Eastern Promises : Sofia Fashion Week Spring 2017

Reporting by Dilyana Mateeva

Text by Olivia Moreau  / Photographs by Ivan Yordanov

Sofia Fashion Week comes at the tail-end of the major fashion weeks. Unfortunately, it overlaps with Prague and often loses out on international press due to timing issues. That does not mean SFW does not provide a strong enough recollection of Bulgarian fashion both new and old. This year's SFW had the usual glitz of eastern European pageantry with a hint of progressive fashion.

Here are some of the highlights of Sofia Fashion Week.

Bulgarian fashion designer Evgeniya Zhivkova created the"Jeni Style" in 1991. She has been a steady fixture within the Bulgarian fashion scene winning three Golden Needles (a yearly contest under the supervision of Prof. Lubomir Stoykov that celebrates the best designers in Bulgaria).  Her presentation during the first night has a distinctly global feel to it with black and white being the primary palette. Floral prints on silk with stripes and dots made the collection worthy of another Golden Needle.

Desire Mark which is a Bulgarian brand of luxury boutique clothes and jewelry has been in operation since 2013. The brand was founded by designer Dessislava Markova. Her "Lady Boss" line's manifesto is based on a more functional, less formal workwear meets play-wear ideology. Her ability to produce exquisite silhouettes made out of silk, jacquard, satin, cotton and linen made her collection surprisingly fun and light. It also provided an interesting counterpoint to Eastern European aesthetics which tends to follow more glitz, less substance where overexposing elements of the body comes naturally. This was an anti-thesis to that philosophy that thrives in smaller eastern European markets. 

Hristo Chuchev, is a formidable name in Bulgarian fashion. His couture work is praiseworthy and this cycle they were on full display. Lace dominated his pieces, with different silhouettes and many handcrafted details such as 3D flowers crafted into the process. Fine crystals, feathers and beads were accompanied by long flowy movements of lace while maintaining his easily recognizable necklines. 

One of the youngest and most popular Bulgarian designers - Stoyan Radichev showed his wedding collection titled “Desire” during Sofia Fashion Week. The dresses were made out of fine lace and tulle. The combination of old-fashioned charm and avant-garde futurism was nicely juxtaposed in an otherwise conservative show. Stoyan’s ability to balance between the volume of drapery and clean lines reinforced the sense of an hourglass, thus creating an exceptionally feminine collection.

One of the highlights if not the highlight of Sofia Fashion Week was  24-year-old Karam Daya of Syria. Karam is a third-year student at the New Bulgarian University and his collection was probably the one that stood out the most. The young designer was inspired by Beatrice Dahl and the image of Jesus. With metal crosses, black sheer dresses masquerading as Roman Armors, the young designer unleashed a collection full of delightful contradiction. The religiosity was tempered brooding sexual imagery in the form of see through dresses and corsets.  While it would have been better if his signature piece (fantastic by design and excellent to look at) was introduced by a proper model, it still lit up the room. Karam's ability to infuse contrasting narrative into one singular tonality is worth a double take. Usually, you run into designers of such promise in London or Milan (as Paris is not very kind to smaller designers),  but to find Karam in Sofia was a true testament of Sofia maturing as a fashion city and opening its gates to diversity.