27 February, 2011

A birth of an industry.

As you already know from my previous blog posts, I have moved back to Croatia about two years ago. Ever since, I have been curiously following how local fashion industry and designers function. All that I have seen was three separate fashion weeks – each pushing their own agenda, waking up couple of months before their event and falling asleep day after.  Basically, they functioned as an entertainment event organizing agency – without clear goal for the participating designer’s promotion or the clear plans for projects future, which consequently disabled them from attracting sponsors.

For the remaining of the year – designers “belonging” to each of the respective events attempt to earn some money by selling mostly not wearable and rather impractical pieces, which are often overpriced and not of a  particularly good quality. While others, who are the true and proven talents (based on their customer base and yearly earnings), have good quality, wearable pieces, and competitive prices and are actual media & customer magnets – act as drivers of the mentioned events, but do not get much out of the whole ordeal – as real industry buyers are not in attendance and showing their collections on these events gives them temporary PR exposure but rarely new customers.

However if the international buyers were in attendance, even the talented few designers, who have potential to have their collections ordered – do not have a production capacity to support an order of an even a small to medium clothing chains.

What have changed with existence of this new project – Fashion.hr Industry?

This year Fashion.hr group consisting out of: fashion portal, PR-marketing agency, organization team for three fashion events per year and trade show – Fashion.hr Industrija following each of the events (SS, FW & resort) have announced that they are attacking the root of the problem of local fashion industry with the industry motivating project objective of which is to connect all the dots – manufacturing & production – design – presentation (via shows) – PR/marketing and most importantly – sales & international exposure via bringing international buyers to local trade show. Project was named – Fashion.hr Industrija.

The idea and theory behind it is just what local industry needed which is why I am really proud and supportive of this young team. So big thumbs up!  However, when I have seen the start of the project execution, I had some doubts.

Partnering with local chamber of commerce, selected local clothing company production factories and selecting a decent pool of talented young designers to sign a yearlong contracts and produce capsule collections for mentioned clothing companies, were all good moves.

On the other side, many things stayed undefined and unclear.

For example, I think that it was not a good idea to have both fashion.hr fashion shows and trade show fashion.hr Industrija to run in parallel due to limited capacity of production team as well as designers who will be present for both, this way quality of the events might suffer.

In addition, it hasn’t been defined which and if any real fashion buyers will actually attend, will this trade show showcase the upcoming  Fall/Winter 11’. collections or a combination of the SS and FW 11’? Will regular consumers be able to attend and purchase the pieces they see on the spot?  What will happen if the buyers make orders from designers who did not sign contracts with local production factories as part of Fashion.hr Industrija project?

All in all, this move is definitely a good move and a move forward for Croatian fashion industry. It will motivate a natural selection among the designers collection, it will give designers insight into what market demand is and it will most definitely make them be more realistic in pricing. In spite of the fact that not all details are clear and polished, I really hope that from the first time around this project will be a success and that strong foundation will be built for upcoming fashion talents, local textile industry will be awaken and more jobs will be open for industry professionals in the future.


22 February, 2011

Bubble gum fun!

Model: Iva Šulentić
Photographer: Goran Čižmešija for www.moda.hr 
Styling: Lei Lou

As part of the campaign of choosing an Always brand ambassador, 
Photo shoot was organized where styling was done by Lei Lou.
My favorite piece was this super popular versatile double sided top - bading suite -skirt. An absolute cruise collection favorite!
Here is how you all can wear it! 
(instructions are on Croatian language)

Here is how I wore this top during last Milan Fashion Week's site seeing in between the shows.

I can already see ladies who enjoy yachting wearing them day to night when coming down of their yachts into the city :) I recommend the nude - charamel one which I have or pink - nude one as Iva is wearing on the picture shown above.

Disclaimer: Always is one of P&G brands. I work for P&G and Alex is my friend therefor I am biased writing this post. Still, I have this top, I wear it and I trully find this top amazing!

Enjoy lovelies! 

21 February, 2011

Designer quicky: Lei Lou by Aleksandra Dojčinović

After a couple of designer quickies I did with amazing UK and US designers. I have decided to do one with a friend I trully admire and who's amazing growth I continue to follow. Alex provided me with some exclusive photos for this inteview. 
So thank you Alex. :)

How did you come up with the name for your brand - Lei Lou?

What is your plan for your brand's growth? 

It all happened spontaneously. I was talking to my graphic designer about the invitations we were preparing for my show at the Drake hotel  in Chicago, we urgently needed to have the name for the brand of clothes I am making cause I was about the travel to Chicago in 2-3 days. During our phone call after a short brainstorming session we just came up with the Lei Lou.

