What is Studio Markovic? ‘It’s a dream world, a network of dedicated and extraordinary people that work together on creating a beautiful & sustainable product. The idea of sustainability is certainly not new, but what I’m doing is saying you can have those few pieces that grow on you, living your best moments with them or in them and they remain in this world even when you’re not here anymore. It’s quite a scary, morbid thought, but if you look at the bigger picture, it makes perfect sense.’
Croatian designer Mihaela Markovic founded Studio Markovic following her training at Istituto Marangoni in Milan and following 2 years in industry, returning to study at Nottingham Trent University where she followed a 3-month entrepreneurship course alongside her Masters degree, where she learned the basics of starting a business. Mihaela reflects..’I come from an entrepreneurial family and I have to say, that made a huge difference because I understood from day one the mindset you have to have to make it all work. When you’re working for yourself you are constantly thinking how to move forwards, how to improve on your established ways, how to innovate and bring something new to everything that already exists. It’s not climbing to the top of a mountain and staying there, thinking “this is it”. There are numerous mountains and valleys ahead.’
So, we asked Mihaela ‘Why knit?’ ‘Firstly because I am completely in charge of the creation – from a simple yarn to the finished product. With clever combination of yarns, colours, tension, stitch selection…you can create miracles. Secondly, I guess I love that knitwear is not restrictive. You can always work around it. It’s not like making a custom made suit where all the dimensions need to be minutiosly correct. There is space. And I need that space, I love having that space.
More than 70% of materials that Mihaela uses in her pieces are natural fibres. Alpaca wool, merino, super kid mohair, and for summer, cotton, silk, and linen. She also works with recycled and synthetic fibres, making pieces like the Mussel Bag. The Mussel bag was created using discarded stock materials from a garment factory in Croatia that was closing. Mihaela explains ‘the textile industry in Croatia has been on the downfall since the fall-out of ex-Yugoslavia at the beginning of the 1990s. It has never recovered. There was the industry, the machines, the skills – all thrown down the river because of bad political decisions throughout the years. I hope things change for the better in the future. So, there is all this stock [material] left, discarded, some made for clients that ordered the goods but never paid fully or came to pick it up. Different outcomes. So I decided we can give this material a new life. I buy it off for an acceptable price and make backpacks or tote bags as accessories made from synthetic fibres are much more acceptable than if I were to make a clothing item that touches your skin directly.’
Having returned to Zagreb, Croatia, Mihaela ensure that all pieces are made locally where she has access to production at all times, so she can be sure that quality is top and to ensure that her products are made ethically, where garment workers are protected and fairly-paid.
About Mihaela’s inspiration and creative process. ‘It actually happens very organically. I am a keen reader, I read a lot, and I love European cinema, theatre. I always carry a little diary and notebook where I write down ideas, quotes from books I read..sometimes the whole idea comes out of something a friend said, or [something] I read which most often doesn’t have anything to do with art or design. It can be about philosophy or physics. Something completely unrelated. What is beautiful about my work, and about the world in general, is the fact that whenever we think two things are as disparate as they can be, there is a connection and a common trait between them. That is what I do, I link them together, either literally by combining unusual materials, using most improbable yarns, something no one would think of, or quite figuratively, by translating for example, a historical event into a new shape. Fashion is about bringing a new way of thinking to the table. A pretty dress is just a tool, a way to express your thoughts, desires, to express who you are.’
Mihaela makes pieces for women who appreciate quality and are aware that making something takes time, patience and the know-how. Women who know that being intelligent and dressed well is not mutually exclusive. She tells us ‘I wear everything that I design because I think it is the best way to know your products, to show them off and in the end, be absolutely sure what works and what doesn’t.’
Mihaela has recently collaborated with Slovenian designer, Tina Princ, and her brand Things I Miss where, at the beginning of April, they will be launching their project at Ljubljana Fashion Week, ‘TIMMM = Things I Miss + MM’ ‘After a very short time, we started working together because we have a common vision, although this vision is executed in two very different ways.’
When a woman who buys Studio Markovic knitwear applies the same train of thought to other areas of her life, the way she deals with human relations, or if you think about our descendants, people that will inhabit this world after us, maybe she will start thinking – what am I actually leaving behind? Did I make one step forwards in the evolution of the human race or did I, most probably, just make things worse for the ones coming after me, piling up [rubbish] and not investing time and energy in what’s truly worth?