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Ukraine. Not “the” Ukraine.

CompanyCatherine Rhoades, Gap Inc. bloggerComment


When I heard we were opening a store in Ukraine, my first thought was, “I know nothing about this country except that it’s in Eastern Europe.” To remedy this, I decided to ask my friend Gabriella, who helped open our store in Kiev, a few questions to get the “skinny” on our company's newest market:

1)    What was most surprising to you about Ukraine?
Kiev can be summed up in one word – BEAUTIFUL. But it still feels the effects of the Russian communist regime. Many people talk about this time as if it was a completely different lifetime.

2)    Any culture shocks?
Massive music scene – I mean huge! And they love everything: opera, pop, rap, classical, house and of course, a very healthy dose of early eighties and nineties classics. I don’t think I’ve heard Roxette that much since Pretty Woman was released.

3)    What’s the weather like?
Stunning! It reminds me of summers in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia. 35 degrees Celsius during the day and 31 degrees at 11pm in the evening.

4)    If I was going to travel to Ukraine, what’s a must see or do?
Your first stop should be our store of course ha. Second, I would say, try being a local in Kiev. Buy an ice cream and wander along the beautiful promenades and boulevards. It’s breathtaking!

5)    How do Ukrainians feel about American pastimes (ie. music, television, fashions, sports.)
Ukrainians look to America for inspiration in a lot of ways. For instance, Ukrainian rap incorporates American rap songs. Oh, and Ukrainian American Idol is VERY popular!

6)    What’s trending in Ukraine? Colors? Styles?
I have two words for you. Fur and crystals. Also, Ukrainians tend to align with the European trends such as this summer’s trend of bright and block colors.

7)    What are Ukrainian shoppers like?
Very fashion conscious and stylish. They are avid fashion magazine readers and very knowledgeable of what brands are popular in London and the US. 

8)    What was your biggest challenge with bringing a store to Ukraine?
The store is in a historical district and in one of the most protected buildings. We had to make sure that we maintained all of the historical elements while building.

9)    Tell us a little about the store.
It’s like a grande dame of the high street - sweeping staircases, granite flooring and, just as I arrived, it received a new dress to wear – a fresh coat of the historically approved blue.

10) What’s the “funniest” thing that happened while working on this project? There had to be at least some entertainment ;)
In the final, stress-filled minutes before opening, there were so many languages being spoken – Turkish, Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, English, German (me cursing at the non working air-conditioning) -  that for a second I forgot what country I was in! 

Below are some photos from the launch party and official opening.  Enjoy!