Marta Cerdà on working between past and future

The graphic designer, illustrator, and font author Marta Cerdà seeks the golden mean between illustrations and typography, the past and the directions in which design disciplines are developing today.

Born in Barcelona, after completing her studies at the Elisava School of Design and Engineering (Barcelona) and gaining several years of experience in various advertising agencies in Spain and Germany, Marta Cerdà founded her own design studio in 2008. Since then, she has dedicated herself to numerous international projects as a graphic designer, illustrator, art director, and typographer. Her bold and colorful illustrations are perhaps the first thing that captures attention in her work. Her clients include brands and organizations such as: The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Die Zeit, Penguin Books, Coca Cola, Nike, Converse, Spotify, Netflix, Apple, Volkswagen, Vogue, The New York Times, and many more. She is visiting Bulgaria for the first time now as a spekaer at the 21st edition of the design series Melba Meetings. We are talking to her a week before she arrives in Sofia.

MELBA MEETINGS #21 / Derida Stage / 29.06. / 19.00 h

Who or what has influenced your work the most in terms of style, taste in color, illustration and typography?

There are many influences, and that is also something in constant change. There are even influences that I might not be aware of. But mostly, anything to do with the history of letters, graphic design and art is always an influence. I tend to look back all the time for inspiration, I will talk a lot about this at MELBA MEETINGS #21.

Amnesty International. Freedom of Expression. 2016

Your projects often incorporate a variety of visual mediums like calligraphic elements, bold forms and bright, fluorescent colors. Can you walk us through your creative process for bringing these pieces to life? Do you have any specific tools (both digital and hardware) you love using? How do you manage to keep your style so authentic and vibrant without repeating yourself?

I don’t think I have a style, at least I can’t see it. But my work usually has a very strong visual ingredient in it, that is a common threat. I usually start a project by focusing on the concept, looking for references and ideas. But I never sketch, for me sketching is like a straitjacket. I like to have a conceptual playground where to work and get lost in it. In terms of time and efficiency it is not the best approach, but for me, in terms of creativity it is the best way to work. About tools, I don’t like to stick to one tool, I have to explore options and different softwares to know which is the best tool to work with. I think the project should decide that, not my priority for a specific software.

Type to Image. 2022

You have an impressive portfolio for respected clients from all over the world. How do you balance between expressive freedom and requested constraints?

Well, I love creative constraints, it is more challenging, it is what graphic design is, solving problems. But probably the best works I have done, or more popular, come from a total creative freedom. Paradoxically, those have been the hardest. I am definitely my worst client, my ability to be self critical is huge, sometimes so much that it can have a paralyzing effect.

What’s the one skill you want to get better at?

At absolutely everything. I want to get better and faster at conceptualizing, I want to become a better animator, cgi artist, better control of the Ais, better speaker, better at calligraphy, better at drawing. There is always room to improve at what you do, and that is what is exciting about life.

Barcelona Poesia Festival. 2020

How do you break through creative stuckness to ignite new flow?

I can’t say I have found the formula. But I know that when I am stressed with non-work related things I get blocked. So I tend to have a holistic approach. If I don’t solve my problems outside of work, they come to haunt me when I work. But, that said, I try to accept that sometimes the creative flow is high and sometimes is low, and that is also life, I am not a machine, and I don’t want to become one.

What skills and knowledge do the next generation of designers need to possess in order to face the current challenges (AI, environmental crisis, societal disruptions, etc.)?

That is a good question that I honestly don’t know if I can give an answer. I think they will need to be fluid and flexible, but also creatively conscientious when designing.

Yes! W+K. 2017

Is there something specific that you want to discover or try in Bulgaria?

Well, my visit will be very brief, but I am dying to try your food, especially the Banista and the Tarator! I hope I can plan something longer in the near future and visit places like the Rila Monastery or Plovdiv.

What do you love most about being a designer?

Uff, I totally love all the parts of designing. I love conceptualizing, I love the process of designing, I love being lost, I love when I find the idea that I want to work with! And I absolutely love to see a beautiful letter or a piece of design or art, and I don’t mind if it’s 5000 years old or if it’s made tomorrow in AI.

___________________________________________________________________

Melba Meetings 21 will take place on June 29th at 19:00 h at the independent space for contemporary art and culture Derida Stage (32 Tsar Samuil Street). The event is free of charge thanks to our longtime partners, Fashion Days. The project is realized with the support of the National Culture Fund within the “One-Year Grant” program. For more updates, follow the event on Facebook here.

One Flare Chair in Milan

A month after the most important event in the world of product and interior design – Salone del Mobile Milano, and all the dozens of accompanying exhibitions, installations, lectures, and discussions that took place during the week, we draw attention to the high honor bestowed upon Konstantin Achkov for participating for the second consecutive time in the Ro Plastic Prize competition. Founded by the leading and prominent figure in the development of the discipline – curator Rosanna Orlandi in 2020, the competition serves as an opportunity to rethink the relationship with plastic as a material and its impact on the planet. Cheap, versatile, and durable, plastic became an instant star in manufacturing in the late 1960s, readily serving even the boldest design and consumer dreams. However, its reputation is far from favorable. Currently, rivers, seas, and soil are inundated with discarded plastic objects, and microplastic particles are found everywhere, from the highest mountain peaks to the placentas of unborn babies.

