Monday, July 20, 2009

"Fashion is a Form of Free Speech!" : A Parsons Grad Brings New Fashion to New Kosovo

When I think about the Balkans, I think of tacky disco-disco hot pants, hair dye, shoes stuck in the early 90s, and glitter adorning women who are all potential haute couture models. Lets face it--the Balkans are a bit of a time warp and some of the wedge platform shoes make me cringe a tad each time I see them. 

Yet take the Kosovo case. 70% of the population is under 30. There are more discos and clubs than supermarkets almost. It is the youngest country in the world (declaring independence in February of 2008). Kosovo is trying to work its way out of the "Former Republic of Yugoslavia" look and as more Kosovars are coming back to their country after years of living in New York, Austria, Turkey, or Germany, Fashion there is taking a turn for something new.

Take the beautiful case of an artist and activist, Krenare Rugova, a native Kosovar and Parsons graduate who lived in Maine, New York City, and Paris--working in the fashion industry. After years of work and study abroad, she dreamed of coming back to her country. After the '99 war with Serbia, she finally returned in December of 2003 to open her own fashion studio in Prishtina. 

Her story is one of great success. Six years later, she has four women working under her and partners with local graphic design and management companies to make sure her business thrives. She began to export her clothes to Vienna and Zurich--quite a feat for any designer, let alone one whose country still does not have a seat in the UN. She has designed clothes for Kosovar-Croatian movies and uses her fashion line as a means of promoting free speech, free industry, and democracy in a country she is proud of. She is a strong business woman, a mother of 1 and a half (one in the oven!) and an excellent designer. 

Getting to the important part: VANITY OF THE DAY
The Krenare Rugova fashion line has New York, Parisian, and traditional Albanian influences. More importantly though is the sentiment of freedom that her clothing offers the customers; a sort of freedom of movement, time, speech, design. Freedom to be a new woman who can choose what elements she wants to keep from her past and create something new for the future. 

Her designs express a love of moving fabrics, delicate and tasteful adornments (say goodbye to tacky "disco-disco party hard" wear), while still catering to some of the shimmery glamour that Kosovars ascribe to--because only they have the bodies to wear some of these clothes! Her work is not bringing high culture to Kosovo, but rather extracting and developing a high culture that has been boiling in the minds of Kosovars all over the world for the past 10-20 years. It is a fashion of bring back, putting together, and creating culture. 

Two of my favorites are shown here. 

Feminine, worldly, forming. Something about this design brings together not a timeless design, but rather a design conscious of time. Something like the original ready-made 40s dress, combined with the delicate leaves on the collar, with the pale maroon of many 50s fashions call forth a reference to history. Yet the sharpness and definition of the fabric and the design is far from frilly. It forms nicely around the body and outlines the shape of a woman to be reckoned with, from a nation that wants to be as well...

This evening gown, a la New York club scene, perhaps reminds us of the chintzy, and shimmery glamour Kosovars are so seemingly fond of. However, the daring drop of the fabric around the back and the excellent cut show respect for a well cut and well made dress that is anything but cheap or gauche. 

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