honchar, a Ukrainian artist and ethnographer who documented native folk art and textile traditions. Trying new things has always been part of the plan. “We wanted to create a world that we admire and share it with our audience,” says Gavryliuk. “Everything we love, we try to show it in the Gunia Project.”

Gunia oval plate

$90.00, GUNIA

Gunia oval plate with horse

$115.00, GUNIA

Gunia oval plate with the tree of life

$115.00, GUNIA

Gunia Freedom square plate

$115.00, GUNIA

Gunia green Atlas earrings

$295.00, GUNIA

Gunia Trident pendant

$475.00, GUNIA

Gunia Fig Sign pendant

$200.00, GUNIA

Gunia Atlas Heads earrings

$440.00, GUNIA

Originally featured on Vogue

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