Looking for unique fashion inspiration? Don’t overlook Eastern European designers. For one reason or another, Eastern European countries often fall forgotten- both in the real world and the fashion world. The region is full of culture and fashion identities that should be recognized and celebrated. Although some of the designers on this list are now based in regions outside of Eastern Europe, their Balkan roots should be acknowledged.
You may have seen this brand name more commonly recently, especially on celebrities like Dua Lipa and Olivia Rodrigo. The brand is a collaborative effort from Bulgarian designer Emma Chopova and English designer Laura Lowena, hence the name.
Although based in England, Chopova’s Bulgarian roots inspire a large part of the brand’s identity. Chopova Lowena “juxtaposes folklore and sportswear with a concentration on sustainability and craft”, as per the brand’s website. This is done by modernizing traditional textiles and blending themes and styles ranging from Bulgarian folklore to 1980s sportswear.
The brand also employs skilled female artisans in Bulgaria and is able to create job opportunities for women passionate “about rejuvenating cultural heritage through the preservation of traditional techniques”. Through their work, the brand is committed to creating ethically made garments which appreciate artistry and craftsmanship.
Most recently, their unique skirts can be seen all over the Internet, both on fashion enthusiasts and celebrities alike. The skirts feature a large leather belt, accompanied by an array of different folklore inspired patterns and textures. Below is a photo of Dua Lipa recently wearing one of the brand’s skirts.
This London-based, Ukrainian founded luxury brand focuses on color, individuality and sustainability, just to name a few. Natasha Zinko specializes in womenswear and jewelry, but kids fashion, accessories, Medicom toys and even furniture can also be found on their website.
The brand’s pieces are not hard to differentiate from its peers. Bold colors, eye-catching patterns and suggestive text are often used to make a statement. The brand’s upcycling practices combined with its clear brand identity make it one of the most standout European brands right now.
Most recently, Natasha Zinco showed its Spring 2023 collection in Paris. The collection served as a creative outlet for Zinko amidst the war in Ukraine. “This collection made me feel more stable, because I was focused on making the clothes, which helped me not be so emotional in those terrible first few months,” the designer tells Vogue.
A Natasha Zinko collection has something for everyone. The clothing is androgynous, bold and eye-catching. The brand loves experimenting with statement patterns, textiles and fabrics. The NZ Spring 2023 collection alone features leather, denim, satin, and even knit elements to create a series of looks in which every ensemble is different from the last yet still connected in a cohesive collection.
Based in Kyiv, this Ukrainian label takes inspiration from classic vintage pieces and reimagines them in a modern way. Anna October aims to inspire women with her clothing and express sensitivity, freedom and femininity.
According to the brand, ethical clothing and consumption is at the core of Anna October, as “Significant amounts of the pieces are handcrafted by using re-imagined artisanal techniques for modern clothes”.
Most recently, the brand showed its Resort 2023 collection, which was in production as the war in Ukraine was raging. October recounts the experience to Vogue: “We had fittings on Zoom, while there were air raid alerts. I could hear it. I was like girls, do want to go to the bomb shelter? Shall we stop? And they were like no, we’re fine. Continue the fitting. It was surreal.”
The collection features silky, long dresses and sweaters finely knitted to resemble traditional doily patterns, a nod to her Ukrainian roots. “These are what we make to hang on Christmas trees. I was thinking about the new year”.
The sentimentality of the pieces is reflected in the details of Anna October’s most recent work and creates a collection that is as beautiful as it is inspiring.
Kiko Kostadinov is a Bulgarian designer based in London. The brand showcases both menswear and womenswear collections and tends to appeal to the more polished, traditional fashion enthusiast. In an interview, the designer states “We don’t need to prove we can work with color or we can make crazy things. We can do suiting, tailoring, workwear”.
His Spring 2023 Menswear Collection highlights those exact ideals and displays intricate tailoring and suit work. Some of Kostadinov’s inspiration behind this collection was Bulgaria’s difficult past with the Ottoman Empire, with some of the collection reflecting “Ottoman Janissary military garb and the work of traditional Bulgarian painter Zlatyu Boyadzhiev”, according to a review from Vogue Runway.
Kiko Kostadinov’s womenswear collections, designed by sisters Laura and Deanna Fanning, feature the Kiko woman as classy, glamorous, very well tailored, and not afraid of a little color. Ultimately, the brand attempts to modernize the traditional work uniform into clothing that is practical, versatile and timeless.
Nanushka was founded in 2006 by Hungarian designer Sandra Sandor. Based in Budapest, the brand concentrates on womenswear, menswear and accessories. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Sandor talks about her passion of creating a bridge “between distant cultural references from different times and places”, and her hope to “create balance and harmony in the clash of cultures.”
By focusing on craftsmanship, paying attention to details and ensuring responsible production, Nanushka creates clothing for those with a deep appreciation of fashion, community and respect for nature.
The brand’s core value: “We believe that if a garment is designed to function well, it will, by definition, be beautiful”.
Nanushka clothing has a classic yet contemporary look, and many of its pieces have an androgynous quality to them. The 2023 Resort collection continues to showcase the brand’s clean silhouettes, classic shapes and patterns in clothing that is inclusive to everyone. The collection aims to improve on classic pieces like the long leather jacket and knit vests and sweaters, while also adding in more trendy elements that appeal to the time period of the collection.
Vienna based Bulgarian born designer Petar Petrov excels at creating modern yet timeless pieces.
Petrov studied at the University of Applied Arts Vienna under Raf Simmons in the early 2000s and originally started out with menswear. In 2007, he began designing for female Austrian sophisticates, per Vogue Runway.
His modern and sophisticated designs continue to resonate with many, and the brand has only grown since. Petar Petrov collections often feature classic silhouettes, impeccable tailoring and muted, typically neutral colors.
Petrov’s Fall 2022 Ready-to-Wear collection stays true to the brand’s identity and presents classic looks in denim, leather, velvet and knit. In addition to the different textures present in the collection, Petrov also uses different shades of brown, tan, beige, and burgundy to create pieces that are timeless yet still very relevant today.
Bevza is a Kyiv- based Ukranian womenswear brand established in 2006. The brand incorporates “sophisticated clean silhouettes, sharp tailoring and soft color palettes” for each collection while focusing on chicness, minimalism, and sensuality.
Svitlana Bezva, the creative director and founder of the brand, often reimagines symbols from her Ukrainian heritage and modernizes them.
Sustainability is also a key part of the brand’s identity. The brand commits to ethical production by ensuring that certain knitted pieces are made of recycled plastic and leftover fabric and that their “eco-friendly digitally printed coats are the new alternative to fur” according to the brand’s own statement.
The eco-friendly puffer coats and recycled knitwear were first shown in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The pieces can be seen again in Bevza’s Fall 2022 Ready to Wear collection, in the form of maxi skirts and long vests. The envelope clutches and motifs on the pieces can be seen as a figurative “love letter to the earth”.
The brand continues to incorporate its core value of chic minimalism, use of neutral tones and efforts toward ethical clothing production into every collection.
And the list goes on! Fashion is thriving all around the world, so don’t sleep on these Eastern European designers.
Featured Image via natashazinkomagazin. Design by Her Campus Media