Dear Shaded Viewers,
With the severe fashion overload most of us are currently experiencing, focusing on the essential does not seem like a bad idea. In an increasingly competitive and polarized market, independent designers who manag...
Dear Shaded Viewers,
With the severe fashion overload most of us are currently experiencing, focusing on the essential does not seem like a bad idea. In an increasingly competitive and polarized market, independent designers who manage to last -and sustain their sales- keep on surprising us. They have secured their own niche, without necessarily playing the game. Milan-based Dušan is one of them. He learned his craft working with Zoran, a die-hard minimalist who studied architecture, before moving to the US in 1971. Concentrating on quality and the intrinsic value of a garment has been a mantra for designers lately, and their clients seem to agree. A true perfectionist, Dušan is obsessed with intricate fabrics, timeless shapes, and the magic of handicraft. His clothes are sensual, subtle and smart. We sat down with him in his peaceful Milan showroom to discuss the evolution of fashion, his approach to marketing, and why it's important to collaborate with artisans.
An image from the designer's last Paris presentation, shot by Aurélien Mole
You chose to do a presentation in Paris last time. Can you tell us why?
In Milan, there isn't really space for independent designers. Magazines come here to see the big names, who happen to be their advertisers. Why bother with other people, when there is no obligation to even make the effort? Traditionally, Paris has always been more open to unconventional and alternative ideas. I guess it made sense for me to show there last season, even though I've been living and working in Milan for many years now. There are several young people who would like to do something here, but it has become very challenging.
Is there a lack of support that you noticed here?
Yes. In general, there's an issue with education as well, and the level of schools here.
Where did you study fashion?
I went to Istituto Marangoni between 1991 and 1994. It was a long, long time ago... (he laughs)
When did you launch your own brand?
It was in 1999.
It's been almost 15 years then.
Please, don't remind me of this... (more laughter) I guess my strategy was always to be understated in my designs, and target a customer who can afford beautiful quality and timeless cuts, but doesn't want a recognizable name. This has been my marketing approach, if you want to call it like that. My customers don't want to show off, and there is a secretive dimension within their taste. I think there's always a woman who is looking for this, although she may become harder to find. Gallery owners, architects and designers wear my clothes. This is not red carpet dressing, you know.
Fall Winter 2013-14
Never say never...
I'm refusing that, I'm sorry. In fact, it's the opposite concept of what I want to create. It's not easy explaining this to people now, because brands are pushing over-the-top statements in order to get more attention. I guess my philosophy relates more to Belgian designers and their honest style.
When you started Dušan, did you have a very clear idea of what you wanted to achieve?
Yes. Craftsmanship is what drives me. I like to go to the factories and see how everything is made. I value the relationship I have with smaller artisans, as it's an essential part of what I do. Everything is produced here, from Northern Italy to Sicily. Sometimes, we will work with a family business where you only have 4 or 5 people in the atelier. Of course, finding them is becoming hard, but it's important for me to support them. Small factories are dying out in Italy, because the bigger companies find them too expensive and won't work with them. For me, these artisans are like little jewels, which need to be preserved. There are regional specialties in Italy, which are part of its identity and history. I think they should be protected.
What was it like working with Zoran?
After graduation, I assisted him and stayed there for 6 years. I always wanted to work for him, because his vision was u