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Ukrainian Designer Alina Kachorovska On Pivoting to Army Boot Production and How an Unexpected Trip to Micam is Giving Her Hope

With Russia’s assault on Ukraine now in its third week, FN checks in with Kyiv-based shoe designer and business owner Alina Kachorovska, who runs Kachorovska Atelier with her family. Here, she opens up about how the brand’s factory, in her hometown of Zhytomyr, pivoted to army boot production as bombs went off. As that work continues, Kachorovska is taking an unexpected trip to Milan, an emotional journey that is giving her and other shoemakers hope this weekend. These are her words. 

“I will tell you one incredible story.

We’ve been staying in Kyiv for 15 days of war, from the first day it started. We could go out to any place in Europe as we’ve received dozens messages of support from our partners from all over Europe and Turkey. But it was our conscious choice to stay at home.

Our business stopped totally on Feb. 24.

My hometown, where the factory is, was under bomb attacks from the 1st day of the war. On the 5th day, my mother, who runs the factory, started to receive requests for army boots for men volunteering in the military. She called other shoe factories and called our employees, and all agreed to start working and to produce army boots.

We put a message on our Instagram that we were producing 500 pairs of army boots for free, and if people would like to support and donate, we could produce around 500-800 pairs more. We’ve  gathered $25,000 in less than in 2 days. Right now, we (our factory and one more shoe factory from our town) are finishing the last 200 pairs. We’ve produced 1,000 army boots, and are sending them for free to all corners of Ukraine.

The most precious feedback was from one soldier – it is our technologist’s husband: He said that these boots are the most comfortable and easiest he ever had — he walked 60 kilometers in them.

So we’ve decided for some period of time to start producing army boots.

And this is not the end of the story.

On the 14th day of war, on March 8, we had our first call about work and started thinking about new sales channels. I knew Micam would be held in Milan in the [coming] days. We’ve never participated in Micam before, maybe this could be a chance. But I realized in these circumstances, we couldn’t afford to participate.

[But] the next day in Kyiv, I took the phone and wrote a message to our partners EBRD (European Bank of Reconstruction and Development) to ask for help and financing for Ukrainian shoe brands to participate in Micam. I had almost zero hope — all the procedures with EBRD take months — but I did it. Otherwise, I would blame myself that I did not act for my country, for our employees, even if there was the slightest chance.

EBRD agreed to this  project in one day, and now we and 3 more shoe Ukrainian brands will participate in Micam in 2 days.

We’ve gathered all the samples from different parts of Ukraine in the state of war. We moved from Kyiv with our 3 kids and 3 suitcases of samples, drove 2 days to pass the border to Poland, and felt how awful and terrifying it is to be a refugee. We slept one night on the floor because nothing was available in Western Ukraine and stayed on the border for 8 hours. Currently, we are driving through Slovakia. Tomorrow, we will arrive in Milan, and on Monday, we will present at Micam.

It is kind of a miracle. We do not know what this exhibition will bring to all of us. But one I know for sure – it already gave us hope.

Welcome to our Ukrainian Stand  — Pad4, K08, March 14 and 15 in Milan.”

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