Vyshyvanka, which the world admires. How Etnodim collects millions of donations for the Armed Forces and defends the cultural front
Vyshyvanka for Ukrainians is a symbol of talisman and national identity. Clothes not only tell about Ukrainian history, but also reproduce modern culture. The well-known Kyiv embroidery brand Etnodim creates modern embroidery ornaments.
After the start of the full-scale invasion, they handed over two million hryvnias to help the military. In addition, entrepreneurs independently evacuated production and employees to Lviv. And they also created new shirt designs dedicated to hero cities, artists and the Shot Revival.
Today, Etnodim brand embroidered shirts are worn by Ukrainian and world stars: Catherine Vinnyk, members of the Kalush band, and President Zelenskyi. Brand founder Andriy Cherukha told ShoTam about moving to Lviv, donating millions to the army, expanding production and clothes that bring our victory closer.
Etnodim brand founder
Etnodim sold other people's products by Western masters
In 2009, I studied in the second year at the Ostroh Academy. Then I was interested in website development. He even created the first website of the university for the specialty he was studying - "cultural studies". After that, the idea of own start-up was born - an online store of embroidery. My friend and I developed a site called Etnodim. This is where the story of our ethnic clothing brand began. If now NFT is something unfamiliar and strange, then the sale of goods via the Internet was perceived in the same way.
I was dating a girl who was originally from Kolomyia, so I often went to visit her. Many craftsmen live there who are engaged in hand embroidery of shirts. These clothes were unique and cost less than other manufacturers. That's how we started buying embroidery from Kolomyia masters and reselling through our website. There was no competition on the Internet, then it only developed. We immediately had sales, small, but we had orders every week. These were mostly buyers from big cities: Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipro. They also ordered shirts for the Crimea. I think that at that time they had no opportunity to purchase embroidered shirts with such a range in ordinary stores.
At first, we had to travel from Ostroh to Rivne every day to send orders, which is approximately more than 50 km one way. At that time, there was no post office in the small student town. However, I was ready to spend 3-4 hours a day for the sake of experience and the future idea, which was implemented today.
In order to develop an online store, you didn't need to have a lot of money, only for a domain and hosting, it's approximately UAH 400 for those parts. We spent UAH 80 on advertising, bought backlinks to our site, and then it rose to the first position in the Google ranking for the query "needlework". We had the maximum effect with minimum costs.
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Etnodim gradually expanded the selection of clothing. They got to know many Western masters and communicated with them. It is important to focus on the needs of the buyer, so they ordered models that were in better demand. Until the fourth year, Etnodim was just an online store that sold other people's products. Later, we opened our own production.
We created a team with our own vision of design embroidered by
Most of our target audience lives in the capital. In 2011, I moved to Kyiv. Then the sales format changed a bit. We had a courier who brought embroidered clothes to customers. So customers could receive the order the same day or choose a shirt from several options.
Later, in 2013, we started creating our own clothing models. We had our own vision of designs, an understanding of which shirts could be made better. Therefore, they launched their own production: to reach more customers and satisfy their needs. After some time, a physical store was opened in Kyiv.
About 10 people worked in our team at the beginning of the project. These are the ones who developed and created the brand together with me. Ivan Korniychuk, my classmate from the lyceum. In 2012, he moved to Kyiv, and while he did not have a main job, he helped me with sales, deliveries, and it worked out so well that we are still working. Today he is my partner and creative director. The first designer, Lilia Kasyanchuk, joined the team as a student, nine years ago. Now she holds the position of chief designer. Nadia Gavrylenko got a job as an embroiderer, today she is a production manager.
In fact, the entire core team remained and is still working today. Thanks to them, our style of embroidery has its own characteristics and is not similar to the clothes of other manufacturers. We are usually inspired by ethnic motifs, but often create something of our own. It is important that everything looks harmonious: cut, ornament, colors.
We urged world stars not to be silent
We didn't believe in a full-scale invasion until the end, even though everyone was talking about it. No one understood exactly where the attack would be, what the consequences would be. Therefore, we did not prepare a production evacuation plan in advance. But from the first day of the war, they started communicating with our entire team. It is important that everyone is safe.
We already practiced remote cooperation during the quarantine, and had a good experience. In the conditions of war, it helped to adapt. Our marketing team wrote to various stars and urged them not to be silent, to say that Russia is killing Ukrainians. The whole world needs to know the truth. They turned to famous stars of Ukrainian origin: Milla Jovovich, Catherine Vinnyk, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher and hundreds of others. The result of such communication was
Some of our employees went to serve in the Teroboron of Kyiv. They didn't have helmets, walkie-talkies, or bulletproof vests, so they started collecting funds for ammunition for the boys. They found what they needed abroad, but while they were collecting funds, the goods were sold out. Instead, together with our buyers, we transferred UAH 500,000 to the Serhiy Prytula Charity Fund. They bought all the necessary equipment for the fighters. Later, we managed to send 250,000 hryvnias to the "Come Back Alive" Foundation, and 250,000 hryvnias to the "Azov" battalion.
Thanks to the evacuation, production was doubled
Kyiv was half surrounded from the side of Irpen-Buchi. A rocket also hit near our shop. Therefore, together with the team, they decided to partially evacuate production to Lviv. This was necessary in order to save the product. It was difficult to find transport to transport everything necessary. The Zhytomyr highway was shelled, it was necessary to detour through Bila Tserkva, but the danger was still there. There, however, we managed to get to Lviv by several cars.