Ro Plastic Prize invites designers to demonstrate different and unexpected approaches to the use of materials, from the creation of an object to its disposal. The award is given annually to projects that involve recycling or reusing materials. In the latest edition, the winners were announced during the Milan Design Week in April 2023. The results provide a positive outlook on design as a discipline ready to tackle global and serious problems. Among the winners is a prototype for a 3D-printed personalized prosthetic leg made from recycled plastic, inspired by the war in Ukraine. Another winner is a table made from an innovative material obtained from old and unusable parts of wind turbines.

Sustainability is more than just a slogan. Being responsible means being aware of what you design, how you create it, the choice of materials, and how it is used. I expect responsibility, unconventional thinking, and material innovation from designers,

says Rosanna Orlandi, a doyenne in the discipline.

We congratulate Konstantin Achkov for his inclusion in this selection of innovative approaches to the use of plastic and discuss his original idea on the current theme.

What prompted you to participate in the Ro Plastic Prize?

My participation this year, as well as last year, was based on a personal invitation from the Rossana Orlandi Gallery. Being part of one of the most prestigious galleries in Italy and Europe in the field of high-end collector design, such as the Rossana Orlandi Gallery, is important for any designer who wants to build a European image and career.

What’s the concept behind your chair? What are its most distinctive elements?

I decided to participate again with a chair, my strongest field of work. At the time when the invitation came, I was just developing an idea for a chair that was closely related to the world of fashion and in response to the increasing presence of fashion brands in the furniture business. My idea was to create a chair with a stylized silhouette of flared pants, also known as “Flare,” in a step. This is how the concept for this chair was conceived, going through several phases.

One of them was to sew something like a garment/pants, which, I admit, didn’t turn out well because it almost concealed the entire chair as a structure and killed the clear expression of the form. The gallery was not thrilled with this move either, and I quickly corrected the mistake. Another challenge was to come up with a clear and accentuating idea for using recycled plastic, which is also a requirement of the competition. After many experiments to find my own expression in this material, I came to the conclusion that one of the greatest advantages of plastic is that if it’s transparent and colorful remnants are implanted, it can create an effect similar to stained glass.

So I made several side panels from transparent PET-G and placed randomly different colored circles made of PVC fabrics between two thin sheets. These circles are leftover scraps from the production of tents and awnings at the place where they need to be cut to attach metal caps. These panels can be replaced by attaching them with bolts to the supporting structure. The chair turned out very clear in terms of shape, as the structure is made up of only three elements, and the backrest and seat are also part of the structure. Additionally, I used my puzzle elements for assembly, which allows for easy assembly and disassembly of the chair without the need for standard screws or adhesives.

What are your impressions of this participation?

If I have to summarize my impressions of the exhibition, I can say that the fusion of pure art in design, mixed with the latest technologies in the search for eco-friendly materials or approaches, is increasingly evident. This is the essence of this competition.

What else will you remember from this edition of Milan Design Week (products, exhibitions, lectures, installations…)?

One of the pleasant surprises for me was the latest works by Philippe Starck for one of the leading Spanish furniture manufacturers, ANDREU WORLD. He offers tables, stools, chairs, armchairs, and sofas made of plywood with assembly logic and form close to mine. This solution is dictated precisely by the contemporary trends of sustainability and their packaging in flat surfaces.

ANDREU WORLD BY STARCK

Another exhibition with many installations was by the design department of the automobile brand BMW, which showcased futuristic visions for future cars.

Tom Dixon created an extremely intelligent installation for one of the leading tile manufacturers, featuring several minimalist fountains like altars that were activated one after another against a musical background.

In Rossana Orlandi’s gallery itself, magic was once again created by different authors, materials, and forms arranged in the most artistic way.

Besides the overexposure of the slogan “sustainability,” how do you understand and apply sustainability in your work?

With what I demonstrated with my chair at the exhibition for recycled plastic. My chair has side panels made of recycled plastic that can easily be replaced, giving the structure a new look without the need to buy a new chair over time. The trend for furniture that can be refreshed or renewed in some way by the owners, in my opinion, will increasingly permeate design. Another thing I showed was the possibility of a high-end furniture piece, designed with premium materials, to be a puzzle-like structure in a flat package that can be easily assembled, disassembled, or repaired. This is something Philippe Starck also demonstrated. Chairs and disposable tables that cannot be repaired will be launched less and less frequently.

What do you think is missing from current material experiments and practices? How do you try to enrich these processes?

High-end furniture with rational and well-constructed designs. They should have easy and logical connections that are even emphasized as an artistic element. The ability to move away from the clichés that have been driving major manufacturers so far, such as standard joints or upholstery, and concealed structures beneath them.

What excites you the most in the field of design at the moment?

As someone who has a background in sculpture, I can’t help but be delighted by the powerful trend in recent years for furniture to transform into functional sculptures. The homes we inhabit are becoming a kind of exhibition space-installation, where furniture takes on a prominent artistic role.

Would you share what you are currently working on that we will be able to see soon?

On one hand, I want to further develop the chair with which I presented myself in Milan, creating a series of three more chairs by simply replacing its panels, as well as making a whole family of furniture around it. On the other hand, I have started to search for my own answer to furniture combined with resins.

