More Dash: Eye on the East – Interview with Jiri Kalfar

More Dash: Eye on the East is a Pitti Immagine project held in collaboration with More Dash, the showroom and PR agency launched by Daria Shapovalova, founder, and creative director of Mercedes-Benz Kiev Fashion Days. The project which is now in its second iteration focuses on Eastern European brands which have made a name for themselves on the international scene and is their chance to show their collections during the well-known Milanese fair Pitti Super. As we were there, there couldn’t be a better time to speak with Czech designer Jiri Kalfar and ask him a few questions about himself and his vision of fashion.

What is your background in fashion design? What made you decide to go into RTW?    

I didn’t study fashion design formally. Instead, I was a ballet dancer for most of my life. However, after I was injured, I drifted into modelling. After this career fluke, I realized that I wanted something more for myself, a greater mission, to build and to create. One of the few things I knew really well were the human body and fashion, so I took courses on how to sew, how to cut, and how to create patterns. While I was still learning I started to create my first collection.

About RTW, it’s not something that I have made my final decision on, merely something that I do at the moment. I didn’t properly study fashion design as I mentioned, so I am still in a constant learning process, a constant evolution. In the beginning, my collection designs were very basic, and I was limited in what I knew about materials, and how to get them. Now however, we create our own materials, patterns and embroidery. This allows me to even be able to play around a bit with the fabric and the concepts for the final design. At the moment I am focused on RTW, but again, as I’ve mentioned maybe this will evolve into something more, much like I evolved from a model to a designer. I simply go with the flow, after all.

How do your roots and cultural background influence your work?

I would say that, due to spending my whole life in the theater, either in the studio, backstage or on stage that I do have a love of the ballet and operas, and their costumes. I love history and art history as well, and am influenced quite a bit by it. I dislike minimalism and this reflects in my clothing design, where I create fashion that is a bit showy and similar to the costumes on the stage, but in a good way, rather than an obviously gaudy one.

How does the fashion culture of your home country differ from other European countries’ fashion culture?

It’s very different in eastern European countries because we don’t have platforms for fashion design. Countries like Italy, for example, have a well known fashion culture, and allow people to continually grow and evolve in the fashion world from a young age. Furthermore, they did not have to deal with communism as a social and fiscal halt to their art like we did. We are behind a bit, and have a “missing generation” as it were because of this, having to start over from scratch to build and evolve our own fashion scene, and this progress is simply something that is going to take a lot of time and effort.

Is this your first major fashion show experience in the international Pitti Super event? How would you explain to us this event’s significance to you, and what do you hope it will do for your visibility?

I’ve been to fairs before in Italy, like Origin in Vicenza, but this is my first showing at Pitti Super. I think that, with every event you participate in, either you end up gaining some business, or you gain publicity, and barring either of those, you at least gain experience. With there being so many designers now, I believe it’s very important to make a connection with them, to meet them, to know what they are thinking and doing, and find out what is important to them.

How do you envision the future of RTW both specifically in your home country and in general?

In my country, I believe RTW needs time for growth, a platform, and media exposure to educate the public about it. People need to know about Czech fashion designers, and not just the ones from the past, because there are current trends as well. As for the future of RTW in general, I’m uncertain about that as it is something only time will tell. You can’t have anything grand immediately, you need to start out small, otherwise you risk something never becoming grand at all. If you manage to be patient however and nurture growth, that something small eventually develops into something great.

Cover photo: Claudio Bonoldi Studio

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