“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.
Photographer: André Cabral