Many people dream of becoming a fashion designer, but Ivana Knez, the brain behind the eco-friendly label DRAMA, knows it’s not always easy.
“Every day is a challenge and you must always challenge yourself to new heights. That’s the road to success and the only one that will bring you excitement and fulfilment, both professionally and privately,” she says.
Born in 1985, Skopje, Macedonia, Knez named her label after her immense love for the theatre, and of course, all the drama that designing fashion implies.
Her line uses upcycled, found materials, and began with her cutting the 25 year old cotton chiffon her grandmother bought in Florence, and planned to give her as dowry.
“You can’t even imagine what the feeling was like when I ran my fingers through that chiffon. The softness of it made chills run down my spine and I knew instantly that I had to use it,” she says. “The feeling was orgasmic. My grandma went mad when I told her what I’d done, but in the end it was all worth it.” The fabric is now part of her Premium collection, and she has absolutely no regrets: ”I was determined to use it because to me, the touch of that cotton chiffon made me feel alive. It was something I wanted my customers to experience for themselves. I wanted to let them know that old could in fact become new and that the quality these fabrics offered are far beyond what you’ll find today.”
But selling the concept of eco-fashion hasn’t been easy in the Balkans: “Many of my customers were freaked out in the beginning whenever I told them that the materials used are recycled. They thought the materials were basically trash, so there were many times I was forced to make jewellery to sell that wasn’t eco at all. I believe that’s the biggest challenge of creating in this country,” she laments.
None the less, 2013 has been a great year for the designer. She released her first commercial collection made in collaboration with the online eco shop Bastet Noir. Featuring natural fabrics including silk, local cotton, recycled pearls and eco-friendly leather, Knez’s latest collection is called Intacta, and is characterised by punky, asymmetrical cuts and unfinished hems contrasted with feminine lines.
This year she’s also working on designing an Haute Couture collection of nine dresses inspired by the colours and patterns contained in the national costumes of the Mariovo province in Macedonia. The collection will also contain jewellery fashioned from wood and ethnic designs from her hometown, and will close Skopje Design Week, which takes place from the 1-6th October.
Knez is as proud of the collection as she is her cultural heritage: “Our folklore is very rich and there’s a lot of inspiration that can come out of it. I believe there’s a lot of potential for this kind of fashion not just on the Balkans, but worldwide as well,” she says.