Yulia Boozer learned how to sew as a child in Ukraine, making small dresses for her dolls under her mother’s tutelage. Crafting those garments led to a love of fashion and design, but Boozer pushed those things aside after she moved to the United States in 2001 to study computer science. She wouldn’t craft another dress until April 2022, right after Russia invaded her home country.

With the government’s attention turned toward the war, many children in Ukraine’s orphanages—especially those with disabilities—went without food, water, and medical supplies. Boozer immediately began participating in local volunteering efforts, through which she met Olga Funk, a fellow Ukrainian who had moved from Kyiv to Colorado in 2004 and was searching for local organizations sending aid to Ukraine. The duo started a nonprofit dubbed the Nova Spark Foundation to collect money for Ukraine’s orphans. While the majority of the $36,000 they’ve raised so far has come from grants and individual donations, both Boozer and Funk have performed a variety of gigs to boost the nonprofit’s funds, including teaching donation-based fitness classes and hosting benefit concerts.

Boozer also spotted an opportunity to raise money by returning to her childhood passion. The same month she launched Nova Spark, she also founded Yulia Fashion House, a clothing brand specializing in formal wear and intricate handbags whose profits go entirely to the foundation. So far, the label has raised more than $3,000, although Boozer hopes that number will increase since the brand saw a boost in social media attention following her appearance at Denver Fashion Week’s Emerging Designer Challenge in February. The brand could see another uptick when Boozer debuts Yulia’s new line in front of the fashionistas and local boutiques at this month’s Colorado Springs Fashion Week (June 24 through 29), which is expanding to six shows after selling out last year’s inaugural event. “Venturing into the fashion industry is a completely new experience for me,” Boozer says. “It’s been incredibly fulfilling to use it as a platform for social impact.”

Each Yulia garment for Colorado Springs Fashion Week will feature flowers important to Ukrainian culture and embody themes of rebirth. Boozer will also collaborate on some of the designs with her mother, who now lives in Texas. Working together brings Boozer right back to those days of playing with dolls. “Despite the long hours and hard work, we fill our time with laughter, jokes, and conversations,” she says, but the visits are more than good times. The stories they share of their homeland find their way into Yulia’s ornate skirts and satin dresses so that they can be shared with others.

This article was originally published in 5280 June 2024.
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara is one of 5280's assistant editors and writes stories for 5280 and 5280.com.