My plan is to continue to work hard, to anticipate the future trends and think about staying true to my vision for the brand. It is rather hard to plan to much ahead in such volatile economy as we have it today.

You have opened the showroom recently in the very center of the city in Zagreb, when do you plan to have official opening and how big of a risk is it to invest in your own space these days?

I actually find this time of economic downturn to be the best time to build strong milestones for my brand. I always invest the capital I already earned, I have no debt, no loans - this helps me stay careless, have more freedom and to be more creative.

Although, all the people who visited me so far loved the showroom space, the venue itself was not my first priority. I dedicate most of my time and energy to having a strong production, I am following and using services of many small local production companies and I am fairly certain that there is no other Croatian designer who can compete with me in this regard.

How long did it take you and how did you build your customer base?

Two things: good quality product and social intelligence. You have to have both to be able to sell.

Did education you got in Croatian fashion designer school prepare you to build and maintain a successful business on your own?

No, nothing can prepare you for this. I was always focused on working hand in hand with my tailors, my customers and my suppliers, consulting and creating with them together. Most important thing for conducting a good business is to have a good entrepreneurial intuition and to work extremely hard - there is no room for theory.

I remember when I made my first dress shirt when I was 15. It became a huge hit among my girlfriends. When I brought it to school I got an F. Teacher said it is awful and that I should take it back home because she can't even look at it. I said I will most definitely take it home, sell it and buy myself a Gucci perfume. :)

In comparison to some other Croatian designers - you sell a fairly large quantity of pieces a year. How much time do you have to be creative versus what you spend on administrative work of your business?

Creativity is not something that comes in waves, you got it or you don't. I think I have this intuition of what my customer wants in the conditions and within a price point I am creating in. I am very hyper person; I get bored with a single task fast so I am happy when I have a lot on my plate.

Your style is very shabby chic meets French romantic chic, it is at the same time gentle and elegant but also very realistic, economical, strong and wearable in multiple ways and styles. You said you don't care about doing mass production and you prefer personal approach and making custom pieces for each of your customers. Do you think this approach is sustainable long-term as your brand grows?

You are right. Custom clothes making slows down the production 5 to 50 times even. I know these numbers are mind blowing and limiting - but they are true. My current approach is tailored based on local (Croatian) market needs; of course I will adjust and change it when demand increases. I will be ready. I think that the worst that can happen it to create opportunities for such demand and not be ready for it with production possibilities.

What part of your total annual sales comes from within the country and what from the rest of the world? What are the differences in demand? What to US boutiques order more off and by which prices?

Currently, most of my annual sales come from within Croatia. However, by the end of this year I will be ready to produce quantities requested by small regional showrooms as well. I have my agent, strong brand visual identity and well organized production. I have a very well developed plan and know what I need to do in upcoming period to make my brand a success.

Have you negotiated selling your collections to any international showrooms?

Of course, I know I have a good quality product, I am still thinking over my pricing strategy and how to further improve my brand. I am already doing a collections for small stores and boutiques, I love doing this! I love the whole ordeal - collection ordering, brainstorming together about how it should look like, price negotiations, production organization and at the end - that final AHA moment when everything is done just the way we envisioned it to be! I can't wait!

Your sincere passion and dedication to each individual customer is obvious, do you ever get tired? How do you relax and what inspires you from one collection to the next?

I get tired. Last year I sold hundreds of pieces of clothing and accessories. Imagine - I know each of my customers name, measurements, their style, favorite colors, some became my close friends. I am amazed how many fabulous people there are in Zagreb.

When I get to tired I simply turn of my phones and disappear for a day - I go somewhere and recharge.

Inspiration? I look for the essence of the pieces I am making. Sometimes I catch myself thinking like some geek physic, numbers are swirling in my head, I am looking for purpose, each piece for me is a small intellectual solution, and there is more in it than merely a need to impress.

What is the message behind your new visual?

The message this visual is trying to portray is that I approach all my customers with the same respect and importance. I don't cater to celebrities. Each of my customers is equally celebrity to me.


14 February, 2011

Red passionista!

There is something truly magical about the red dress, the same as with red lipstick. It demands attention, its erotic, its romantic, its seductive and passionate and you just can't take your eyes of of it! So for all of you madly in love with your boyfriend, girlfriend, new pair of shoes or maybe that new red dress which is totally IN this season, I have selected a number of my favorite Vogue red dresses to encourage you to go for it! Every women should have a red piece in her closet! Not for her man - for herself ;)

“Timeless” Vogue Italia, December 2005
photographer: Tim Walker ,model: Hannelore Knuts

From 1954 Vogue

Liu Wen, Vogue, China, 2009.

