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

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.


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. 


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.


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. 


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


The year begins strong with the possibility to participate in this year’s edition of the regional competition Young Balkan Designers. Concepts by young designers are expected until January 20, 2022 in response to this year’s theme “Life Hacks for health & wellbeing”.

The competition is open to teams and individuals up to 35 years of age, from the following countries: Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Slovenia, Serbia and Turkey. Applicants may be individuals or groups of creators. Each applicant may submit more than one entry.

The selected winners of the Young Balkan Designers 2022 competition will participate in the international talent exhibition “Salone Satellite” at the world’s most prominent design event – the International Furniture Fair in Milan 2022, which will be held from 5 to 10 April 2022. After its world premiere, the awarded works will be presented to the regional audience in Belgrade in October 2022, at the Mikser Festival, one of the Balkan’s most relevant regional festivals of creativity and social innovation.

The respectful jury is comprised of stellar names:

Marcus Fairs, founder and editor in chief,, UK
Ana Kras, artist & designer, Serbia / USA
Vasso Asfi & Loukas Angelou, founders, StudioLav, Greece / UK
Jovana Zhang , founder, Pinwu studio, Serbia / China
Denis Leo Hegic, designer & curator, founder Supermarket Lab/Unblock Art Fair / Museum of Now, Germany

Young Balkan Designers (YBD) is a regional talent platform founded in 2011 with the aim to identify, promote and develop creative potential of the Balkan region in the field of design. The initiative also aims at unifying the regional design scene, bringing it closer to the international audience, strengthening its potential by providing additional education and practice, while at the same time contributing to the restoration of multi-cultural cooperation in the Balkan region.

We encourage you to participate. Learn more about the competition –>
And fill in the application form –>


The European project CINEMA, in which, together with 16 other partners from 8 countries, we are looking for solutions for the transformation and revitalisation of abandoned central urban areas through the power of the creative industries, is entering its last and most active stage. Together with the Municipality of Gabrovo we are working on the development of the District 6. This is the oldest neighbourhood of the city, which has been at the heart of Gabrovo for centuries. The place has a huge potential to become a vibrant and valuable spot for all locals and visitors.

An important step forward in the implementation of the project is the recently announced by Gabrovo Municipalityopen call for the lease of four sites in District 6 through a public-private partnership. The initiative is in support of business and creative activities. Each location has its own distinctive look – two of them bear the marks of authentic Revival architecture, and the others are clean and with generous facades. Their biggest advantage is the opportunity to be part of a transformation of the city centre and turn them into active and lively spots.

The open call aims to select proposals for sustainable use of the four sites in District 6 for a period of two years. Applicants are invited to use the premises for small business, retail, creative activities, creating services and products specific to the creative industries, studios, offices, galleries and more. The requirement for them is to fill in a participation form in which to present their business, to sign a lease agreement and to start operations no later than September 30, 2022. The winners will be signing partnership agreements with the Municipality of Gabrovo, through which they will receive free consultations of choice on marketing activities and advertising, website and online store development, interior design or window layout.

One-year incentives are provided for all start-ups. These include free parking in the paid area of District 6, free internet, membership in the Gabrovo Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a one-time service of up to BGN 100, distribution of advertising materials from the Tourist Information Center, promotion of business through the channels of the Municipality of Gabrovo.

Applications for the call are accepted until January 31, 2022 by e-mail See full information about the four locations and download the application documents here. Let’s transform District 6 together!


MELBA delivered what it promised. A full 10 days program with creative activities, bringing to the capital local and international design heroes as participants.

The fourth edition of the festival put on focus valuable and exciting content that engages audiences and reveals the power of design to contribute to the development and transformation of society for the better. The program included:

An International Symposium live in a hall (The Steps) and online via a direct streaming. The six incredible experts from Europe, Aiden McCall, Hector Ayuso, Claudia Schwartz, Mila Lozanova, Patrick Harjey, Edward Hermmann and Matthew Coufal immersed us in their fascinating professional stories about how design highlights and archives changes in society, about the power of emotions, about projects changing fashion, ecology and the choices we make every day, about the artistic approach and the ensuing collaborations, about heritage in graphic signs and logos, as well as about the production of furniture in different models and with personal participation.

This year we embarked on perhaps one of our favourite and most important curatorial projects – the exhibition “REVIEW OF BULGARIAN DESIGN”. We try to present the current state and direction of development of the discipline in our country through very different as a field, but equally valuable as a reflection projects. The leading direction in our selection this year was the topic of the value of design and what actually lies behind the creation of a product – from the origin of an idea, through the long journey of prototyping and experimentation, to reaching consumers. We invite you to view and get acquainted with the stories of the 11 participants here.