They found an outsourced production with which they began to cooperate. Materials, patterns, laptops, programs were transported from Kyiv. Everything you need to create clothes on their equipment. We did not transport our bulky equipment. This was enough to fully organize the work.
We had a large stock of fabrics, which we bought before the war. We actually use these materials to this day. Part of the materials began to be bought on the Ukrainian market, also from Indian and Turkish suppliers. If earlier everything you needed was available, now you need to constantly look for the necessary materials. This was affected by porting issues. Currently, we purchase goods through Europe, and these are additional costs.
We evacuated part of our employees to Lviv. It was not easy to find housing for everyone, because most moved with their families. Some worked remotely, others already lived abroad. In addition to production, we opened a small warehouse-office in Lviv, from where we decided to temporarily sell embroidered shirts.
When we made publications on the Etnodim pages that we are working and ready to ship the goods, many buyers appeared. They ordered mainly from Europe, the USA, Canada, and Latvia. This made it possible to increase profits and transfer funds to charitable funds. Our production has increased by 2.5 times, and the number of employees has also increased. After all, production was added in Lviv, and work was resumed in Kyiv already in April. Currently, 60% of Ukrainians buy our embroidered clothes, 40% - abroad. In the first period of the war, they were mostly foreigners. That's how they support us.
It is our duty to donate part of the profits to help the army
Recently, our brand donated one million hryvnias to the "Come Back Alive" Foundation. We always try to help the military as much as we can. Our friends on the front line often ask for help. They are asking to buy thermal imagers, tablets, and other equipment.
We also involve our clients in fundraising. Everyone can deposit a certain amount of money on the Etnodim website, in return we offer a discount on embroidered shirts. We keep track of all donors and will send email discount codes later. In this way, for the entire period of the war, we collected up to 500 thousand hryvnias. However, the contributions are now less than at the beginning of the full-scale war.
Etnodim donates the main funds to the funds from its profits. We are more fortunate than other industries, because some businesses have stopped altogether. Our product is in demand, it is willingly bought. Therefore, I am convinced that it is our duty to donate part of the profit to help the army. Funds are constantly buying cars, drones, and other ammunition.
It is equally important to support and popularize Ukrainian culture. We have the "Museum Walls" project, which helps the Khanenko Museum, the Taras Shevchenko National Museum, and the Sixties Museum. We bought tickets for UAH 200,000 from them. We send a ticket together with embroidery to each buyer free of charge. We understand that most of these people do not visit the museum. Although this can be a motivation to come to Kyiv. Etnodim is a brand that creates art. We are inspired by works in these museums: paintings by artists, exhibitions of Ukrainian artists. We understand how difficult it is for them now, because the number of visitors has decreased. That's why we decided to help in this way.
"What is my embroidery about": symbols and meanings of ornaments in wartime conditions
Each symbol in embroidery has its own ethnic meaning. As part of the project "What is my embroidery about", we have created a collection with new modern embroidery ornaments. One of the embroidered shirts was dedicated to the Slovo house in Kharkiv, where Ukrainian writers lived. It depicts stylized ornaments that are related to this house, to the artists of the "Shooted Revival". For example, "waves" symbolize the writer Mykola Khvylovy. The straight lines in the form of birch strips are by Les Kurbas, and the cherries are by the humorist writer Ostap Vyshnia.
Many Ukrainian performers wear this embroidered dress. Members of the Kalush band held a photo session in Slovo shirts before the Eurovision 2022 final. Hollywood actress Catherine Vinnyk also came to Ukraine in an embroidered dress from this collection.
The famous Berlin stylist and costume designer Frank Wild publishes photos in various yellow and blue images and Ukrainian motifs every day. In this way, he supports Ukraine. He repeatedly wore shirts from "Ethnodom". It is clear that it is necessary to popularize our culture abroad. Today, people are starting to talk less and less about Ukraine, everything is quieting down little by little, although the war continues.
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One of our shirts, which Volodymyr Zelenskyi wore on Vyshyvanka Day, was sold at the United24 charity auction for $100,000. This is an embroidery with a pixel ornament of oak leaves. All funds collected from the auction were directed to defense and demining, medical aid and reconstruction of Ukraine.
The embroidery with hero cities is also symbolic. The shirt shows a map of the cities of Ukraine in the form of the Tree of Life that suffered from the Russian occupation: Mariupol, Bucha, Irpin, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Kherson, Chornobayivka, Volnovakha, o. Serpentine. The embroidery is done quite stylistically, it seems to me that these cities were very simply translated into an ornament. It is often bought abroad. It is pleasant for a person to wear such clothes and tell their history and symbols to others.
There are many clothing designs that have their own meaning in Ukrainian culture and history. Even before the war, they worked on the production of a collection with embroidery inspired by Ukrainian artists. They planned to launch in March. It was sewn during the war, so it was sold out very quickly, we don't even have time to make new ones. The style of the artists whose ornaments are depicted is very different. We chose ten of the best, including Vasyl Korchynskyi, Ivan-Valentyn Zadorozhnyi, Hanna Shostak, Oleksandr Sayenko, Malevich.
The war influenced our new designs. Now, everything Ukrainian is being popularized in many other areas. Not only in clothes, but also in art and music. We are happy with this trend. Etnodim will continue to improve and work on new collections and bring Ukraine closer to victory.