Mario Testino, stylist LUCINDA Chambers, model Lara Stone
Vogue UK

“Red & Red” , Vogue Italia, August 1995
photographer: Walter Chin, Stella Tennant

Aishwarya Rai for Vogue India

I hope you all are wearing something red today, at least some lacy underwear. Being in relationship or single it automatically gives you that feeling of naughtiness and attraction all sometimes crave to have - today is the perfect day to bring it out! ;)

"I had on a beautiful red dress, but what I saw was even more valuable. 
I was strong. I was pure. I had genuine thoughts inside that no one could see, 
that no one could ever take away from me. I was like the wind. "


13 February, 2011

Designer quicky:Vjera Vilicnik - the fairy with the hands of gold

I am so happy to learn about this amazing young lady. Vjera's resume embellished with masters in fashion design from Italian school of Design, Instituto Marangoni - the incubator of fashion talent and degree from haute couture embroidery school Ecole Lesage, the last remaining house of haute couture embroidery dating from 19th century which collaborates with fashion institutions like Dior, Chanel and Lacroix on their couture collections, as well as her experience working with labels like: Julia SmithAbercrombie&Fitch, Meeting, Basso&BrookeSaint Hill Couture, Roksanda Ilincic, Max Mara, Tom Ford and WGSN differentiates her from many other fashion spotlight hopefuls.

My first impression of Vjera was "Gosh her name suits her so well!" and my second was "Gosh her pieces are so gentle, classic, delicate and dreamy." 

Vjera started her label back in July,2010. in pursuit of a  constant quest for more beautiful, more intricate garments that are unique yet timeless. She treats every piece of her clothing as a precious part of the overall story creating beautifully hand crafted, meticulously finished and soul stitched wearable timeless pieces each embellished with a tad of couture.

Vjera Vilicnik seems to create with free spirited, happy, elegant, very feminine and soft but confident women in mind. As she saids: " The woman in my mind, my muse, is a woman full of contradictions, but they are not really opposed to each other." Read more here.

Vjera took time and was kind enough to answer couple of my questions:

Were you ever approached by any of the organizers of fashion events in Croatia and would you ever consider showing your collection on any of them?

 Croatian fashion scene is still new to me, and since I was a part of fashion studies in London, I fell much more at home here. I would of course love to show in Croatia too, but for now time doesn't let me focus more on that idea. I recently gave an interview to Fashion.hr so there is a chance there will be collaboration with them.

Where do you sell your clothes? Do you have a showroom,do you sell online or via multibrand boutiques?

I have an online shop as part of the website, and you can see the pieces at The Showroom, just of Marble Arch, London, which is a part of FASHIONCAPITAL.CO.UK, an organisation that helped me to with the start. I would love to have my own little boutique but that is something for the future.

Brandalley.co.uk and Brandalley.fr have had competition for young designers and I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the winners, both with LBD and Perfect Blouse project, and so for a certain period of time you could buy the pieces on their websites too.

Are you ever planing to go towards mass production or would you prefer to have a smaller more exclusive stores in selected locations?

Because of the haute couture embroidery in my pieces, it is impossible to direct it toward mass market. The pieces sometimes take few days to finish, which of course, suits a smaller range. I would love to have the collection in a few selected stores, and keep the pieces unique and long lasting in making and quality as they are now.

What are the demographics of your customers?

The customer that wears Vjera Vilicnik, is a women full of contradictions, but they are no contradictions at all. She is a work force, and a gentle lover, she is a loving mother and she dances the night away. She is between the ages of 25-40, in search for something unique, long lasting, and classical with a twist, something that she can express herself with.

Do you have a "signature piece" and would you please indicate a price range of your pieces?

The signature piece is the carnation waistcoat. It is fully covered with handmade silk chiffon roses in shape of carnation flower, and for this season it is mixed with fine woollen balls for a more dramatic effect and mix of textures. It takes days to finish and hand stitch but it is also my favourite piece. The prices range from £80 for a simple t-shirts, go to £150 for short dresses and then climb to around £400 for long dresses or embellished pieces.

Please do visit Vjera's website to buy her clothes or view her collections at http://www.vjeravilicnik.com or her facebook fan page.

Vjera will show her latest collection at the Charing Cross hotel, Strand, London on Saturday 19th February 2011 as part of LGN Events off-schedule London Fashion Week catwalk show - A LA MODE. 

"God gave women intuition and femininity. Used properly, the combination easily jumbles the brain of any man I've ever met. "
Farrah Fawcett 


Aware: Art Fashion Identity

For the last couple of weeks I am catching up with puting up my posts, as you know I am a Procteroid and my day job took most of my energy during last couple of weeks. But this is something I definitely wanted to share with you. During my stay in London I went to visit the exibition "Aware: Art Fashion Identity" at the Royal Academy of Arts.

