by Dilyana Mateeva
Once in a Blue Moon Eastern Europe produces designers that have crossover appeal. Due to the economic variability of the markets and the size of the consumer base native fashion tends to suffer under a lack of exposure in most places in Eastern Europe. So it is always a surprise to find designers from Eastern Europe making a substantive impact on the major circuits like London or New York. Svetoslav Kolchagov is one of those rare talents who branched out and incorporated his tradition with globalization and has been producing exceptional art in the form of clothes.
Svetoslav Kolchagov was born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in 1973, but he grew up in Bansko, where under the tutelage of his grandmother Lyuba Kolchagova, he became interested in fashion. Lyuba was a modiste of the Plovdiv elite and knew the ins and outs of bespoke clothing. Family tradition aside, his development as a designer was also influenced by conceptual artist Mariela Gemisheva, with whom he worked for about 5 years.
In 2003 Kolchagov left for London to pursue his dream of being a world-renowned dressmaker. He started working for the fashion brand “Preen” where he spent four seasons furthering his knowledge about his craft. A year with Alexander McQueen gave him a strong foundation to pursue art through the means of fashion. Prof. Lyubomir Staykov who is the patriarch of Bulgarian fashion, suggests that the most unique thing about Kolchagov is his ability to visualize and implement his ideas in one cohesive narrative. All great artists have that clarity and it shows in his work.
From Alexander McQueen to Burberry to Vivienne Westwood, Kolchev remained as a transient figure within high fashion for a long time.
He worked for Vivienne Westwood a decade. After he left VW, he started working for Tom Ford, for which gave him an insight into the precision and quality of Ford’s collection. But true to his nature he quit Tom Ford after Emilio Barba approached him to create their own brand. They crossed paths during Paris fashion week in 2011 and soon “Kolchagov/Barba” was born.
The KB brand focuses on a sense of aesthetics that is predominately a mixture of couture and functionality. Svetoslav’s philosophy is firmly rooted in his experiences as a designer. He wants to create clothes that are fashionable now and will remain so ten years down the road. His ability to fuse strands of classic and modern tradition into one cohesive narrative is the foundation of his line. You can see the influence of Vivienne Westwood in his work; just like VW, he uses draping to make dresses from one piece of fabric, creating an undeniable singularity. He uses Swarovski stones, hand-made lace to accentuate the timelessness of his pieces. But materials rarely make the dress, the inspiration behind his work is what makes them so special. He finds inspiration in painting to nature. His global understanding of aesthetics is a tribute to his ability to appeal to a broad section of people without forgoing his traditionalist roots.
After a few years slowly solidifying his brand, Kolchagov/Barba took a giant step toward global expansion when they presented at the London Fashion Week in 2015. He was the first Bulgarian born designer to present at LFW which is one of the crown jewels of fashion week. Since AW16 his work has garnered a lot of attention among the fashionistas and celebrities. And on any given fashion week you can find trendsetters Sarah Jessica Parker, Sophie Baxter wearing his work.
His previous collections aptly named "Nightfall", "Blossom", "Rome" and "Sky", have all exhibited a deep sense of intricate clarity and fusion of tradition and futurism. From the transparent materials used in "Nightfall" to the oriental colors of "Blossom" K/B's work has encapsulated the essence of nature and femininity. His "Rome" collection which is a product of the aesthetics of the Vatican and his last collection "Sky" also shows rare promise in his already exceptional work. The slender silhouettes in "Sky" is further evidence that his work is rarely static. And the future of Kolchagov/ Barba looks bright and full of intrigue.
Dilyana Mateeva is a Sophia based designer and fashion journalist.
Translator: Maria Russewa