Last weekend I had the utmost pleasure of making my first trip to Slovenia, to charming Maribor, a town along the Drava River to attend Projekt Radar, a three day fashion and art event organized by Projekt27, a digital platform for all things fashion in Slovenia (and beyond). Radar invited designers and fashion labels from Slovenia, Croatia, Belgrade, Macedonia and the U.K. with Slovenian origin to showcase their work alongside magazines of the region and a photographic/video installation.
I want to pause before I launch into the fashion of the place and take a moment to wax poetic about my kind hosts: I have hardly felt a warmer reception in any of the many cities I've visited over the trots afforded me by this blogventure. I truly felt that I was not stepping into a fashion event/show/soiree (sure, there was champagne), but in and amongst a family where everyone knows each other and supports one another with a smile and a cigarette. The organisers, a lovely couple whom I will be interviewing soon so watch this space, Barbara Žnidar and Sašo Radovic who run Projekt27 and have been Slovenia's fashion pioneers for 20 years now, could not have been sweeter and the folk from British Council Slovenia were also as good to me as gold and better (that means YOU, Tina).
The event was curated in a few different ways, showcasing fashion both live and static as well as in dialogue form. 22 young designers from the region created one-off looks all in white to be displayed with the "birth dates" of the garments (be it the century from whence came the inspiration of the look, past, present or future, or some other fixed point in time significant to the designer and his or her creative process). The idea was to negate the commercial specifications of seasons and literally present each designer with a "blank canvas" to project onto.
I particularly loved the curation of the conceptual exhibition, as it's always interesting to watch creatives reign in their vision according to a specific brief, especially one stripped to simplicity such as this. It seemed to me, by eliminating the questions of colour and print, what shone though was how the designers commanded their materials and executed their designs at the level of pattern and technique, in a word "innovation" without all the bells and whistles.
A strong ethos of tailoring and intricate treatment of material emerged, as my favourite pieces were mostly jackets including one woven from strips of polyester lining to resemble a creation which Martin Margiela would envy, a down coat crafted from translucent plastic so that its feathered-innards could be seen, and an a sculptural cotton ball dress complete with peplum skirt (a red-wine disaster waiting to happen--spill and soak, so to speak).
Bag designer (and super chic extraordinaire--so kind, too, she and Barbara gifted me one of her wonderful creations!) Marjeta Grošelj displayed a trio of white handbags illuminated from the inside so that light streamed from the wicker-woven detailing of the bags, creating intricate shadow-play and giving them the statuesque aura of contemporary interior pieces or even art.
The exhibition, named after a day of opening, 01-06-2012 included the following fashion designers: Peter Movrin, Ivan Rocco, Petja Zorec, Nena Florjancic, Ana Jelinic, Andela Lukanovic, Katja Magister, Sanija Reja, Dajana Ljubicic, Spela Hvale, Jelena in Svetlana Prokovic , JSP, Natasa Persuh, Zoran Garevski, Maja Mehle, Natasa Hrupic, Nika Urbas, Maria Moderna, Matevz Faganel, Alenka Globočnik, Akultura, Nika Ravnik, NiOka, Aleksandra Brlan, Marjeta Groselj and Ana Lazovsk.
The weekend also included several "round table" style discussions, interviews led by Slovenian fashion journalist (and super chic sweetheart) Danaja Vegelj with assorted folk including myself, Belgrade Fashion Week organiser and FAAR Magazine editor Nenad Radujevic, Emil Rebek the Fashion Director of L’Officiel Hommes Italia and Koji Tatsuno, the Japanese-born-formerly-London-based designer who now abodes humbly in cherie Paris.
Koji was remarkably kind and down to earth for a man of his talent and experience, his talk far more interesting than mine as he spoke without pretense about his own career as well as those of the designers who mentored him (one Yohji Yamamoto) and whom he has mentored (one, ahem, Lee McQueen). But above all, he stressed to the new generation that we need to find our "own way," just as his did back in the glory days of Portobello Road. He also pointed out that you never know who your friends may turn out to be (one of his long-time bffs is Kate Moss), and emphasized that there is much to be gained by existing in creative cooperatives and harmony with your friends. Party together today, rule the world together tomorrow, we don't always have to be looking out for ourselves and ourselves alone.
It was such a wonderful experience having the chance to listen to and speak with one of the revered names mentioned in the pages of my book, it's one of those things you just never think will happen. But happen it did, and in a small riverside town in Slovenia near the Austrian border, no less. Stranger things I suppose, have happened in fashion. Koji also exhibited a selection of his archive couture pieces dating back to the 1990's, the final chance said garments will be on display to the public as the entire collection has been scooped up by the Costume Institute in Tokyo.
The third main component of the weekend was a live presentation of select designers from Slovenia and neighboring countries, where each designer showed four looks in two installments per day, a discussion of which I'll be bringing you in more detail in another post. The town of Maribor may be sleepy, but the Slovenian fash pack converging on Projekt Radar that weekend most certainly was not...