Sustainable practices in design with João Bruno Videira

Just days before our very last event from the series on sustainable practices and the role of design in reframing the narrative on the imminence of taking actions for saving the planet now, we present our special guests in consecutive interviews.

We look forward to seeing them and hearing their stories live at the event in Plovdiv, on Tuesday, November 22, at 18:00 in “Kapana” Gallery.

João Bruno Videira is a self-taught artisan and furniture designer since 2006, when he created his own first brand: água de prata, with which he reinvented the use of a traditional and excellency raw-material in Portugal – the wool. Since then he represented Portugal in several international design fairs such as the London Design Fair in 2017 and 2019, the Dutch Design Week in 2019 and the Dubai Design Week in 2020. João Bruno used to work as a TV journalist, till he found in art and design his new way of expression.

João, initially you worked as a TV journalist. Tell us about your radical change from being a journalist to creating handmade objects.

JV: Apparently both worlds have no connection but in my opinion that is not so obvious and to be honest I do continue to communicate, to tell stories. I just changed the medium. It’s also visual communication, but instead of words and images now I use colors and forms.

Tell us something more about your working technique and how do you limit waste in your daily work.

JV: I work with wool, that’s my selected raw material and my creations are 100% handmade. I use
some traditional techniques that I adapted, such as the loom… because I transform the frames I use into looms, by weaving directly into the pieces. And there are other techniques such as sculpting, by addition, in which I use handmade wool ropes that I create depending on the object I am doing.

Limiting waste is always present in my work. Actually that’s how it all started 16 years ago, when I created my first object by giving a new life to an old chair. Since the beginning that is something I was completely aware and I knew I had to make something to fight it. We are garbage mass producers. Back then there was still no culture to promote reusing, the transformation of old objects into new ones… the upcycling.

Besides having my own design, since I started working in this field I always promote this philosophy, because most of the objects can be transformed into new ones or have a different function and last longer instead of being garbage. Not only I still continue to transform old objects every time it’s possible, but also I have a zero waste policy in my work. All the waste I create is reused in my creations… such as the wool stones or the tree sculptures. Inside they are full of my own wool waste. But I also reuse, for instance, old tires and transform them into wool sculptures.

What is your definition of sustainable/circular design and fashion?

JV: It’s a group of good practices that contribute to reduce our carbon foot print and promote a new model. A model that has concrete measures in all stages of production, from sourcing the right suppliers, to manufacturing, to packaging, all in order to preserve our environment.

What do you love most about being a textile sculptor?

JV: What I love most is the power of creating with my own hands, it’s a kind of magic. A real pleasure that is difficult to describe.

Your products are aesthetic, functional and minimalistic. Which are the main values, core concepts or style inclinations that, above all, will always represent your work and yourself?

JV: I’m very proud of having found my own language. Normally I don’t tend to follow trends, I just try to hear my inner self, being connected with my own essence. And that is reflected on my work I hope. Above all I believe that authenticity and originality are the keywords to define my work.

If you take someone who is interested in ethical design with you to Tomar, what places would you show them? What are the “musts” to visit (studios, shops, art spaces, galleries, etc.)?


JV: I’m very fortunate to work in an old factory that is now transformed into an art factory concept where different artisans and artists create and cooperate. So first I would make a guiding tour inside the building where I work, where people can also see other artisans in areas like pottery, basketry and tinsmith. There’s a very diverse universe of arts and crafts in this factory that is worth to see. Outside the factory that used to be an old mill, Tomar has a lot to offer although it’s a quite small city but still one of the most ancient and important in terms of Portuguese history.

The Templar knights choose Tomar as their headquarter in the 12th century, so the Templar castle and the convent of Christ on the top of the hill which is Unesco world heritage is a must see, it’s actually an art history lesson that we can have live. There’s also a contemporary art museum and a very unique one which is fully dedicated to a collection of matches from all over the world.

Another thing we cannot miss in Tomar which happens only every 4 years is the festival of trays. A very unique and genuine parade to honor the harvest and fertility where every woman carries a tray of its own size on the top of her head.

Local Beauty. Review of Bulgarian Design 2022.

Studio Komplekt continues its series of reviews of the current state of Bulgarian design, which has become a traditional annual practice since the first edition of the festival. The group show brings together some of the notable manifestations of the discipline through projects in various fields of design. For the first time the show is curated by Marina Dragomirova, Studio Furthermore.

The exhibition LOCAL BEAUTY will open on November 3. at KO-OP Gallery (17. Yanko Sakuzov Blvd.) at 7.00 PM and will run through MELBA Design Festival 2022.

with: Dimitar Stankov, Maria Jekova, Raya Stefanova, Nikoleta Nosovska, Lyouba Assadourova, Milen Radev, Neva Balnikova, Yana Yunakova and Dani Yordanova

Curatorial text:

