VOICING EQUALITY WITH FASHION DESIGN - WeBalkans | EU Projects in the Western Balkans

VOICING EQUALITY WITH FASHION DESIGN

A fashion designer from North Macedonia reflects punk philosophy in her designs

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Teodora began listening to punk music when she was 14. “Before that I was an ordinary child, I had Barbie dolls and my room was painted pink. Everything was super girly,” she says, remembering the kinds of clothes she would sew for her Barbies. She explains that she grew up with a lot of love and care from her parents in an almost ideal childhood. But as a teenager she became rebellious.

How to find punk style in Skopje?

As Teodora moved from pink to punk, she wanted to dress accordingly. However, her hometown – Skopje – did not have any shops that sold punk-style clothes. She explains, “I knew some kids whose parents had been into punk when they were young so they would wear their parents’ old clothes. I was not in that position so I started to design and sew my own punk clothes.”

Back then Teodora didn’t know that this would be the beginning of her own fashion brand and her career in design. It was later that she decided to study fashion design and chose to go to London where punk culture had begun. While she was there, she developed her designs. “Punk, to me, has always been about just letting go of what society thinks and being free,” she says, and Teodora’s creations reflect that by using unconventional materials and mixing gender norms.

“I knew some kids whose parents had been into punk when they were young so they would wear their parents’ old clothes. I was not in that position so I started to design and sew my own punk clothes.”

When she graduated from Middlesex University in London, Teodora began looking for ways to get into the fashion market by promoting and selling her own brand. She knew that having a unique brand may be a blessing, but it also comes with challenges — it was a struggle to find a place in the market alongside mainstream brands. She was only 21 and opportunities were scarce but Fashion Weekend Skopje, an NGO from her hometown, invited her to showcase her work at Riga Fashion Week and later at Lisbon Fashion Week.

“I could not believe that this was happening! Sveta from Fashion Weekend Skopje had heard that I had graduated, and had my graduation collection ready. She called me and said that I would be a good candidate to represent North Macedonia in these shows. I was thrilled,” Teodora smiles.

Along with partners from Belgium, France, Germany, Latvia, and Portugal, Fashion Weekend Skopje had launched a project called United Fashion, funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. The project helps young designers promote their work, learn new skills in marketing fashion and make connections with colleagues and fashion companies across Europe.

Learning the basics

Teodora says she saw this as a great opportunity to learn the practicalities of the fashion industry. “I wanted to learn how you prepare for a fashion show, how you do hair and make-up or how models rehearse.”

In both Lisbon and Riga, Teodora also participated in workshops and seminars with guest speakers discussing production and collaboration opportunities, sustainability of brands, and marketing strategies. Nevertheless, she realises that it was “the mingling that we had in cocktail parties where I got to chat with particular manufacturers and understand how the industry really works” that helped her most.

“Punk, to me, has always been about just letting go of what society thinks and being free”

Making punk big

Teodora currently works as a graduate academic assistant at Middlesex University. She is still actively promoting her brand, using all that she has learned, and aims to become a designer who is well-known in Europe and beyond. “I have this feeling that I can do something really big. It sounds like a cliché, but I firmly believe that one day I am going to be big,” she says.

Photo Credits: Teodora Mitrovska