Conversation with Nikola Eftimov: The Knight of Macedonian Fashion

Nikola Eftimov
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The essence of the designer's existence is the vision, but it always has its confirmation in time.

As one of the founders of the Macedonian fashion scene, a pioneer in fashion education, an exceptional connoisseur of fashion history, a tireless researcher, addicted to experiment and a master of timeless tailoring, Nikola Eftimov in his almost 25-year career will prove himself as a true visionary .

His latest fashion show once again confirmed that.

 

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SP: Your models are back on the runway after a long time. What was the feeling of finally releasing the creative charge in this form, because it can not be hidden, right?

NOT: Although the preparation time for the show was short and meant a lot of intensive work, the whole process was positively exciting. The reason why I accepted the offer to participate in this event was the celebration of the jubilee of statehood and the fashion scene in that context.

Of course, the creative charge that I have been channeling in recent years in different ways could not be hidden this time as well. I decided to introduce myself with a self-referential story, to touch some of the things that have excited me in terms of design for the past three decades, and even to insert a few archival pieces of clothing.

 

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Much of that story, in addition to the various conceptual problems I have had over the past period, has been sustainable fashion, reuse, recycling, etc., things that have fascinated me since the time of my professional beginnings, at a time when they were not a "hot" topic (for which , by the way, now we have no alternative), but simply part of my design credo, lifestyle and even ideology. On this issue, I have witnessed many tragicomic situations.

Also, what I create is based on the fight against animal abuse in the fashion industry. The reasons for withdrawing from the catwalk will be visible in the answers to other questions.

 

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SP: The presentation of the collection was part of the compilation of MK designers on the occasion of 30 years since independence and analogously to the contemporary MK fashion scene. An occasion for the ungrateful question to you, first of all, as a pioneer in the process, which is inevitably imposed (and as an ideological topic in the appropriately prepared documentary) - how and to what extent is the Macedonian fashion today?

NOT: Although the focus of the event was fashion, I would not see it, as in fact any phenomenon, separately from the context in which it is created and consumed. The simplest and shortest answer would be that Macedonian fashion is what our country is like. I am not talking about the individual, at times heroic, efforts of Macedonian designers, but about building the awareness that fashion is a serious industry that in countries with a fashion tradition significantly fills state budgets.

 

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The designer is an important factor in the fashion system, but without investment and industry, his role in our country is reduced to an author who due to professional and personal urges decides to present (with all objective limits of context) some materialization of his own vision through fashion, photography, etc. , and most often in reality he lives from orders for weddings, proms, other special occasions, possibly self-multiplied mini-series, etc.

In such a slightly schizophrenic reality, in which fashion at times equates (only) with a fashion show as a cultural event, I do not know how much we can talk about a complete fashion scene. Individual orders, with all the variations in quality and creative investment, are everywhere, but they are only an insignificant part of the bigger picture.

 

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In the history of fashion, phenomena that are relatively recent in the past are usually considered with great care due to the lack of historical distance and the danger of not perceiving objectively many factors that contribute to things as they are, we will need extra effort for objective distance , overcoming the provincial self-righteousness, the clan fan mentality, but on the other hand the superficial comparisons with fashion in some different contexts, in which it has existed for a long time.

 

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I would use an analogy, so I would say that an uneducated singer can not interpret a baroque aria with ornamentation (on the other hand, it says that an uneducated audience can not perceive all the nuances of a sophisticated performance); an uneducated critic to evaluate the performance; incidental singing stall is not the same as a career led by a manager, production music companies, etc., and all consumers in the market to be put in the same basket.

On the positive side, in the past three decades, designers with strong individual stories have been profiled on the local scene, who have added to the diversity of design expressions and which in different circumstances would have been fully realized, side by side with international designers.

 

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SP: Except as one of the first designer names in Macedonia, you are actually the first to start with fashion education. Although some wanted to downplay that effort, paradoxically, an explosion of academic, formal education soon ensued, which at heart was much more improvisation than a truly solid curriculum. Whether and how much quantity gave quality and what is the situation in
right now?

NOT: Of course, the quantity obtained in this way does not mean quality. Immediately after returning from a master's degree in Italy in 1998, I decided to focus some of my professional efforts on education.

 

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First I started with non-formal education, in cooperation with various educational and cultural centers or independently, and then I continued with formal education, in the country and abroad. The whole process was initiated by the desire to share what was learned, with great enthusiasm. I am glad that after all the years passed, the enthusiasm did not leave me.

It will sound immodest, after all the design and teaching experience, I grew up a lot as a lecturer and I am happy to have participated in the education of many designers of different generations, working locally or abroad.

As a result of some outdated beliefs, we still have the opinion that a diploma from formal education will make someone's life easier a priori and often the diploma is equated with professional knowledge.

 

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What I keep reminding students is the question of what they really know how to do, not what degree they will have. In the case of fashion, except when it comes to the desire for academic advancement or employment in companies or institutions where it is a prerequisite, for professional occupation it is not necessary.