The exhibition LOCAL BEAUTY gives an overview of different, authentic Bulgarian localities. We are invited to see them through the eyes of nine artists who have created works with regional materials, resources and traditions especially for the occasion. Each of them works with different textures and a unique personal handwriting – be it the deep pitch of the bagpipe, captured in the form of a jewel by Dimitar Stankov, or the taste achieved through an old Rhodope wheat storage technique, which Maria Jekova recreates. Raya Stefanova builds two fountains based on the typical Bulgarian roadside fountains, using beeswax instead of concrete, while the dancing “kukeri” superheroes of Nikoleta Nosovska bring new life to the ceramic plates from childhood. Lyuba Asadurova creates a contemporary trail-carpet of sheep’s wool. Milen Radev’s lighting bodies are carved from stone he found in the Rhodope Mountains. The experimental reuse of car headlights by Neva Balnikova was inspired by a local car component recycling company. Yana Yunakova unravels an old mountain technique from glass beads, which she interprets in a new ceramic form, while Dani Yordanova literally bottles the essence of the region in a flavor extracted from nature. In each of the works we find something familiar, but seen and rethought through an unfamiliar perspective.

About Marina Dragomirova

Marina Dragomirova was born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. After completing her bachelor in Graphic Design followed by Interior design at New Bulgarian University, she continued her education at the Royal College of Art in London. There she met Iain Howlett and in 2015 they cofounded Studio Furthermore in Shoreditch, London.

* The exhibition is realized with the kind support of the National Culture Fund – Program Visual Arts.

International Melba Symposium 2022

For the fifth year in a row, the International Symposium with lectures by leading designers in their field, forms the core of the MELBA Design Festival!

On Saturday, November 5, 11:00 AM live at “Toplocentrala” or online, those who have purchased tickets for the lectures will be able to learn

first-hand about current trends in product, digital and graphic design, illustration and visual communication.

The renowned design specialists selected as speakers this year are:

Mateusz Machalski (Poland)

Graphic designer, author of over 40 font families, numerous corporate and multi-font typefaces and more than 150 visual identities for companies, institutions and events. Designer of the year in the Polish Graphic Design Awards (2019). Co-author of TYPOTEKA.PL – the Polish typographic directory and coordinator of numerous exhibitions and cultural events.

Holly Pereira (Ireland)

Skillfully juggles between illustration, animation and mural. Her work is colourful, bold and highly expressive. Her murals often reference folk art and typography, weaving specific stories through careful selection of colours and motifs. Holly Pereira has talked about her work in institutions like the National Gallery of Ireland and the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. She is also a proud member of The Minaw Collective, an all-female street art collective based in Ireland.

Adam Štěch (Czech Republic)

Curator, journalist and theorist with great experience in design, architecture and visual arts. Co-founder of the creative group OKOLO, with which he has been observing and researching the various manifestations of design since 2009, and prepared dozens of publications and exhibitions in the Czech Republic and internationally. He is the author of a number of texts on design and architecture, as well as the book Modern Architecture and Interiors for Prestel (2020).

DUMBAR/DEPT® (Netherlands)

The work of one of the most awarded design agencies internationally – from its founding in 1977 by Dutch graphic designer Gert Dumbar until now – will be presented by Liza Enebis, Creative Director, and Wanwai Shum, graphic designer at Studio Dumbar.

GUNIA PROJECT (Ukraine)

GUNIA Project was created in 2017 by Natasha Kamenska and Maria Gavryliuk with a mission to preserve Ukrainian national values, to modernize Ukrainian art and show the world the beauty of Ukraine by highlighting handmade crafts like decorative paintings, ceramics, wicker weaving, and embroidery. Gunia Project is a brand of exceptional things produced on the basis of traditional ethnic cultures.By last year their items were presented for Pope Francis, Emperor of Japan, Brigitte Macron and many more.

Eli Gutiérrez (Spain)

Eli Gutiérrez is a cosmopolitan designer, born in Valencia. In 2016, Eli founded her own multidisciplinary design studio between Paris and Valencia, focusing on product design, interior design, installations and concept creation, making designs for brands and companies such as Missana, Black Tone by JMM, Cimenterie de La Tour, Chevalier Edition, Geelli, Mad Lab, and NT Forest and Signorini Rubinetterie among others.There is an identity in her work that emphasizes the function, the material and the detail.

* Buy your ticket for the live event here: https://rebrand.ly/3wdbip2

** To watch the symposium online, buy a ticket here: https://rebrand.ly/3wdbip2

All lectures are in English, with simultaneous translation into Bulgarian.

Sustainable practices in design with Darja Malesic of Flowe

Just days before our much anticipated event* in Varna on sustainable practices and the role of design in reframing the narrative on the imminence of taking actions for saving the planet now, we present our special guests in consecutive interviews.

Darja Malesic is a fashion designer with a postgraduate degree from the Royal College of Art in London. She has extensive experience in the international fashion industry, where she has worked for over 20 years. She has designed for luxury fashion houses such as Dolce&Gabbana, John Richmond and others. She is currently consulting for companies and developing her own products based on the local craft and sustainable materials and collaborating directly with various Slovenian wicker artisans.

In the last ten years she has become increasingly focused on the research and implementation of Ethical Responsibility within the Fashion Industry, in particular the issues of sustainability, the circular economy, and inclusivity in fashion (especially for disabled groups). She is attracted to collaborations that could have a real impact on people, society, and the planet, with a genuine sensitivity to the challenges of the 21st century.