I was most impressed with Hussein Chalayan's ‘Son’ of Sonzai Suru, 2010 who cooperated London College of Fashion students on instaling this construction. I choose to write about this as it connects my key interests - fashion & technology. Sitting by this installation was at the first glance creepy due to "ghosty" movement of the dress and how real the ninjas looked.

 You can watch this creation's instalation process video here.

In this installation Chalayan uses Bunraku theatre, a traditional form of Japanese puppet theatre, to examine the manipulative element of the fashion industry. The beauty of the dress is evident, but the controlling figures around it invite us to consider how our perception of the value of fashion is managed by its presentation. The piece demonstrates Chalayan’s ease in bringing together different cultures and creative disciplines.

I also loved the Yoko Ono's video performance piece where people were invited to one by one cut a piece of her clothing of of her.

Yoko Ono first performed this piece in Japan in 1964. She sits motionless on a stage while the public are invited to cut her clothing. Closely in tune with the second-wave feminist movement that began in the 1960s, the work explores women’s emancipation from constraints on their identity represented by clothing and encourages respect for the female body. Ultimately, it also suggests the value of nakedness as an expression of identity in its purest form.
Lastly, I apsolutely loved the Susie MacMurray Widow feminine but up close aggresive widow dress made of leather and needles.

The elegance and feminine beauty of this dress is seductive, but on closer examination the aggression of its form becomes clear. Pins have strong associations with female craft, as well as connotations of pain. The leather replaces traditional dress fabric and represents skin, which is both sensitive and protective. Based on the human (and in this case female) reaction to grief, the work articulates the isolation that such an experience can bring about, how such extreme emotion can cause someone to repel the empathy or intimacy of others.

"I saw that nothing was permanent. 
You don't want to possess anything that is dear to you because you might lose it. "


10 February, 2011

US Vogue editorial: Gagastic!

Photo Credit: Mario Testino  
Fashion Credit: Haider Ackermann
Source: Vogue.com

Much anticipated Lady Gaga's US Vogue cover is out! I can't wait to get my hands on the printed copy! Not at all what I expected - its even better!

"Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. 
If you're wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn't love you anymore." 


09 February, 2011

Editorial: I hate Valentines day but I love me!

Dress by Lei Lou, Alex Dojčinović (order via email by clicking on the right)

Don't we all so loveeee Valentines day - NOT! It became sooo commercialized that we tend to feel the same pressure as we do when we are invited to B-day party of somebody we don't know that well or even worse when a frenemie invites us to his/her birthday, wedding or graduation party and we need to buy them something…in a heart shape..and red. Chocolate maybe. So cliché.

Let’s be honest, what we really want to do for Valentine’s day is to have some extra spicy night with our boyfriend, husband or f-buddy and have an excuse to buy ourselves a new (this season really hot) red dress, some fancy underwear and some dangerous heels, to be taken out to a fancy dinner by a super hot man with an 8pack, gorgeous smile, wearing crisp Armani suite & telling us how gorgeous we look in this red dress and super hot heels ahhh blaaa blaaa… and if we are single we just are annoyed by all the mushiness of this commercial love holiday but we still use it as an excuse for fabulous shopping & a steemy night in…or out ;)

Dress by Anamarija Asanović

Outfit by Elfs

Editorial & styling by: www.moda.hr 
Photographer: Goran Čižmešija
Model:Mirjana Knežević

Here it is to: I love me for Valentine’s!
Cheers lovelies! 

"I don't understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine's Day.  
When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short,
 chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon."

"If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?"


02 February, 2011

I SPY: London.

     Last week I spend a few days in London. Other then meeting with Mr. Louis De Gama, a friend and one of my favorite fashion designers for a lovely dinner & a beer (yes I tried a beer first time in my life - didn't like it, I prefer wine) I also had time to go to Portobello market on Saturday morning & visit some other important places like Harrods & other Oxford street stores ;).

My co traveler diva & a friend Antonija was understanding enough to deal with my constant nagging about how cold I was and stopping by every single vintage shop (and mind you there are many) to try out & go through piles of fabulous clothes, furs and purses "with a soul" how I like to refer to vintage clothes.

I was mesmerized with the amount of fabulosity of my vintage finds but also shocked with their prices (almost the same as regular retail). I guess there are other vintage places to visit and find more affordable vintage pieces like I know there are in NYC, but seems like I am more familiar with the City's vintage shopping scene then I am with London's - for now. 

I tried to photo capture the fabulosity I was surrounded with to share it with you. 

Enjoy lovelies :)