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Lidija Kolovrat’s Secret Istanbul

Working with local craftspeople for the past eight years, Lisbon-based designer Lidija Kolovrat has learned how to tap into Istanbul’s increasingly unique potential to deliver speed, quality, and truly collaborative solutions in the execution of some of her cutting edge designs.The Constant DesignerLife...
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Working with local craftspeople for the past eight years, Lisbon-based designer Lidija Kolovrat has learned how to tap into Istanbul’s increasingly unique potential to deliver speed, quality, and truly collaborative solutions in the execution of some of her cutting edge designs. The Constant Designer Life has been anything but straightforward for fashion ‘maker’ Lidija Kolovrat. Born in 1962 in Zenica, Bosnia & Herzegovina, she moved her way through the Zagreb Film Academy and then found herself studying design and fabric technology. Following a trip to Lisbon in the 1990s, Kolovrat decided that Portugal was the perfect place to open an organic bakery, which was then followed by the opening of Kolovrat Lab, now more than 15 years ago, which has now morphed into Kolovrat 79. Appropriately located in an old bakery at the heart of Lisbon, Kolovrat 79 is a showcase for Lidija’s eclectic interests, experiences, and creations. In addition to being a shop, the space is an artful hub that brings together concerts, talks, productions, films, friends, and potential collaborators. It is a window into Lidija’s world and frame of reference, which is rooted in a philosophy of constant self-evolution and change. Hand Made Design: Collaborating without Words

Given her Balkan roots and borderless approach to her life’s work, it is no surprise that Lidija has found a way to unlock the magical talents of local craftsman in Istanbul to realize her designs. Tired of the caprice, rising costs, and long waiting times of Italian leather ateliers, Lidija has developed highly productive collaborations with local craftsman over the past eight years. Some of her latest designs have been realized by Zambak Leather. Working from an unlikely location in Kavacik on the Anatolian side of the city, the workshop has been run by husband and wife team Sait and Nuray Kuş since 2000. Taking over from Sait’s mother who originally founded the business in 1985, like many other Istanbul-based ateliers, the company has gained exposure to the global market through participation in international textile fairs. Focused on traditional designs and the local market for more than 20 years, the company has recently started executing significant quantities of innovative and complex designs for markets ranging from the USA, Germany to Japan. Importantly, the company has not been spoiled or blinded by the speed of their growth. Maintaining quality levels and allowing opportunities for custom creations remain key priorities. They are also still open to keeping very close and personal relationships with designers like Lidija, and very aware that this helps to keep their business challenging, worthwhile, and sustainable. Like many other great designers of her ilk, Lidija takes a very personal and hands-on approach to her work. While Sait and Nuray are always available to translate, she personally directs the craftspeople, none of whom speak any English or Portuguese or other common language. Seeing her communicate, direct, demonstrate, and get her message across to the team using an intuitive combination of smiles, nods, finger-points, and other gestures, you cannot help but feel her Balkan roots coming out. Somehow it works, and according to Lidija, ‘feels like being at home with my family’. In an age where most of our communication takes place through emails, pdf reports, Skypes, and other impersonal and remote means, such deep, interactive, effective, and wordless communication is truly inspiring. When time, care, and patience are on offer, no borders remain to prevent the design intent from shining through no matter how unfamiliar it may be. In place of frustration, working together becomes a pleasure and an act of ongoing discovery. Words are almost unnecessary when something is truly ‘hand made’. Rather than sinking into our differences, the effort naturally rises to the positive, on finding bonds of commonality that lead to the desired result. It is how we learned as children, and witnessing Lidija’s latest leather collection being shaped from her intent to its final form makes me realize that this is true grass roots design and pure human to human collaboration. It is the real deal, and something we can all learn from.

The Art of the Brand It is this dedication and pioneering spirit that keeps couture an art form, and a reminder of why we must never lose view of the real artisans, the human beings, who cross all physical, mental, and linguistic borders to achieve their art. Too often, we view this only through the lens of the commercial power of the brand and the final product we can touch. But it is the quality of real communication that unfolds throughout the design process that is the champion and the art behind the brand.
9_Sait and His Parents
6_Hand Made Application
3_Leather Sample
2_Local Artisans

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