Flowe water bottles use traditional Slovenian crafts – ​in the form of specialist wickerworks

Her Flowe water bottle collection encourage a re-evaluation of traditional crafts – wickerwork as well as the use of local and sustainable materials such as willow, corn husk and rye straw. Flowe water bottles takes the personal reusable water bottle and makes it into wearable ethical fashion accessory.

Let’s start from the beginning. What was it that shifted your focus from the luxury fashion industry to becoming a founder of an ethically responsible and sustainable business?

DM: Working in the luxury fashion industry was interesting from a creative perspective, but I became increasingly concerned that it was extremely wasteful of resources, and often highly polluting. Also, I’ve always been interested in design and concepts outside of fashion and clothing. This and some big life events, that happened to me back in 2010, made me start looking for a new direction. I returned to my hometown of Ljubljana (Slovenia) and opened my own design studio. I made it my mission to use my creativity mainly for projects that could have a real positive impact on people, society, and the planet.

What is your definition of sustainable/circular fashion?

DM: It’s about getting a balance back. Working with nature to replenish what we take from it. Producers minimizing the damage their industry has on the environment through the choice of materials and technology and chemicals it uses, and finding ways to avoid long transportations,
and supporting the local. Reversing the habit of producing and selling more and more quantity, whilst degrading quality. Consumers avoiding fast, throw-away fashion and embracing stylish clothes that are designed and made to have a longer life-span, and that can finally be recycled or composted at the end of the cycle.

It is about the responsibility of everybody involved in the supply chain to produce new pieces with a little as possible of damaging effect and about consumers altering their way of living.


Way back in 1713, Hans Carl von Carlowitz, create the term sustained yield forestry, and encouraged “using resources in a way that extracts only so much from the environment that nature can regenerate”. In the 300 years since Carlowitz wrote this, the planet has faced drastic environmental issues from climate change, loss of biodiversity, land degradation, and massive air and water pollution. Sadly, the fact is on a global level, there is very little regeneration of nature happening, regardless all of the sustainability development goals of the last few decades.
Basically, true sustainability should be a necessary attitude towards the regeneration of the planet, that we should apply to any field or industry, including fashion. Perhaps it could be regulated on a national or even global level. Of course, we also need to participate as individuals, by practicing so-called sustainable living.

It’s not just sustainability that matters so much to you, but also ethics and local production. When choosing the artisans to work with on your own products, what factors are most important to you?

DM: When it comes to any sustainable product, my feeling is that makes sense to first search for locally-produced materials, and for local production.

When I started with my latest project, I made my first research into what local raw material supply is available, and what was produced locally. Back in the late 90’s the textile and clothing industry in Slovenia used to be quite big, and this is when I moved abroad. But by the time I returned in 2010, it was almost gone. So, I started looking in the other areas and discovered traditional wicker products.

It was not so easy at first to find artisans for cooperating. Firstly, there are not many craftspeople who still possess these rare skills, and then not everyone is interested in experimenting away from the strictly traditional.

I am currently working with 3 dedicated craftspeople specializing in wicker, and with a local social enterprise that is employing disabled people, who are also makers of Flowe products. Every artisan is dedicated to different wicker materials and techniques. We use local and sustainable materials, which are either renewable resources (willow, hazel) or 100% agricultural waste material (corn husk, and rye straw).

The use of natural, biodegradable, and locally-produced materials that come with fewer carbon emissions in their production, is fundamental in creating a non-polluting product.

Another important part of this story is the social side of sustainability, especially making fair relations within our local supply chain, fair trade works for both the producer and the consumer. I also feel that it is important, where possible, to involve underserved people and social businesses in our community.

Flowe water bottle is truly sustainable, using WILLOW casing to protect and insulate the glass

How did you come to work with willow for the water bottles from your Flowe collection?

DM: Willow is a very common tree in Slovenia. Different wicker products were traditionally made out of willow, like baskets, wine bottles, fencing, and others.

The willow is an extremely fast-growing tree and is a truly sustainable and renewable resource. In the first years, it can reach up to two and a half meters a year. Young and fast-growing shoots have a greater need for nutrients and carry out photosynthesis more intensively. In doing so, they consume more carbon dioxide, which is taken from the atmosphere. By growing willows, which are very undemanding plants, for the purpose of weaving, we contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases. The whole process with willow wicker, where only young willow branches are used, is practically carbon negative.

The willows are among the oldest flowering plants on Earth, extending over 130 million years ago. In the post-Ice Age era, they proved to be pioneers of resettlement. Willows are able to withstand climate extremes and adapt quickly to all types of soil.

In a nutshell, a very impressive tree!

Flowe water bottle collection combines 3 themes: respect for water, cultural heritage and
​sustainability. 

Now everything becomes more and more global, are there really still trends in design and fashion which are regional? What does Slovenia bring to the international scene?

DM: Certain aesthetics that emerge often start from a particular place or region and this can be easily detected. Take the trend for Scandinavian furniture for example.

So-called trends have to start somewhere, or with someone, even if the roots are not so obvious. I know that cultural and aesthetic characteristics exist here in Slovenia, but being such a small country it does not always carry the same weight. However, in a world of merged global trends, I think it is refreshing when you get a new starting point, perhaps especially when that starting point is based on a true cultural reference or tradition. This can add a special quality and authenticity beyond fashion and trend.

