We have a special guest on Still in Belgrade. Jelena Malesevic, fashion designer and owner of fashion label Morfium is answering our questions. Morfium is established in 2004 and has a studio based in Belgrade.
Hello Jelena. We are happy to have you here. Can you introduce yourself to “Still in Belgrade” readers?
Hi, thank you for inviting me. Last 17 years I was working as a costume and fashion designer and a patter maker. So in a way it means that I am a true fashion victim.
Can you tell us what’s behind “Morfium” fashion label? Whom is it directed?I established Morfium fashion label in 2004. in Amsterdam so I am the owner and head designer of Morfium together with my partner photographer Dusan Jaukovic. We are the perfect dream team of Morfium.
You are currently based in Belgrade. Did you travel and live anywhere else?
Yes. I lived and travel a lot: Milan, Amsterdam, New York…
Do you have exhibitions and fashions shows only in Belgrade or elsewhere? Where can fashion victims find your products?
For years we were presenting Morfium in DoubleOne showroom in Milan to fashion clients from all around the World together with big and well known brands such as A.F. Vandevorst and Rue du Mail. So we were concentrated on developing of distribution network. Of course, many times I was invited to take part in fashion shows from Berlin, Paris and New York but unfortunately I couldn’t afford it. I still don’t have investor who could help me. Good fashion shows are extremely expensive and it includes big investment for presentations on international scene.
You graduated Archaeology in Belgrade can you tell us how and when did you enroll into fashion world, since you come from a different academic background? How your previous studies influence on your design?
I started very young at the same time I was studying archaeology. First i started with the exhibitions of hand printed textile. Very soon after it to present my collections on Belgrade fashion week 1998. Then I had invitation to start working as a costume designer in Nation theater where I had a chance to learn how to became a pattern maker which help me a lot in a future. That was a hardest thing to learn. For me it is a perfect combination to use my archaeology experience knowledge in my art which is a great search for archetype of women nature. My basic idea and Morfium concept is to use Balkan heritage and to mix it with progressive and futuristic design with strong impact of mythology and archaeology.
One cliché question. Where do you find inspiration? I know you are cinematography, art and music connoisseur.
Yes, I am a great admirer of all kind of arts from my early childhood. While I was in a ballet school i had opportunity to feel the scene and the audience and to enjoy in theater full of music, beautiful costumes and ideas. It was a place full of magic and wonders. For me beauty as a consequence of harmony was marked my life.
How’s Belgrade fashion scene doing? Are there some designers you like?
When I started in 90’s there was a lot of talented people around for example Aleksandar Protic or Zoran Stanic and many others. Unfortunately our fashion scene did not develop in a way it could. There are still many talented people without a true chance to develop their knowledge and ideas because fashion is a craft and a hard work which needs industries behind its back and market for it. Personally Morfium is focus on international market with real competition where you can check your own achievements and ideas. The point is if you want to success you need to have original ideas and perfectly made products.
What do you think about current global fashion scene? Where is it going? What kinds of trends will be popular in few years from now?
As a designer I am into avant-garde and progressive fashion looking up to the future. So, that is the kind of fashion I like the most. Designers as Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, Rick Owens, Gareth Pugh… were my natural choice of interest and curiosity. Today fashion scene is going more on commercial direction. For me fashion is art not only business.
Few days ago Li Edelkoort made a statement in Dezeen magazine “It’s the end of fashion as we know it” , describing the fashion industry as “a ridiculous and pathetic parody of what it has been”. Can you elaborate on that?
After a tragic death of Alexander McQueen like the fashion died together with him. What showed us how important is a person with a vision and the master skills. Someone always has to lead and to give idea for the future of industries. High fashion is art but it is also the source of inspiration for commercial collections. I hope in a future things will be put on a right place again. Fashion design as a representative of esthetic values should be on the highest possible level, because fashion is everywhere – in show biz, movies, music, theater, industries and everyday life.
How do you pick your models? Are too skinny models still trendy in the fashion scene?
I always have my favorites because models are also muses for designers.
Who is usually doing photography for you? Can you name a few Serbian photographers you prefer?
I am always working with Dusan Jaukovic who is my favorite and only photographer. Although I like the work of many others.
Name top 3 world fashion labels that you find innovative?
I already answered this question but I will say Alexander McQueen the most.
For the end. Do you have some good advices for young designers?
My advice for young designers to learn from better, to be brave, dedicated and disciplined. No one knows what future brings to us but we have to fight for our visions and dreams.
Dragana Kostica is the Belgrade-based editor in chief and founder of Still in Belgrade art, culture and club scene magazine. She holds a Master of Arts in Cultural Policy and Management in Arts (MA of Arts) and a Bachelor degree in Archaeology.