BTA News

Rhodope Mountains Folklore Inspires Young European Fashion Designers

The folklore of Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains has inspired young European fashion designers who are the finalists in the Echo Academies Project of the Sofia-based Open Space Foundation, the project promoters from Alma Communication said on Saturday.

The first stage of the project, which has just ended, attracted participants from Albania, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkiye and Bulgaria. A jury chaired by Bulgarian fashion guru Lubomir Stoykov picked three collections to be financed into production. The selection criteria included innovation and originality, experimental elements and commercial potential.

The finalists will have public presentations of their collections in 2024. All three collections will receive awards and cash prizes. In the coming months, their designers will work with professionals from Cumedia of Belgium, Echo Academy of Bulgaria and organizations of their own choosing from their home countries.

One of the finalists, Kosovo’s Yllka Haxhiu, presented a collection featuring a traditional checkered design from the Rhodope Mountains and the technique of felting. Another finalist, Bulgaria’s Yordan Mihalev, showed a penchant for blending tradition and modernity. He has given a contemporary interpretation to elements borrowed from Rhodope costumes. The third finalist, Jose Marie Sta Iglesia of the Netherlands, has breathed new life into decorative woollen braiding and has experimented with geometrical form.

Open Space Foundation Management Board Chair Pepa Veleva commented: “I find the jury’s choice very strict and careful. All three collections successfully incorporate traditional folklore elements which lend the items a sense of freshness and modernity. These designers have the potential to enrich present-day fashion with innovative and interesting ideas.”

Lubomir Stoykov, the Jury Chair, said he is satisfied with the results of the competition for young fashion designers for three reasons. “First, all participants tried to get to know, analyze and interpret the folklore and the costumes of the Rhodope Mountains in their projects. Second, most of them offered original concepts along with a strong emphasis on handwork and respect for lasting ethical standards of clothmaking. And finally, we saw the motivation of the candidates to throw a bridge from tradition to the present day, on the one hand, and to adapt the contemporary style to the unfading values of traditional Bulgarian culture, on the other hand.”

Besides the three finalists, Stoykov also congratulated Emma Milicevic of the Netherlands and Erika Janavi of Lithuania for their expert designs and high project quality.