Slovenia is geographically, culturally, and historically placed in between the Mediterranean, Alpine and Balkan regions, so a mix of this spirit can be undercurrent influence anywhere, be it design, food, or language. But then again there are many successful Slovenian designers with very strong personal design signature, that has nothing to do with their country of origin.

If you take someone who is interested in ethical design and fashion with you to Ljubljana, what places would you show them? What are the “musts” to visit (studios, shops, art spaces, galleries etc.)?

I would point you to the current design exhibition “Created in Slovenia”, by the Centre for Creativity at Cukrarna Palace, which I am taking part in with two of my products.

In Museum for Architecture and Design, MAO is also BIO 27 Super Vernaculars, the oldest and one of the leading design biennials in the world, under the curatorship of Jane Withers, that brings together forward-thinking and environmentally conscious designers, architects, thinkers, and researchers from around the globe.

There is Ljubljana Month of Design 2022, starting 6th October, where you will be able to find some circular brands like Floios – Handmade Jewelry designed by nature made from E-Waste,  Volja – Circular approach to menswear, my exhibition, and many more.

Also, the Krater Collective is very interesting, it is placed in revived construction pit, with completely local production of clay, paper, fungi, and wood products.

What should consumers look out for when shopping sustainably?

DM: That the product is making sense. I mean, sense for our common future as well as sense in their own lives. No nonsense.  Pure beauty.

* Sustainable Practices in Design and Fashion is a series of discussions and presentations in five Bulgarian cities – Ruse, Burgas, Gabrovo, Varna and Plovdiv. The project is initiated by Liszt Institute – Hungarian Cultural Institute in Sofia and is curated by Studio Komplekt, who are also leading the discussions. The event introduces the general public to a variety of practices that formulate an important change in the industry towards greener production and consumption. Combining science, design, technology and media, they offer new, closer to nature models for the use of raw materials. Each of the selected Bulgarian cities is hosting a discussion on sustainability with two guest speakers from Europe, as well as a traveling exhibition with 24 examples of sustainable fashion and design brands from the Visegrad Group.

A CULTURAL PROGRAM ENLIVENED DISTRICT SIX

Is it possible through collaborations with local and international cultural producers, independent organizations, municipal structures and institutions to bring out the potential of an urban area so that it falls under the radar of representatives of the business, creative sector and tourism?

After wrapping up “Ten Days of Culture in District Six” last week, our response would be a positive one. The central neighbourhood District Six briefly became a field area for exploratory and experimental activity. The amalgamation of different themes and approaches, combined with the dynamic networking between the participants and the audience, gave rise to various visions and left the door open for speculations, references and ideas in the coming years. The culture cooperation program produced not answers but rather discourse on possible future developments. 

EXPLORING THE NEIGHBOURHOOD AND ITS POTENTIAL

Dima Stefanova, Ivelina Gadjeva and Filip Boyadzhiev, the trio leading the independent educational platform for art and design Know-How Show-How, arrived first in District Six, Gabrovo, to gather impressions, highlight its possibilities and transformed the wonderful space of the “Buditelite” Community Centre. Over the next 10 days together with the ten participants in their creative workshop they embarked on a mission to find ways forward for the place and its inhabitants through respect for heritage and in collaboration with local producers and companies. Through the methods of design research and interdisciplinary learning, they collected data, visited the production bases of several large local companies, compiled visual maps and experimented with waste materials to prototype ideas for future development and proposals for the needs of the neighbourhood. Among the more long-term interventions presented were a visual indication of the boundaries of the urban area, including the creation of a specific typeface, pimping up the garden furniture of the local beer bar, interventions into the space of the community centre and a general creative uplift and stimulative provocation. Among the conclusions of the study were the needs of the local community to have a place of attraction to gather, to communicate, to exchange ideas and have a good time together.

STORIES FROM THE HEART OF GABROVO

The documentary theatre studio Vox Populli presented in three different evenings the site-specific performance Six Scenes from District Six in collaboration with actors from Gabrovo Drama Theatre. The walk through the neighbourhood streets introduced the viewers to the stories of its residents in interesting and unexpected memories of some iconic Gabrovo people and their culture, personal family stories and inherited wisdoms. 

REIMAGINING NATURAL MATERIALS 

Еtar is a unique open air museum not only for the region, but also for the country and it was part of the cultural program with a photo exhibition and a workshop. By preserving national traditions in craftsmanship and customs, the museum explores local natural materials such as corn husks and applies them in regenerative design practices through new forms. The museum’s team demonstrated and taught the audience how to easily weave decorative flowers from the dried leaves of the corn husk. They also showed options for using the material in a more practical way such as, for example, weaving carpets and mats.

WASTE MATERIALS INTO GALLERY OBJECTS

The third stop of the project Sustainable Practices in Design and Fashion, realized in collaboration with , highlighted the options of up-cycling discarded materials and products into unique and beautiful objects. Petra Svejdarova and Klara Vaculikova from the Czech duo PRASKLO and the young Hungarian designer Katalin Huszar walked us through their process of work. PRASKLO creates boutique and one-off gallery vases, assembled from scrap crystal or glass from the big factories, thus giving consumers food for thought and a reason for sustainable choice. Katalin Huszar’s curious approach of collecting plastic straws from the garbage, washing them and after thermal treatment turning them into “sheets” of a new material actually turned out to be a not so successful experiment. Even though looking attractive and stylish, the recycled straws exhaust too much energy and water to be processed and transformed. But these are important lessons contributing to the overall knowledge about sustainability in the design industry.