Three more exhibitions, located in central Sofia galleries with open access, involved visitors in a dialogue about the impact of design in everyday life – through the trend of do-it-yourself furniture in “NOMAD.Herrmann&Coufal” (Czech Center), important production trends of local character, thinking about the environment and preserving the high aesthetics in “SUSTAINABLE DESIGN AND FASHION in the countries of the Visegrad Group” (Opening Soon) to trends in product design in “THE FUTURE OF LIVING“. Contemporary Slovenian design” (SKLADA). 

Involving the general public in the topics of reuse and smarter use of materials was realized through two workshops open to everyone. The Czech award-winning duo Herrmann & Coufal personally showed the participants in Do It, Use It how to assemble a lamp, and the Bulgarian designerNeva Balnikova redesigned old vinyls into memorable and attractive new bags.  

The festival was happy to organise and host a very special edition of the global creative formatCreativeMornings Sofia. For the first time, the local team was the author of the monthly theme both as a concept and as a visual, the latest by the talented and versatile artist Sevda Semer. November was marked by the theme Liminal – a Latin word for threshold, and its interpretation. Other 224 cities in 67 countries were discussing the theme and using Sevda Semer’s artwork. As an additional gesture, we also produced cards with her visual interpretation of Liminal as a souvenir.

We were especially happy and proud for the opportunity to hold an open panel on “Sustainable Design Practices”. We introduced the audience to three European companies that are leading an important change in the industry towards greener production and consumption. Combining science, design and technology, they offer new, closer to tradition, local resources and nature models for the use of raw materials. Sara Kele (Hungary), Josh Brito (founder of MakeGrowLab, Poland) and Atanas Enev (founder of Biomyc, Bulgaria) presented their work. There was also a special demonstration of B2N’s Ultimaker S5, the 3D printer used by Biomyc. We recommend that you watch a video of the lectures here.

In collaboration with the mobile payment app Settle for the first time, we launched an open invitation calling for everyone with interest and courage to visually interpret the theme “The Money of the Future” to get involved. The competition gathered over 70 participants, and the awarded 21 projects received both cash prizes and the opportunity to present themselves on the festival website. You are able to view this surprising digital exhibition here and read more about the concept of the selected designers.

We pay special attention to the festival website and overall visual identity. NEXT-DC team surpassed themselves in imagination and realisation to give a strong language and memorable design to this fourth edition. The jars filled with the much loved and famous pickles sour salad appeared in digital and printed form and captured the hearts and eyes of all.


Our work would not be possible without the support of partners and like-minded people who find meaning and value in our initiatives. We thank them equally as the participants and the audience. We are proud to have met up close and worked with wonderful people who helped make the 10 days of design in Sofia particularly invigorating. Until next year.



Settle and Melba Design Festival are inviting you to participate in the open call with a visual interpretation on the topic – The Money of the Future.

Have you been wondering what the future of money will be? Will they still exist on paper in the years to come? Will they become part of us and our imprint? Is there the chance that we will exchange money only for actions and experiences?

We are looking for new and innovative interpretations of the topic without any limitations in the visual discipline. The only condition is that the artwork is exposed in a digital format. 

The selected works will be presented in a digital format online in the exhibition The Money of the Future on the 10th of November as part of the Melba Design Festival program 2021 – on

Тhe awards are provided by Settle – 20 recipients will receive 200 lv and big prize of 1000 lv. All prizes will be delivered through Settle’s application. 

How to participate.

Every candidate has the right to submit one proposal in the following ways till 11.59 pm on the 5th November:

  • Publish a story with your project on Instagram and send a message to @melbainitiatives with info about the artist, title of the work and a short idea description. The only valid submissions are the ones with tags @settlebulgaria и @melbainitiatives
  • Send an email to with subject The Money of the Future and your project with a short description in the following format: JPG or PDF up to 2 pages and not more than 3 MB. The email should contain the artist’s name, title of the work and a short idea description. 

The organizers reserve the right to disqualify entries with obscene content. 

The winners are giving the organizers the right to exhibit their works online on the official Melba Design Festival 2021 website 

The four members of the jury are: Adriana Andreeva and Boiana Gjaurova from Studio Komplekt, Detelina Momcheva from Settle and Momchil Zahariev from NEXT-DC. 

The organizers of the contest:
Studio Komplekt





The tenth meeting of the the international project “Creative Industries for New Urban Economies in the Danube Region” (CINEMA), funded by the Danube Transnational Cooperation Program 2014-2020 (INTERREG) took place this Septembre in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Our three day trip was hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Slovenia. Two working days packed with presentations, workshops, brainstorming sessions, lively discussions and face to face meetings.

Additionally, all the partners enjoyed a city tour of Ljubljana and meetings with some of the cultural operators in the city like the founders of the ROG Centre and the gallerist running a gallery focussed only on up-coming artists and zin makers.


Our team had the chance to present the cultural cooperation tool, planned for implementation in District 6 in Gabrovo.