Specialized schools of fashion design have emerged as a result of the market need for educated professionals. This kind of teaching saves time, but, of course, the real challenges start after the first employment. In countries with a developed fashion system, the beginning of education is either in a school or in a fashion company, with learning through many years of practice.

We do not have relevant studios or companies in which the work process could be mastered as it works in the western oriented countries. Therefore, whether it is formal or non-formal education, the best way to learn is to attend a school.

 

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Classes usually last between 3 and 4 years. At the very least, it is ridiculous for someone to think that in a year he could be called a designer. One-year programs are for those who already have a solid foreknowledge or can be a good introduction before anyone starts studying.

The curricula of the specialized schools for fashion design are based on an interdisciplinary approach and are designed so that students can master the necessary knowledge and skills, from more closely designed subjects (collection of clothes, fashion accessories, etc.), technical subjects for performance (construction of tailoring, sewing techniques, etc.), textile technology for designers, historical objects (fashion history, costume history, fashion photography history, sometimes art history, etc.), fashion marketing, visual communication, fashion illustration and fashion presentation , computer programs for fashion design, more recently sustainable fashion, etc. There are also specialized fashion schools for narrower fashion disciplines, but also schools for technical performance.

A distinction needs to be made between designer, modeler, seamstress, illustrator, etc. Such programs allow students to receive a broad professional design education but also help in further narrower specialization and perception of personal affinities.

 

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The programs are not mutants from the programs of other faculties with the addition of several professional subjects. Students from institutions with such programs could also become designers, but they usually need additional education in other institutions and extra effort in mastering other knowledge.

The question of lost time and energy with unnecessary items remains. The lecturers are selected according to the narrow field, and not with the idea that someone should cover courses or get a job. It is not enough to have a book for a discipline, to be awarded a course or just to formally have a degree! Of course, in the end the question of student commitment remains.

 

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SP: Even more ungrateful but demanding is the question why (obviously) we are not satisfied with the current situation despite the visible potential. Where is it wrong and what is necessary and desirable to do, first of all why is it an area that can be of great importance for the domestic economy?

NOT: As I said, we need to change the perception of fashion, but also to grow as a society. I am not the only one who keeps repeating that stages of development are not redefined and that many things that seem too long to last a lifetime are too short as history. From late feudalism, we passed to the beginning of capitalism, then socialism followed, now we are learning again what capitalism is.

Mental and social matrices do not change overnight. Unlike some countries with a different tradition and past, which went through the transition wiser, we, unfortunately, decided to start from the beginning for many things.

 

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We are not the only ones who sewed lon, but in some countries they used that experience to learn and build their own story in fashion. Also, the large textile industry that existed in the former state and met the needs of the country and exported especially to the eastern markets that had no direct contact with Western products, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc and the opportunity to work with them, was strange. privatized and fragmented, and the new owners reduced their focus to providing production services, with cheap labor.

I will not even start the problem of environmental pollution due to such deals now. Although there has been a bit more intense communication between designers and industry representatives lately, we are far from the moment when there is an awareness of the essential mutual reference.

 

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The road to your own product is long and expensive, but you have to start walking. The position of sewing lone is still more comfortable than investing in serious market research (markets), following world trends, seriously preparing collections from the procurement of materials, through concept development, technical preparation and testing, production, presentation and marketing, placement etc. of fully designed custom products.

Again, there are countless tragicomic situations in which the owner of the factory thinks that she is also a designer, confection numbers are changed only to satisfy someone's ego and someone thinks that he is wearing a smaller confection number, how materials are spontaneously and unplanned butchering etc.

 

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On the other hand, as I said, designers are left to present their ideas as best they can. The question is what to do with the clothes after the show. When it has nothing to do with industry, we are talking about the unique, and they should be samples for presentation. Eventually some of them are multiplied in small batches, sometimes of unequal quality, depending on who sewed the clothes. Designers sometimes sell fashion shows, and that's usually where the whole story ends. In this way we can not talk about a serious fashion scene, but only about a design effort.

 

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I may repeat myself, but fashion shows, except when it comes to school fashion shows or image building fashion shows, should present the offer to the professional and general public and to the buyers (buyers). They also do not exist, because there is not the whole other segment I talked about above. That is one of the reasons why our collections are being prepared for the current seasons, which in normal circumstances is incomprehensible.

 

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There are many instructive examples, from different periods, of a successful transition from the textile to the fashion industry, from which much could be learned, such as the birth of Italian fashion and the efforts of Giovanni Battista Georgini, the examples of several Asian countries, and the Thai case of positioning. of Bangkok as a fashion hub, but unfortunately, there is also resistance to learning and change. Under such conditions, historically, total collapses of certain systems often occurred before they were restructured. I hope this does not happen on our path of transition of part of the textile industry into potential fashion.

 

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However, to conclude on a somewhat more optimistic note, there are rare but valuable exceptions, namely positive examples that have shown that with knowledge, talent, creativity, mind, perseverance, risk-taking, etc., successful local stories of creating a fashion offer are possible. also sells in foreign markets.

 

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