BETTTER founder Julie Pelipas is inspired by the tenacity of Ukraine’s creatives.
Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Russia, Julie Pelipas has reformatted her Instagram account with 250,000 followers, switching from aesthetically flawless fashion content to posting about the war and urgent humanitarian needs of the many Ukrainians. Julie also transformed BETTTER upcycling system, a smart sustainability project she launched in 2019, into a media platform to help the country’s struggling creatives. At BETTTER, the team chose to not shy away posting military content, but to do so in a language that is relatable for the international creative community. In sophisticated layouts and infographics, they encourage people to not look away from the events in Ukraine, to keep spreading the word, promote emerging Ukrainian talents and help them build meaningful professional network. “One doesn’t necessary have to be shocking to be heard,” Julie says.
The beginning of the full-scale war coincided with the first days of Milan Fashion Week. For more than a week the global industry, which has been airing its social and environmental concerns for several years, remained predominantly silent—until pressure on social media reached a crescendo. Pelipas flew to Paris to see how fashion insiders were reacting to the events. Or, as she observed, how on the most part people were avoiding them. At the shows in Paris, she realized that grief was counterproductive; it only distracted people from global issues. “People cannot and should not land a job or get support out of pity,” Julie insists. “My main message is that the Ukrainian creative industry is a community of surprisingly tenacious people who are ready and able to work hard and to deliver great results.”
To help them, Julie developed Bettter’s Given Name.Community, an open platform with a vast selection of portfolios of the most exciting Ukrainian talents, from fashion designers and stylists to photographers, creative directors, and filmmakers. Over the year, it has become a showcase for potential clients and international media outlets that report on the events in Ukraine through the prism of personal stories of people who, instead of attending Fashion Weeks and doing their creative jobs, have experienced loss and forced displacement. Thanks to the community team’s efforts, photographer Sasha Serafimovych shot a a lookbook for the World Fair Trade Organization. Illustrator Victoria Khodor was commissioned to create new graphic works. Four Ukrainian brands (Helpful, RCR KHOMENKO, KSENIASCHNAIDER, and Gunia Project) were invited to participate in the Estethica showroom during Berlin Fashion Week. Now the platform’s main task is to turn into a tool for constant networking, with future plans of creating a full-fledged agency for Ukrainian talents. Pelipas believes that the main obstacle to this is that as a potential creative force, Ukraine and its talents are still relatively unknown to the world. This is why B.G.N.C. took on ambitious task to shape and promote the image of the country’s modern culture: “The most important thing for us is that people have an emotional fascination with Ukraine. We want to inspire them.”
One could watch Julie Pelipas in action, at the latest The Fashion Awards ceremony in London in December last year. That night Julie Pelipas was nominated in the Leaders of Change category and took the stage at the Albert Hall. Among other 15 contestants, she was the only one invited to address the audience that consisted of major players in fashion, music, and film industries: British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, actresses Tilda Swinton and Emma Corrine, singer FKA Twigs. Her powerful speech was met with dramatic silence from the audience, one could literally feel it in countless posts and reposts on Instagram that followed. “I hope that my speech will inspire you to appreciate the power and influence you have to change the world for the better…” Pelipas said. The text of this speech she imagined on a night before the ceremony and, following her friend’s advice, learnt it by heart, to overcome anxiety and stage fright.
Julie’s appearance in London captivated many Ukrainians who watched from home, in between air alarms and power outages. It also touched many of the international VIPs who probably did not care much about the war in Ukraine at the time, a war that has already started to fade away from the international media front pages. Julie realized this when she started receiving personal messages from those who attended the ceremony. Most of those messages included one simple question: how can I help? “My goal is to encourage people to take real action so that they don’t just fantasize about it, but do something tangible to help Ukraine,” says Pelipas. She now advices her international friends on multiple options.