POETRY IN A SMALL SUNNY TOWN

“Leave all your prejudices for this literary walk here and take them back again at the end, when we will return to the same spot.” Thus began this particularly emotional experience, saturated with carefully chosen and wonderful words, which gently fed the audience with the most valuable – strong food for the soul. The literary tour by Reading Sofia Foundation has invited the poet Albena Todorova to lead us around and highlight some parts of District Six, which have made a strong impression on her and which she magnificently addressed through the words of Kristin Dimitrova, Nataliya Ivanova, Nadezhda Radulova, Petya Heinrich, Ran Bosilek, Atanas Dalchev and others. The unusual lyrical experience touched everyone, making us feel the authenticity of life in the neighborhood – from its hidden streets, through the noisy Saturday market to the calm of summer in a small town.

DESIGNERS ASK AND PROVOKE

The house of NoPoint Atelier is situated just a few kilometres above Gabrovo in the small village of Balanite, where the view of the mountains takes your breath away and the place is the perfect backdrop for artistic inspiration. Within the framework of the project and with the support of Gabrovo Municipality Culture Program, the hosts – Miroslav Zhivkov and Yana Nikolova – gathered four designers from different parts of the country to work on the design of social posters with the theme Question of Time. In just four days of intensive discussions, work and creativity, Albena Limoni, Denislav Golemanov, Zahari Dimitrov, Kostadin Kokalanov and Miroslav Zhivkov managed to create over 200 posters. Called “social” because their role to sell or advertise was taken away, they appeared on the streets of District Six to spark curiosity-inducing visions and questions. All the variations of the designs were collected in a pop-up gallery in the neighborhood, where they could be viewed for several more days.

We’d like to extend our gratitude to all participants, organizations and institutions that joined the program and attended the events. 10 Days of Culture in District Six took place on the occasion of the European project Creative Industries for New Urban Economies in the Danube Region (with the acronym CINEMA), funded by the Danube 2014 Transnational Cooperation Program -2020″ INTERREG), in which Studio Komplekt and the Municipality of Gabrovo are partners for Bulgaria.

All pictures are by Dragomir Minkov, except the NoPoint Atelier ones which are by RadLab Studio.

SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES IN DESIGN WITH ALESSIA TU OF LAMPOON

Just days before our much anticipated event* in Ruse on sustainable practices and the role of design in reframing the narrative of the environmental crisis, we present our guests in a series of interviews.

Alessia Tu is the content editor of Milan based Lampoon Magazine. She is a translator and journalist specializing in the intersection between fashion, design and architecture with a focus on sustainability.

Lampoon Magazine is a fashion, art and culture magazine based in Milan and published in English focused on sustainability and human commitment looking to feature brands and companies within industries that are making a difference, with the aim to provide them with a unique platform.

Why Lampoon as the name of a magazine tackling issues of sustainability?

AT: In 2015, at a critical time for the publishing industry, came Lampoon. A new and independent fashion magazine named after the satirical American magazine from Harvard University, famous in the 1970s. Lampoon, which means ‘Ironic Newspaper’ in English, was born with the idea to propose a fashion that was accessible to everyone, through its informative pages, and interaction between images, text, form and content.

Over the years the magazine has evolved through an effort of great research and care in both editorial and visual areas. The main focus of the magazine now is sustainability, which is interpreted by delving into every asset of the circular economy in all sectors: fashion, art, design and architecture.

The main strengths of Lampoon’s journalistic narrative are the global reporting of the strongest commitments to sustainable development and the dialogues and cultural connections between industry leaders and emerging voices and talents. Ample space is devoted to craftsmanship, with the aim of preserving Italian roots and heritage.

Where do you find your stories? Are these signs of a positive change? And are they enough to be optimistic about the future?

AT: We are very curious. We read a lot of newspaper, magazine both printed and online, we watch documentaries, movies, listen to podcasts. Whenever we can we go to places and try to see realities in person. This way we always find ideas for new stories

All true and honest businesses that are doing something to make a positive change are always a good thing to take as examples to follow. Nothing is never enough thinking about the future ahead of us but still doing something instead of nothing is a step forward.

 

If there is one thing each one of us should start doing right now in order to save the planet, what would it be?

AT: Instead of just one I would personally say three things: stop buying things we don’t really need, sell and buy second hand, try to eat more plant based

One misconception about the term sustainability?

AT: A part from the fact that today the word sustainability has been overused, and most of the time it’s all about marketing and greenwashing, there are few misconceptions about the term sustainability. One would be that when you think about the word sustainability you could think about expensive.

For example, if you think about fashion, you might think that to be truly sustainable you would have to stop buying fast fashion and instead buy only expensive clothing that would be synonymous with quality. This is not true. That is why I said that one of the best things to do is to buy second-hand products, where you can find extraordinary quality, in good condition and at a lower price than a new product with a mark-up.

Your favourite book/movie on the subject you would recommend?

