Nenya: From War-Torn Ukraine to UK Success

The Inspiring Journey of Nenya - A Refugees' Fashion Dream.
Fran Watson

The Challenge

The Russo-Ukrainian conflict has affected many lives. When the conflict started we wanted to help.

After donating clothes and other supplies, we still felt like doing more so when Jag Panesar received a call asking for the Xpand team to help a Ukrainian refugee, we jumped at the chance!

Before the war started Yana, had successful fashion and beauty businesses in Ukraine. In February 2022 she woke up to the sound of explosions and had only 15 minutes to pack her belongings and leave. After a long journey through Europe, she made it to Yorkshire.

Yana wanted to relaunch her business here in the UK to support herself and the Ukrainian economy. 

“Donating money and supplies was something that everyone was doing, which was the most urgent requirement at that time. I said to my team that I really wanted to help in a way that utilises our expertise so when I was introduced to Yana, it was a perfect match. I barely even had to think about it.”

Jag Panesar, MD of Xpand

With a team already behind her to support the new business, Xpand were ready to jump on board with marketing support. With the help of Claire Strachan for PR, Antonia Kinlan as Yana’s business mentor, Perrin Read and Lincoln Roth for photography, branding from Rupert Cooke and video from James Mellor of Rainbow Trout Film, Yana was ready to start her business.


We helped Yana with: 

  • Initial discovery to understand her goals and primary challenges
  • Creating and implementing an organic social media strategy to lay the foundations for her brand Nenya
  • Giving Yana business advice from experience

We met Yana to discuss how we could help. 

We provided social media management and support to grow the brand and lay the foundations for Yana to carry on independently. After the initial discussion, Nenya was born.

A luxury sustainable fashion brand that would help support the Ukrainian economy and designers. 

“Nenya reflects the essence of the project – helping my country and its people. In the centre of Kyiv there is a beautiful monument to the Motherland, which serves as a symbol of beauty, independence, freedom and strength of our Ukrainian spirit. It is especially important at this terrible time for the entire Ukrainian people.”

Yana Smaglo, Founder of Nenya

It was important that Yana had a clear understanding of Nenya’s audience here in the UK. Which meant we started off with thoroughly researching the target audience for the brand. 

This involved diving deep into who they are, where to find them and what kind of content they interact with. We used this research to create  several audience personas which would help us and Yana to speak directly to her target customer by delivering the right messages, offers, and products at the right time.

We then created  Nenya’s content pillars for the social media channels. These are a set of themes or topics that your brand can use to create posts. They’re excellent in helping you create relevant and consistent content for your audience. We then set up and optimised all relevant social media channels for the brand to go live!

We continued to fully manage the social media channels and built a loyal community for Nenya, for three months, after which Yana took over.

We also helped in several other aspects such as:

  • Giving website advice for Nenya’s Shopify site
  • Business advice from Jag throughout the process to help Nenya grow
  • LinkedIn training from Matt 

With help from the team, the Nenya brand started to grow! From PR pieces in Yorkshire Business to being featured on BBC Look North, Yana’s story was spreading.

In November 2022, Yana was able to open Nenya’s first pop-up shop in Victoria Gate in Leeds with the help of SOOK. SOOK help provide customisable spaces that suit a brand’s needs. John Hoyle the founder of SOOK provided Nenya with a space to showcase the luxury clothing range in Leeds. 

With an effective marketing strategy in place, the news outlets were starting to take note of the determined refugee. Resulting in a busy opening day of the pop-up shop with new customers and the BBC Look North coming to interview Yana, it was a hectic day!


We’re proud to have been able to support Yana and lay the foundations of success for her business. Not only have we watched Nenya grow but also Yana has taken great strides. Only being able to speak little English when first arriving here to now running her own fashion business, Yana is a force to be reckoned with!