Defying war, Ukrainian entrepreneurs bring wedding dresses to the world

Defying war, Ukrainian entrepreneurs bring wedding dresses to the world

Chernivtsi Oblast company Innocentia is an inspiring success story of a Ukrainian export-oriented business. In just 10 years, the company has grown from a small start-up making wedding dresses by subcontracting the services of other sewing factories, to setting up a full-scale global export business.

Today, its branded products are exported to 40 countries around the world – from Europe to the Americas and Asia.

Helped to survive

But Innocentia has had to struggle to achieve its breakthrough into foreign markets: Russia’s full-scale invasion and war on Ukraine almost destroyed everything that its two Ukrainian founders – Oleksandr Hryhorenko and Oleh Bovkun – had built up for years.

Even before 24 February 2022, when Russian missiles began raining down across the whole of Ukraine, there had been problems – an acute labour shortage in the entire Bukovyna region, the western area of the country where Chernivtsi is located, which is renowned for its sewing industry.

But when the full-scale Russian invasion began, the labour problems got dramatically worse, as seamstresses fled the country in the first few days of the war to take their children to safety. Then the blackouts in the fall and winter of 2022, caused by Russia’s campaign of mass missile attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure, worsened the situation still more.

“Logistics turned into the biggest challenge for us,” says Hryhorenko, the head and co-owner of the company.

“We were completely unable to purchase fabrics from our foreign suppliers. Moreover, the delivery of finished products to foreign customers was no easier.”

Luckily, the company was supported by its clients during this difficult period. Many of the customer salons that had already made advance payments for dresses that had not yet been produced did not demand a refund, but instead “gifted” them to the company.

Still, this could not solve the key problems – sourcing materials, and getting finished products to market.

But Innocentia’s co-owners had no thoughts of giving up. They searched for new logistical opportunities, and began to look at domestic fabric manufacturers more closely. And despite all their troubles, they were able to take part in the 2022 wedding industry exhibition in Barcelona. Even there the company obtained support and understanding: The exhibition organizers provided space to all participants from Ukraine free of charge.

Global brand

The company has gradually succeeded in optimizing its supply chains. Delivery of orders are now made by plane to customers through the neighbouring EU countries. Meanwhile, in Ukraine the company has managed to find manufacturers of high-quality lace fabrics, thus reducing the share of imports in its raw materials supply chain.

By October 2023, Innocentia was able to resume its work with a full staff. Furthermore, it even began to expand – another workshop was opened in Vinnytsia, 300 kilometres from Chernivtsi.

“Now we’re lacking production capacity rather than orders,” Hryhorenko says. “We’re constantly working on new ideas, updating our production.”

All the same, even despite solving its immediate problems, the company was being suffocated by a serious shortage of working capital. But help came through Innocentia’s participation in the EU4Business: Recovery, Competitiveness and Internationalization of SMEs grant programme. Through it, Innocentia received badly needed funding, which it immediately used to purchase fabrics from domestic manufacturers, pay for renting production premises, and pay employees. This helped the company create 13 new jobs, increase its production capacity, and improve the overall financial condition of the enterprise.

Innocentia is now continuing to develop, and has ambitious plans to make its brand a wedding fashion leader. Its exclusive wedding dresses are in demand all over the world, and the company has already managed to get back to its pre-war manufacturing levels. This year it aims to increase its output volume by 20%.

“Participating in the (EU4Business) grant programme was very important, both for our company and for me personally,” says Hryhorenko. “It not only provided financial assistance, but also demonstrated solidarity and faith in our future.”

“I’m sincerely grateful for this support, as it gave us the resources necessary to overcome challenges and develop our business.”


The EU4Business: Recovery, Competitiveness and Internationalization of SMEs international cooperation programme is jointly funded by the European Union and the German government, and is implemented by the German federal overseas development company Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. The NGO “Foundation for the Support of Reforms in Ukraine” is its implementing partner. The programme is aimed at supporting the economic stability, recovery, and growth of Ukraine, while creating better conditions for the development of Ukraine’s small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as supporting innovation and exports.

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