It’s not easy these days to manufacture wedding dresses in Ukraine, but Ilona and Artur Shramko are doing just that while expanding their company’s U.S. presence with a new showroom/store in Beverly Hills.
This is the second U.S. showroom for Woná Concept, a company founded in Lviv in 2009. The first U.S. showroom opened in 2019 at 123 Fifth Avenue in New York City.
In the last 14 years, the company has gone from a small bridal shop started by Artur’s parents to a major wedding and eveningwear company that manufactures almost all its dresses in Lviv. Some 200 workers spend anywhere from 10 hours to 40 hours to sew and hand-finish each of the more than 10,000 gowns manufactured there every year. The dresses sell from $5,000 to $12,000, reaching bridal shops and stores in 75 countries through a business-to-business sales model.
“Our New York showroom is doing well, and we decided to do another showroom in Beverly Hills,” said Ilona Shramko, who planned to be in town for the showroom’s Friday evening opening with a guest appearance by model and actor Olivia Culpo, a former Miss Universe.
Shramko and her crew felt the Los Angeles area was the ideal spot for a second showroom because of the entertainment industry’s presence in town. It is a region where celebrities and movie industry executives attend a host of red-carpet events and parties requiring special-occasion dresses or eveningwear, a category Shramko would like to expand. “We have big plans for our evening collection,” she said, noting the company will be employing more influencers and celebrities to promote that category, which makes up about 30 percent of sales.
The new showroom at 8600 Wilshire Boulevard is a study in clean, simple colors. The walls are white, the furniture is off-white, and the marble tables are light beige. On one wall is an artistic rendering of a bride wearing a Woná Concept wedding dress with touches of lace and beads embedded into the plaster work created by Ukrainian artist Yana Litus, who lives in Canada. Two large dressing rooms in the back give soon-to-be brides an opportunity to try on several gowns, which can be viewed in large wall-size mirrors. Out front, there is an area for friends and family to sit on couches and watch an informal fashion show.
Shramko, who is in charge of marketing and design even though she has a degree in economy, said lace is one of her favorite materials to work with, and she has trademarked her very own custom lace patterns.
Touches of lace were seen in the veil that Woná Concept designed for the May wedding of Sophie Evekink to Prince Ludwig of Bavaria. The soon-to-be princess asked the Ukrainian company to make her a special floor-length wedding veil that was hand-embroidered with a maple leaf, tulip and lion designs to symbolize her Dutch-Canadian heritage and the German royal family. The princess also asked Woná Concept to design a second wedding gown in pastel blue she wore later to the wedding party. It was the princess’s way of supporting Ukraine during the Russian invasion, Shramko said.
That Ukraine-Russia war has forced Woná Concept to open a smaller second factory in Rzeszów, Poland, a little more than 100 miles from Lviv, just to make sure production is not disrupted. Ten specialists were transferred from Lviv to train the 50 workers employed there now.
Ilona Shramko and her two children are also living in Poland while her husband remains in Lviv, a city that at the beginning of the conflict was a refugee point for residents living in eastern Ukraine. But Lviv has now come under attack by the Russian army.
Despite the war, Woná Concept is determined to see its brand reach new dimensions. On Sept. 1, at the Venice International Film Festival, a Woná Concept custom gown was to be worn by German fashion influencer Leonie Hanne.