In Ukraine, A New Modelling Agency Is Pioneering Inclusivity Through Localization

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Elga Volga (Vogue Laboratory) interviews the women of her home country making local fashion history

We live in unprecedented, rapidly changing times. Fashion and with it, modeling is also part of the flux, changing slowly. Step by step. According to George Arnett for Vogue Business: “Despite a handful of buzzy runway moments featuring older women, data shows that only one out of every 200 models during Spring/Summer 2020 was above the age of 50. Hardly an encouraging number.

So what is the state of modeling now, after almost a year of lockdown, phygital shows, and lost fashion weeks?Are local markets contributing to the quest for inclusivity and diversity?

Take Ukraine, a country that is more often mentioned in connection with its trailblazing political situation.There, modeling is flourishing and has taken the form of a passion project. Despite current difficult political and economic situation, Kateryna Yakovleva and Inha Kaliuzhna founded Age+ Model Agency, “Institute of Modern Woman”. All models are over 40 -50 years old,making note that, in spite of everything, beauty –in all ages- can still save the world.

Partly business venture, partly social project, the agency signs beauties of all weights & ages, faces, and nationalities. Inside the local community, the project has already helped many women to believe in themselves again and thus change their lives for the better. They all have a story to tell. 13 women – 13 interviews – 13 life stories forever changed through modelling.

Yakovleva Kateryna: I am from a family of mixed noble Greek, German and Russian blood. My amazing life had many changes from military designer to criminal law, and now I am the founder of this agency, the model, and a writer about my red cat Mufasa. Now I feel that everything is in my hands –all my dreams and hopes. My age is the catalyst for new opportunities.

Kaliuzhna Inha: From my childhood, I was devoted to my younger sister, so I was dreaming about the family and many children. But my life was decided differently – it was necessary to take responsibility for me and my child, to study and to work. So after economic education, I built a career as a financier. But I have many hobbies. I love to cook, read, grow flowers, and have pets. Now I am also the founder of the agency and the model – I enjoy the camera and the results. I build my life myself.

Kateryna Sorokina: I lived in my own little world. The headphones are my world. At the same time, I am ready for changes, even if it is not so easy for me, because I am very curious. I hate monotonous work, adore creativity, which impresses people. And now I understand that I was born to shine.

Krystalova Olena: -I recently graduated from the Regional Institute of the National Academy of Public Administration (under the president of Ukraine).In my life, I aspire to make our world better and more beautiful, devoid of violence.

Nataliia Petushenko: I graduated from design school; I like interior décor and landscape design. I love to travel and to learn something new. I have 2 adult sons, my two wings, and I am a happy grandmother of 2 grandchildren. I finally realized the dream of my youth – I became a model, and I believe that I will be a successful model even at 60.

Syroyedova Olga: My motto in life is not to give up – never. I was born into a simple family. The first 10 years of my adult life were dedicated to my day job. my evening education as a fashion technologist and to my marriage. Then it all changed, I made the design project for our apartment myself, learned French, took care of fish and chameleons, and jumped with a parachute.

Mirharad Liudmila: For many years I was working in sales. But I was fond of good music of different genres and making soap. Modeling came into my life by accident -and I loved it, it helped me find the inner woman in me, My advice? It’s never too late to make changes.

Oksana Dodonova: After many years, working in education I realized that I found no pleasure in what I was doing. So, I found a new business project, which brings real benefits to people and makes me happy, I love traveling, and communications. Lifelong learning is a guarantee of a youthful spirit.

Viktoriia Hrekova: Before modeling, I was not working in my profession – Russian language and literature but filled my life with many hobbies. Now, I love to travel and learn new languages. By learning the history of others helps you understand the mentality of foreign people.

Spolnyk Liliia: My life was shared between actors and the military. I am a lawyer and a psychologist. I love tennis, Argentine tango, and porcelain glass painting.

Tyshkevych Svitlana: My education was in the Chemistry Department at State University. But I had acting experience in amateur performances and in different shows. As for modeling? My daughter works in fashion and shows business and fashion as a camerawoman and director and I feel genetics played their role in that.

Zabiehina Oksana: I love beauty in everything – in clothes, food, human behavior, architecture, design. I studied image, hairdressing and took make-up courses. My job is accounting, but I recently started modeling and it helped me realize that being a woman is primarily a happy state of mind.

Lykyanenko Natalya: I graduated from the State Economic University with a Master’s degree and started my own venture. I always had a plan. But for some reason, it was not always possible to combine it with my other aspects in life. Taking the top in one area, I did not notice that I was losing in another one. The time was passing faster and faster. Then I decided to find myself through creativity: I opened a YouTube channel to share my poetry and then started modeling! Much like a butterfly, I am constantly evolving.

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