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By Chere Di Boscio
London is a city packed with stories, and the tale behind War & Drobe is one of them.
As a child, the founder and creator of the label, Nina Kovacevic, arrived in London after fleeing the war in the former Yugoslavia. It was during this time in her life that her mother taught her the power of fashion and the strength it can bring. Many years later, her label was named after the event that tore her home country apart, and born out of a love for empowering women through fashion and allowing them to feel fierce, fearless and feminine in their daily lives.
Having studied Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, Nina went on to develop her skills training under a tailor, couturier and working in a lingerie studio. She gathers her past experiences, technical knowledge and creative background to bring to life collections with a purpose. By slowing down the making process and never mass producing clothing, War & Drobe celebrates and preserves traditional artisanal sewing techniques. Crafting clothing consciously is at the heart of the label, starting with a simple sketch that’s lovingly and laboriously developed by one person alone.
Here, we interviewed Nina to discover more about her thoughts about a bunch of things from Beatrix Potter to coffee pods, and how she finally gained a position for her brand as one of the best of sustainable British fashion.
In your opinion, what are some of the most sustainable elements of War & Drobe?
When War & Drobe was just a dream and hadn’t yet been realised, I knew I wanted to create a label with a conscious outlook. I’m equally as concerned about how ethically the garments are made as I am about what fabrics I choose to make them from. This is why I hand make each garment personally and never mass produce collections. By working in this way, I’m able to eliminate a lot of material waste by how I design and cut each piece. I’m conscious of how much water and energy is used to make fabrics, so I only ever use certified organic cottons or designer surplus materials. When running a small and independent fashion label, it’s liberating to be able to focus on the details. This is why I make sure that all packaging is either made from recycled materials or can be recycled/biodegraded.
How have you seen the London fashion scene change in terms of sustainability over the past few years?
It’s been exciting to see that over the last few years, sustainability has been slowly creeping its way onto London high streets. Retail, too, has recently taken a shift and as shops are closing down, more opportunities have opened up for independent designers to rent these spaces. I’ve noticed an influx of pop ups and independent boutiques opening, which feature a collective of sustainable and ethical brands. I myself have taken part in and organised events like these in different areas of London. It feels empowering to have access to retail spaces which are usually unaffordable for small businesses. It’s a fantastic way for people who may not usually be aware of sustainable/ethical alternatives to be introduced to new brands with a powerful message.
What are some of your favourite pieces from your current collection?
While making garments, I find at times there are unavoidable pieces of fabrics I cannot use. In order to make the most of every material, I design and make a variety of headbands and headscarves from the scraps of fabric left over – I love those headbands!
My favourite piece and best seller from the current collection are the Utilitarian Femme trousers. I make them from certified organic cotton which I source from a family run business. They recognise the damage using pesticides does to nature as well as those working with them so they only supply organic fabrics. They also run a charity to support workers and the community they live in.
Apart from what you do with War & Drobe, how are you sustainable in your everyday life?
The damage and scale that the meat industry is having on our environment has been weighing heavily on me. All my life I’ve eaten meat, and coming from an Eastern European family the concept of not even eating chicken was bizarre to my relatives. Over the last few years, I’ve massively reduced meat in my diet to the point where I rarely eat it at all. I also practise veganism for a few months at a time. It’s difficult to be perfect but I feel it’s important to do as much as we can.
Who are some of your biggest eco-heroes?
Women such as Beatrix Potter, who were ahead of their time and made a lasting difference really inspire me. She made her own career in a time when women were supported by men. She may not be the first eco-hero that springs to people’s minds, but she made a lasting difference by purchasing and preserving vast amounts of land in the Lake District and leaving it to the National Trust before she died. It’s safe to say the landscape would look very different if it wasn’t for her and the wildlife wouldn’t be as protected as they are today.
I also admire the founders of Fashion Revolution for all the work they do to give ethical and sustainable fashion a voice. They have managed to create a modern day movement that welcomes everyone to participate so we can become better informed on how we can improve the fashion industry as designers, business owner and consumers.
What are some of your greatest eco-sins?
Until I discovered recyclable pods for my instant coffee machine, my morning shot of caffeine was like the coffee itself, bittersweet!
Who would you most love to dress, and in what, in particular?
Although my designs have a contemporary twist, they are very much influenced by the 1940s and 1950s. When I sit down to start designing a new garment I imagine inspiring women such as Eartha Kitt and what their wardrobes would look like. If I could travel back in time, I would love to dress someone like Eartha who made a difference in the world while looking so glamorous. I could imagine her fitting beautifully into the mustard Golden Core bolero!
What have been some of the highest points in your career as a designer so far?
Before I launched War & Drobe, I joined the Prince’s Trust and with their support I was awarded the opportunity to show my SS18 collection during LFW. It was something I didn’t foresee, so it was incredibly exciting to bring to life a collection and have it presented to an audience on a catwalk.
Where do you see War & Drobe in 5 years?
I aim to open a boutique for War & Drobe with a unique experience for the customers. It would be fantastic for people are able to see the work and process that goes into producing the ready to wear collection. This is why I would like to have a retail space with a studio space incorporated into it. I would like to offer creative customers evening sewing classes so that people can enjoy making clothing that they will wear for years to come and even to mend their old ones.
Any last words for our readers?
I just wanted to add a big thank you to Eluxe Magazine for providing readers such as myself with insightful articles. Time is precious, so when you’re able to read pieces on organic shampoo options or have vegan meal plan suggestions, it really makes living sustainably and consciously that little bit easier!