Contrary to what their established clothing industry may suggest, Bulgaria is actually just starting to emerge onto the global fashion stage. Lyubina recently graduated from the New Bulgarian University with a collection that shows a different approach to the commercial side of Bulgaria. Having also won a scholarship to pursue Fashion Communication in Florence, Lyubina has now left her home country to perfect her fashion skills.
The landscape I was getting out of my research of Bulgaria showed that without a doubt a clothing industry existed. However, despite the 9th Edition of the Sofia Fashion Week and the Bulgarian Fashion Awards, the lack of students with an online portfolio was giving me some trouble finding someone to interview.
Luckily after a while, I found some interesting samurai-style sketches that gave me hope. Lyubina graduated with distinction from her BA and was submitting her graduate collection for a scholarship at IED (European Design Institute). We talked on Skype and I got a glimpse of her face through video, but couldn’t keep up because of the bad Internet connection. So after that, I was only able to hear her loud voice with a strong accent and her charming laugh.
“In Bulgaria it's a little bit different than in Europe or anywhere else because it's too small as a country. Here it's more popular for the fashion industry to be more commercial, so it’s hard for fashion designers to make something unique. It’s hard to build business or make a brand or anything else,” she explained.
The two schools in Bulgaria’s capital are The National Academy of Art and the New Bulgarian University. The latter, where Lyubina studied, is actually not specialized in design since they teach everything from Philosophy to Business. In her seventh semester, Lyubina managed to get into an exchange program in Spain, and interestingly, she found something missing in Bulgarian students: “Desire from the students, you know. Here they go to class like it’s an obligation. In Spain they got to class ahead of time, every time with desire, every time with the laptops, every time prepared.”
Despite having enjoyed her time at school, Lyubina didn’t seem too convinced. “Research, draw and then take the best drawings for outfits,” she explained about the design process. “Yeah it’s not so complicated actually, but we need four years to understand it,” she laughed. Did you ever feel like it wasn’t enough what you were doing? “Yes, this is the reason that I applied for the scholarship. For the basics it’s ok, I didn’t know how to sew, I didn’t know how to create a collection, anything, I knew how to draw nature or something else, I didn’t know how to draw a fashion sketch. They taught me the basics, and now I want to learn more.”
Even though Bulgaria might not come first to our minds as a great clothes manufacturer, it turns out that it produces of a lot of foreign brands. For example, Lyubina interned in ‘Pirin Tex’, a company that creates Hugo Boss suits. This high amount of foreign companies might relate to the lack of jobs only focused on design. Lyubina explained that work opportunities are mostly design jobs mixed with pattern making, but pure design jobs don’t exist. “This is the bad side of the fashion industry in Bulgaria, so if you’re really talented in this you are not able to work because nobody will pay you for this.“
|Lyubina's collection 'Transformans'|
Bulgarian brands seem to mainly focus on commercial garments or cocktail dresses. Nevertheless, Lyubina pushed this barrier further with her collection called ‘Transformans’, which she patterned and sewed herself. The collection is based on the use of the karate belt. “I practiced in Karate for twelve years, and because of this the garments of kimono are really close to me and I’m connected with this work. I’m really familiar with what happened there, with everything. Actually the inspiration came from the belt, how to tie the belt in the kimono.”
Lyubina seems to have a good future ahead of her, with a Scholarship to study Fashion Communication in Florence. Hoping to have her own brand in the future, she wasn’t able to guarantee that she would return to Bulgaria. Despite her confidence in Bulgarian talent, we didn’t find much to discuss in terms of the good side of fashion in her country. “What I like? Oh I don’t know, it’s complicated.” After pushing for a second answer she said, “everybody can wear different things and nobody can say this is not fashion. This is what I like the most, but I think everywhere is like this.”
All pictures courtesy of Lyubina Stamenova
Fashion in Bulgaria: Lyubina Stamenova is licensed under a Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-SinObraDerivada 3.0 Unported License.
Creado a partir de la obra en http://fashion-aroundtheworld.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/fashion-in-bulgaria-lyubina-stamenova.html.