Ukrainian Fashion Designer Mary Furtas on Running a Brand During War
When news of Russia's invasion broke, Cultnaked founder and Ukrainian fashion designer Mary Furtas was home, preparing to celebrate her daughter's first birthday. "I couldn't sleep very well on that day or any particular day before," she tells POPSUGAR over Zoom from a new location. "I was constantly waking up at night to check the news, and then I picked up my phone and there's a message that they started bombing the cities." Furtas escaped to Poland with her daughter, shutting down operations for the brand she launched almost five years ago.
The label, which is loved by celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Megan Fox, gained recognition for its high-octane approach to going-out clothes, designed with a passion for the female form. Cultnaked's sustainable business model also stands out; it is made to order and repurposes whatever little stock it keeps into new silhouettes. This thoughtful approach to production, combined with the quality of the fabric, has turned Furtas into one of Ukraine's leading next-gen designers.
"I want to keep going for the people, for my team, and for the economy of the country."
The war put a pause on the label's business plans, but that hasn't stopped Furtas from charting a path forward. Shortly after the invasion, she shut down her website, leaving only one message on the homepage: "You should focus on the war." She has since leveraged her growing social media platform to raise awareness, amass funds, and support the local community and her team in particular, many of whom are still based in Ukraine. While she has since resumed operations in a limited capacity, she's also turned Cultnaked into a powerful messaging vehicle. Now, a new message is displayed on the site: "UKRAINE MUST GO ON." "I want to keep going for the people, for my team, and for the economy of the country," she says.
Furtas spoke to POPSUGAR about the impact of the Russian invasion, the fashion industry's response to the war, running a business in these challenging times, and her hopes for the future of the industry.
Read on for the full interview, which has been edited for clarity.