Yevhen Medvedkov

My name is Yevhen Medvedkov (*2001), I came from Ukraine to Belgium 6 months ago with a friend. I have a bachelor’s degree in socio-political and marketing research, and after some extra courses on web-design, I have been working as an UX/UI designer for 1,5 years. Before we fled the country my friend (who is a stylist) and I already had plans to start a fashion brand (when we were living in Kiev). However because of the occupation of Donetsk (that has been going on for 8 years), I — like most Ukrainian men my age — was hunted and threatened with arms for forced military recruitment as a soldier by/for the Russian army. I was lucky that I could escape when I was attacked and almost captured once. After a period of hiding for two months, not leaving the house at all, I decided to flee. This was only possible on a complex and dangerous route which led me throughout Russia to get through Georgia, to avoid the frontlines.  
            The Open Design Course gave me the opportunity to start my label and to even express my personal story through it. Under the title ‘Refugee Drop’, we are using second hand clothes that were dropped off for refugees, and upcycle them. During the time when I was hiding, I needed to do something to stay sane. I decided to make one vector drawing per day. These drawings helped me process how I felt at the time. They are clear expressions of the impact the war has on people. One design for instance is a heart broken by bullets, another one called ‘Zombie TV’ is about the violence of propaganda.
            At the Mind- and Makerspace Campus Howest Iturned these drawings into embroidery. (As a graphic designer and web-designer I have experience with vectors but it was my first time using the Bernina-software and machine). Like that I can use my drawings on the clothes. We partially work with velcro, so that our sweaters and shirts are customisable with different illustrations. Each of our items carries our heat-pressed label in the back, which says ‘Refugee Drop. Made in Belgium by Ukrainians. This piece of garment is made to kill you with unbreakable spirit. Anywhere, anytime.’ For this we are using a special font by Ukrainian designers, which is called ‘invasion’. I also made a specific sweater design, where the hoodie is stained and ripped at different places. But it is held together by safety-pins. The message is, that no matter how much the world tries to break you, you are not breaking. A lot of the artists and designers I love are Belgian (Martin Margiela, Raf Simons, Dries Van Noten), so it was very inspiring for me to get to do this work here! There also is a quote, which is very meaningful to me and which I am using in my designs. It is by Eugene Delacroix and says: ‘If I haven’t fought for my country at least I’ll paint for her’.And with that quote in mind, we had the vision that all the money we earn from sales will be donated to support the Ukrainian army. As a first step, we already have an instagram @refugeedrop. Of course, as a web-designer, I might soon create the brand-page and web-shop. However, to realize this as a viable business we would need a lot of additional supporters and employers probably, if I am being realistic.