UF Voic­es — Teodo­ra Mitrovska

I gained a lot of use­ful infor­ma­tion and contacts.”

T*MITROVSKA is a young fash­ion brand owned by Teodo­ra Mitro­vs­ka. She uses uncon­ven­tion­al mate­ri­als and gen­der-bend­ing in her designs to tack­le socio-polit­i­­cal issues. The brand threads a fine line between high­­­ly-con­­cep­­tu­al and streetwear and aims to cater to both mar­kets. Teodo­ra Mitro­vs­ka was one of the Unit­ed Fash­ion design­ers dur­ing Riga Fash­ion Week in 2018 and Lis­boa Fash­ion Week in 2020. As a fash­ion design­er, she shares her expe­ri­ences and out­comes from her par­tic­i­pa­tion to Unit­ed fashion.

When and why did you start your own label?

Every time when peo­ple ask me this ques­tion, I don’t real­ly have a spe­cif­ic date as an answer. Because it wasn’t that I decid­ed this is the day I’m going to start my own brand’. It was more an organ­ic process. I would say maybe after my grad­u­a­tion, so that is in 2018, around June. It was when I start­ed to focus more on the label and I thought about all the work I cre­at­ed dur­ing my stud­ies. To give it some kind of struc­ture and give it a name and an identity. 

There is no spe­cif­ic rea­son why I start­ed my brand. I guess to me it just felt like the right thing to do and was a very organ­ic process. Like I had stud­ied fash­ion design and I knew I want­ed to cre­ate for myself as opposed to work for some­one else or work in a dif­fer­ent part of the fash­ion indus­try. So it felt like the next step that should be taken.

After my grad­u­a­tion peo­ple start­ed to con­tact me and asked me to bor­row gar­ments and then they were like oh how do you want us to cred­it you for this shoot or mag­a­zine.’ So I guess that was the time I was like okay I need to stop being this young indi­vid­ual that just made some clothes at uni­ver­si­ty and actu­al­ly start with the brand’. 

What is the DNA of your label?

I feel like this is always clear­er to oth­er peo­ple than to myself. Oth­er cre­ative friends I have also con­stant­ly ques­tion their DNA and iden­ti­ty, when for me it’s super clear what they do. I guess all of us as cre­atives feel the same way. Any­way, one thing that’s con­sis­tent in my work is that it’s always very con­cep­tu­al and there is always a sto­ry or a socio-polit­i­cal mes­sage. All of this is always wrapped in the idea of gen­der flu­id­i­ty and break­ing pre­de­fined con­cepts of gen­dered attrac­tive­ness. Next to this, there is a clear inter­est in uni­form and work­wear looks, espe­cial­ly the vin­tage uni­form look. So every con­cept is linked to this. 

Where do you get your inspi­ra­tion from?

I try to link my work to my Mace­don­ian her­itage. Some­how I always try to go back to Mace­do­nia. Like for my grad­u­a­tion col­lec­tion, I start­ed inves­ti­gat­ing exploita­tion of tex­tile work­ers and end­ed up focus­ing on this issue with­in Mace­do­nia. In a way, I am very lucky that I can share a cul­ture which hasn’t been explored or exploit­ed’ as much.

What do you con­sid­er the biggest chal­lenge the fash­ion indus­try is fac­ing today?

By cer­tain glob­al trends, like the emer­gence of social media, the pro­fes­sion ‘ fash­ion design­er’ is being sat­u­rat­ed. Peo­ple can just order cheap, mass-pro­duced t‑shirts with a sim­ple logo on them and become design­ers’. While I am all for democ­ra­tis­ing fash­ion, and social media’ has helped in this by giv­ing every­one a plat­form to show­case their work, it comes with a side effect. I think that is a shame for design­ers who work on a whole dif­fer­ent lev­el. I am not inter­est­ed in pro­duc­ing on a big scale. I focus on sus­tain­abil­i­ty and that’s a nat­ur­al process for me. I don’t see that as a big chal­lenge or threat to the brand, it’s just how things are sup­posed to be. When you’re cre­ative you can always make some­thing work. It’s impor­tant to look at it by not nec­es­sar­i­ly see­ing it as a threat, but an opportunity.

How are you involved with Unit­ed Fashion?

I’ve par­tic­i­pat­ed twice in the Unit­ed Fash­ion pro­gram. Riga Fash­ion Week and Lis­boa Fash­ion Week just now. Per­son­al­ly speak­ing, they both were very dif­fer­ent. The first dif­fer­ence between the two that comes to mind is the dif­fer­ent weath­er. Riga was cold and snowy and Lis­bon was sun­ny (laughs). No but of course, cul­tur­al­ly there were some inter­est­ing dif­fer­ences and also the top­ics and pub­lic in both events were dif­fer­ent and rel­e­vant with­in the pro­gram. But they were equal­ly valu­able, educa­tive and eye open­ing to me, so I am very grate­ful to have been part of both.

How did you expe­ri­ence your participation?

In Riga, I was thrown in the deep with no clue because I was fresh­ly grad­u­at­ed. I had no idea, fake it until you make it. It was a roller-coast­er: I flew to Riga and imme­di­ate­ly had a mod­el cast­ing with my back­pack and jack­et still on! Hahah. I went from one thing to anoth­er. But even though I felt con­fused, it was most­ly very eye-open­ing and I learned quite a lot from that expe­ri­ence. I also got a lot of press atten­tion from my par­tic­i­pa­tion to Riga Fash­ion Week. 

In Lis­bon, I was more relaxed and every­thing seemed to be flow­ing smoother, which might be just my impres­sion as I felt more pre­pared and orga­nized, myself. The Lis­boa Fash­ion Week is a much big­ger event so Unit­ed Fash­ion wasn’t the focus point. How­ev­er, I gained a lot of use­ful infor­ma­tion and con­tacts dur­ing the talks and workshops. 

What result­ed from your par­tic­i­pa­tion to Unit­ed Fashion?

Well as I men­tioned, both Riga and Lis­bon were immense­ly ben­e­fi­cial for my growth as a design­er. I learned a lot by expe­ri­enc­ing , which I think is the most valu­able way of learn­ing. If we are talk­ing about more tan­gi­ble things, I did get a lot of con­tacts and met some amaz­ing peo­ple. I also did get some nice press, that led to more press, which for the best or for the worst seems to be very impor­tant in the fash­ion indus­try. So yes, I am a hap­py cus­tomer and won’t com­plain if I get invit­ed again :D

What’s next? What are you cur­rent­ly work­ing on?

I see this peri­od def­i­nite­ly as an oppor­tu­ni­ty. Peo­ple cre­ate some of the best things when they are strug­gling, in pain or chal­leng­ing some neg­a­tive emo­tions. I should men­tion that I am say­ing this from a posi­tion of priv­i­lege to still have a sta­ble job and a suit­able place to keep cre­at­ing in. I start­ed my new col­lec­tion regard­less of the pan­dem­ic. Fun­ny enough, the con­cept I chose fits the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion per­fect­ly. It’s more about me, what I would wear. But it also con­tains some com­mer­cial pieces and some crazy pieces. If this pan­dem­ic wasn’t hap­pen­ing I would have already had to make the looks to meet show dead­lines. It saved me a lot of sleep­less nights and allowed me to think and devel­op more.

Cred­its

Pho­tog­ra­ph­er: André Cabral