AT: I would recommend to read Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring published in 1962 (This year marks its sixtieth anniversary).

Alessia Tu is presenting her editorial work and is part of the discussion in Ruse on 28.05.2022 / Saturday, 18:00 at Canetti House. The entrance is free.

 

 

*Sustainable Practices in Design and Fashion is a series of discussions and presentations in five Bulgarian cities – Ruse, Burgas, Gabrovo, Varna and Plovdiv. The project is initiated by Liszt Institute – Hungarian Cultural Institute in Sofia and is curated by Studio Komplekt, who are also leading the discussions. The event introduces the general public to a variety of practices that formulate an important change in the industry towards greener production and consumption. Combining science, design, technology and media, they offer new, closer to nature models for the use of raw materials. Each of the selected Bulgarian cities is hosting a discussion on sustainability with two guest speakers from Europe, as well as a traveling exhibition with 24 examples of sustainable fashion and design brands from the Visegrad Group.

SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES IN DESIGN WITH KATARÍNA HUTYROVÁ OF NOSENE

Just days before our much anticipated event* in Ruse on sustainable practices and the role of design in reframing the narrative on the imminence of taking actions for saving the planet now, we present our two special guests in consecutive interviews.

Katarína Hutyrová is the founder, co-owner and manager of NOSENE. She was included in the “30 under 30” list by Forbes Slovakia (2019) and won two times the Via Bona Award with NOSENE (Good Community Partner Award in 2016, Green Company Award in 2018). She is an avid enthusiast and ambassador for sustainable fashion and lifestyle through her activities as an author and moderator of the podcast “The New Sustainable Age”

NOSENE offers a wide range of sustainable options for the consumer: worn or upcycled clothes, natural and local cosmetics, ecological handbags or sneakers, beautiful recycled jewelry, books, recycled stockings and nylons and household cleaners. “Our production is not only local, but as close to being zero waste as is achievable, and we recycle most of our waste and up-cycle where possible.”

What does NOSENE mean and what was your concept when labelling your brand with it?

Katarína Hutyrová: NOSENE means “worn” in English. It is the new generation of second hand, it’s “shop that makes you feel good and sells clothes that smell wonderful”. The decision to buy an already used piece of clothing is a step towards supporting fashion sustainability. Fast fashion causes the clothing industry to produce waste, which often ends up on a junkyard, where it takes decades to decompose. In most cases, those are clothes that were worn only a couple of times, sometimes not even once.

In what way is your second hand brand different from the rest? What is unique about it and how do you nurture it?

KH: We change the way you feel in the second hand and how it looks. We select right pieces, have own upcyled collection RENEWALS BY NOSENE and bring choices how you can change your behaviour in sustainable livestyle

Why is secondhand consumption better as a lifestyle choice? What needs to be done in order to keep it in the loop of contemporary fashion developments?

KH: Every day millions of people buy clothes without any thought or remorse for the consequences of those purchases. Shopping is becoming “Americans’ favourite pastime.” Because it is one of the biggest environmental problems. More specific – second or third dirtiest industry in the world.

 

If there is one thing each one of us should start doing right now in order to save the planet, what would it be?

KH: Stop buying new clothes. Instead choose an already used piece or a local brand, take your own bottle, your own cup, buy less food or take a walk instead of traveling by car.

One misconception about the term sustainability?

KH: That I cannot change anything as an individual.

Your favourite book/movie on the subject you would recommend?

KH: David Attenborough – A life on our planet.

*Sustainable Practices in Design and Fashion is a series of discussions and presentations in five Bulgarian cities – Ruse, Burgas, Gabrovo, Varna and Plovdiv. The project is initiated by Liszt Institute – Hungarian Cultural Institute in Sofia and is curated by Studio Komplekt, who are also leading the discussions. The event introduces the general public to a variety of practices that formulate an important change in the industry towards greener production and consumption. Combining science, design, technology and media, they offer new, closer to nature models for the use of raw materials. Each of the selected Bulgarian cities is hosting a discussion on sustainability with two guest speakers from Europe, as well as a traveling exhibition with 24 examples of sustainable fashion and design brands from the Visegrad Group.

 

REVIEW OF BULGARIAN DESIGN TRAVELS TO PRAGUE

The works of 11 Bulgarian designers and studios travels to Prague following the invitation of the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in the Czech capital.

One of the more ambitious goals of Melba Design Festival, whose fourth edition we celebrated at the end of 2021, is to connect – the Bulgarian with the international design scene, as well as to initiate collaborations between local designers, curators and organizations from the Bulgarian design scene.

That is why the first trip of the annual exhibition Review of Bulgarian Design is a significant step for us. From March 15 to April 8, the group exhibition will be presented in Prague, following the invitation of the Bulgarian Cultural Center in the Czech capital.

It has become a traditional annual exhibition since the first edition of the festival, which brings together some of the remarkable manifestations of design through projects in various fields (graphic, product, social and interior design, printing, fashion, etc.).

For the fourth edition of the exhibition, the leading theme is “The value of design”. Again, representatives of various design fields were deliberately invited, with some of the authors already established and known as specialists, while others are just starting out professionally.

The exhibition was presented for the first time in Sofia at KO-OP gallery as part of the Melba Festival in November 2021, and was viewed by hundreds of design fans.