I had the pleasure of knowing Mihaela Markovic when I was in Nottingham for my Master’s degree. Mihaela is a Fashion Knitwear Designer from Croatia and it is evident from our very first meeting that she is very passionate in everything she does. She strives for the longevity of clothes and sustainability in fashion, and is dedicated to developing knitwear production in her homeland.
When did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer?
Since I was a little girl. Back in the day we had those scrapbooks in elementary school, with different questions we had to fill in for each other. Questions like who is your favourite singer/actor and what do you wanna be when you grow up. My friends wanted to be astronauts, pilots or actresses, me, I always wanted to be a fashion designer.
I was pretty fortunate to be able to see some of your work last year in Nottingham. What has changed since then?
Well, since our joint MA exhibition I’ve graduated, moved back to Croatia, started my own company. Already during my MA I did a lot of planning for the future. I completed an entrepreneurship course at The Hive which helped me a lot to stay focused and go through with it.
Can you tell us about your business?
I started with the space – working environment is extremely important to me. So I set up my own atelier with a little office and a workshop/stock space. For now I have no employees, but all the work I can’t do myself I outsource. For example, the industrial knitting – I don’t have the equipment for knitwear production yet, so I collaborate with a local factory. The hand knitted pieces are made by me, which is a smaller part of the collection.
How did you know that this was the right time to launch your own brand?
You never know, haha.. I guess coming from an entreprenurial family influenced me a lot- it is something I’ve always wanted to do. Having had that opportunity at NTU to get the business education, it just sped up the process and I thought to myself, well, you need to be brave, take a leap of faith and just try. And I did it.
I really like your mantra, “Clothes that become better over time, just like good wine.” Why is it so important that we need clothes that stand against the test of time?
Because the fashion industry is the 2nd biggest polluter in the world. In the light of everything that is happening right now with the Paris Agreement, and the Expo in Milan last year, there is a lot of talk about the importance of being more responsible about everything we do. Every year, the fast fashion phenomenon has led to tonnes of fabric ending up in our landfills depleting natural resources and causing damage to our environment. Creating garments with inner meaning and longevity helps raise the awareness and inform about sustainability in relation to fashion. Dressing is a social and cultural activity far removed from the individual meanings and personal feelings to dressing and adorning. Fashion with aesthetic, functional and emotional value combined with the concern for the entire life cycle of the product.
You’re currently working on your inaugural collection, Clothes That My Mother Wore. Can you tell us what inspired this collection?
Well, I already did a lot of research during my MA, and I made some experimental pieces last year based on that research. I’d say this collection is just a continuum of my ongoing quest on the beauty and ugliness of human relations, what draws us to each other and keeps us together. And this most beautiful bond between mother and daughter. The collection was inspired by memories and the nostalgia and the fact that we tend to beautify the past when thinking about it in the present time. Just the other day I read and interview with Joseph Mount, Metronomy’s frontman and he said something similar. They just released their newest album and it is a look into their past from today’s perspective. Which is very different from what he thought of himself back then. Everything about the past is rose-tinted, it’s fun looking back because everything’s gone quite well. So it is all about perspective, how one sees things and reacts to them.
With Clothes That My Mother Wore I wanted to trigger reaction and start converstaion about those forgotten, pieces/skills/craft.. It’s not only about clothes, but about ideas behind.
Have you thought about designing menswear?
You know, a lot of people asked me that! I did, and I think I will some day in the future, but right now I don’t feel it is the right venture for me to go into. I’m still a very young brand and developing recognisable female aesthetic is my goal right now. But I’m open to various possibilities in the future.
Who inspires you the most in fashion? Apart from your mother, of course!
Hmm, I wouldn’t say my mother inspires me in fashion, in life in general definitely, and in her zen attitude about everything. She is the calmest person I know.
In fashion, I love different styles, definitely people like Tilda Swinton. I think she can wear anything and still look absolutely fabulous.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt since you started your company?
That I still have so much to learn. And that learning never stops.