When we are free to embrace our true selves and come home to the people and places that we desire and love, that is when we are truly free. And that’s exactly what Ukrainian brand Anoeses’ new capsule collection is all about. During Pride Month, Anoeses launches its new project in collaboration with the Ukrainian NGO KyivPride. Emboldened with the slogan #WEAREFREEDOM, the capsule collection supports the Ukrainian LGBTQIA+ community and invites us to celebrate love—of self, of others, of home—in all its forms.
Words by Fernanda Russomano
With the mission to motivate people to explore their erotic side, Anoeses is a Ukrainian lingerie and accessories brand that promises to “fulfill erotic desires, satisfy curiosity and awake sensuality”. Founded in 2018 by the Ukrainian couple Kostya and Katya Savvopulo, the brand started as a reflection of their growth as a couple and now inspires its customers to delve into their own sexuality. While the label’s name is derived from the psychological term anoesis, which is a state of consciousness defined by pure sensation without cognitive context, the brand encourages a solid understanding of sex and eroticism through their educational platform that highlights the importance of healthy sexuality.
Engaged in organizing Pride Month events in Ukraine and beyond, NGO KyivPride is a public organization that promotes the “achievement of full observance of human rights for LGBT+ people in Ukraine”. What began as a march to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, has since extended to a monthlong celebration that has spread across the world. During Pride Month in Ukraine, KyivPride organizes cultural and educational events focused on the joy, life and obstacles of the LGBTQIA+ community in the country.
With diversity and equality as one of the brand’s core values, Anoeses’ new collaboration with KyivPride is a social project that “aims to spread awareness and social acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community in Ukraine”. With the slogan #WEAREFREEDOM, the project includes interviews with six Ukrainian LGBTQIA+ personalities covering subjects like freedom, beauty, and love, as well as their experiences living in Ukraine, fighting for their rights, and supporting the country during the war. In addition, as the material embodiment of the project, Anoeses launched a limited collection of leather pieces designed in collaboration with Ukrainian artist Nikita Gudzovsky.
Drawing on the darkness of the war, since it “took away bright colors from people’s lives”, the capsule collection consists of seven handcrafted pieces in black leather with hand-painted visual and textual images in white. With silver-tone hardware, the collection includes a corset, a harness, a bra, a thong, a mask, a choker and a bracelet. With a sleek black-and-white design, the pieces stand out with written statements such as “Let’s Open your Vision for Everything”—highlighting the word LOVE—and “Regain the colors of the rainbow!”.
This capsule collection is dedicated to our tireless struggle for human rights, for the opportunity to love anyone, anywhere, without hiding it in the future. This is an active message from Ukraine that very soon our lives will return to the full spectrum of rainbow colors, and we will be able to feel everything at 101% again.
— Nikita Gudzovsky
Despite the fact that Ukrainian society has become significantly more tolerant in recent years, LGBTQIA+ individuals still face discrimination and prejudice. The slogan of the collaboration, #WEAREFREEDOM, reflects the importance of openness, honesty, freedom and strength in Ukrainian society, which is currently fighting its most important battle on multiple fronts—social, political and historical.
– Anoeses press release
The six interviewees not only share their life stories and values in written interviews on Anoeses’ website, but they also model the pieces from the brand’s limited collection and star in the project’s video campaign. Among the six queer Ukrainian personas are Monroe, Vlad, Ivanko, Sashko, Luli, Zhenya and Angelina.
Maybe my story will support someone, because my life is an example that has no analogues. I was the first openly transgender person in the post-Soviet media space since the late 2000s. Is an open representative of the LGBTQIA+ community being on the morning air of national television an achievement? It certainly is. It was 2011 and I was being introduced as Monroe, the drag diva.
— Monroe, on participating in the Anoeses x KyivPride project
Read Monroe’s full interview at anoeses.com.
For many years I worked as an advertising stylist, worked in nightclubs, and when I had free time—volunteered, because this is what was always important to me. I never really talked much about it, but when the full-scale invasion began, I became more vocal because those are the rules of the game now.
— Vlad, on being a queer volunteer and activist since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine
Read Vlad’s full interview at anoeses.com.
It is also important for me to be the face of a brand that shows that the LGBTQIA+ community is visible. It helps change society for the better. After all, many businesses do not consider LGBTQIA+ as their potential audience. How many media outlets now have a written inclusivity policy, a hate speech policy? There is almost no such thing, so I want to cooperate with those for whom tolerance and inclusivity are among the main values.
— Sashko, on participating in the Anoeses x KyivPride project
Read Ivanko and Sashko’s full interview at anoeses.com.
It was the war that made me realize that we can die at any moment, so the concept of delayed life became completely irrelevant for me. I immediately started doing something, implementing my own plans in life. I understood my values, I came out, my social role changed drastically. That is, my life has changed very much within literally a couple of months…
— Luli, on transitioning during the start of the full-scale invasion
Read Luli’s full interview at anoeses.com.
My life has changed—as it did for all Ukrainians. Internally I have changed as well. I have always believed that we only have one life and there is no time to limit yourself in something, be afraid, stagnate. Now this feeling has become even stronger. The desire to be as I am, to behave and dress as I like, regardless of someone’s comments and societal opinions. In fact, you never know when life might end, so you have to live it here and now.
— Zhenya, on living as your true self
Read Zhenya’s full interview at anoeses.com.
There are people who are ashamed of their desires, afraid to express themselves, and I want to show them by my own example that this is not something to be ashamed of. Why? We are who we are, and you will be much happier and healthier if you stay true to yourself and don’t hide. Even if you don’t know who you really are yet, you have to try, do something new, and do it with love and without fear. There is already too much pain and disappointment in life, so you should try to live this life the way you want.
— Angelina, on participating in the Anoeses x KyivPride project
Read Angelina’s full interview at anoeses.com.
As a way of supporting KyivPride and their advocacy and community initiatives, Anoeses will donate 25 percent of the proceeds of the sale of the capsule collection to the NGO. And in support of their home country, the brand donates part of its profit each month to IT Troops UA, a volunteer group that has been funding and supporting the Ukrainian army and providing humanitarian aid during the war.
The capsule collection is available at anoeses.com.
All images and film courtesy of Anoeses.
Edited by Michaela Doyle