Croatian brand and One to Watch for SS19, Price on Request, are determined to use their work to encourage the industry to evaluate their relationship to consumption. The brand repurpose the deadstock pieces of Croatian brand Xenia design, enabling them to both remain ecologically conscious through recycling and reusing, and to retain the heritage of the brand by incorporating the historical styles into the future.
Taking functionality as the initial starting point, their creative process differs dependent upon the purpose of the garments, ensuring that the eventual purpose of a piece is valued above the aesthetics. We caught up with Gala Marija Vrbanic, the designer behind the brand, to discuss how to move toward a more sustainable industry, their rare approach and how the award has fostered a sense of validation.
Congratulations on being named a One to Watch! How did you feel when you found out?
It’s obviously a great feeling. As I’ve said earlier, each award is an important acknowledgment and validation of our work. To get this kind of prize, especially since we are a brand from Southeast Europe, is an honour and a great opportunity to introduce ourselves and our brand to audiences and the media whose radar we haven't been on.
What has inspired your Spring Summer 2019 collection?
This collection is quite personal. We have reached into the 30 years worth of archive of the Croatian brand Xenia Design. It is my mother's brand, as well as our parent factory. We took unsold and deadstock items, which had been sitting in the warehouse for a long time, with a goal to create clothes that could correlate and appeal to the culture of today. In fact, we realised that we had been ordering new materials for two seasons, while we had a pile of unused and forgotten potential right by our side.
Each XD piece is altered in 1 or 3 different phases. In the first phase, we have changed the given intention of the piece by turning it into a garment with a different function. In the second phase, we have changed the silhouette of the piece, and in the third phase, we have embellished the garment with prints. The collection also draws upon a lot of references which are sometimes ironic. The collection is completely recycled and environmentally friendly as we want to stop pollution and save the world.
What themes and concepts are you exploring this season?
There is only one consistent theme that runs throughout our work and that is that there is no theme. The only thing we care about is improving functionality, which calls for a lot of research. We usually just rely on brainstorming and don't use moodboards. Although that is not the usual approach to design, it is what sets us apart and provides a sense of authenticity to our work.
Themes of sustainability, diversity and inclusivity are permeating the industry. What changes would you like to make through your work?
Not to sound pessimistic, but in order to make a change, we all need to act, not just a select few. I am not talking about brands, per sé. The problem is not in the use of artificial materials; production of natural materials actually causes more pollution. I don't think the solution lies in the use of "sustainable“ and recycled materials, either. Everything that is in excess is not good, and hyper-production has been brought about by hyper-consummation of today's fashion.
The problem is excessive shopping. We want to change the awareness of the individual, we want to eliminate the barrier of exclusivity. Consumers have to be made aware of the fact that investing in a quality branded product is often, even by price, equal as buying several products from high street brands. That will help in eliminating the issue of hyper-production that rests on the shoulders of a cheap work force in developing countries. It also makes the customer satisfied for having a product that embodies some other values, other than the material one.
What shall we look out for at your SS19 show?
Everything we do has an underlying story woven into it; mostly, we subtly criticize a specific social phenomenon. As I said earlier in the interview, this collection has a lot of personal references, as well as those that reflect Croatian culture, but not in a sentimental way that brands from this region rely on to sell their product (eastern and southeast Europe), when in fact they are relying on an illusion that has been gone for 20 years. We tell it how it is.
Where do you hope to be next season?
We are currently working on a really interesting project with an IT company that aims to transform clothes into an almost entirely virtual entity. The visual aspect of clothing today is most often being consumed via digital presentation or social media. In that respect, we will be providing for the market; however, the need for the physical production of clothes will be almost entirely eliminated. We are very excited about it!