fter five years of living in Bulgaria’s capital city of Sofia and visiting villages throughout the Balkans, one would think that I would have a more unified sense of the contemporary crafting trends emerging from Southeastern Europe, but perhaps one of the most alluring aspects of living here is the very fact that no one artisan-initiative predominates. As the rest of the world examines how to elevate the role of the ‘maker’ and revolutionize the injustices of the global fashion industry, Bulgaria, quite naturally, is immersed in both a fast and slow design dialogue that reflects rapid urban growth as well as deep seated (rural) traditions that still cling to every surface and ancient crevice.
Noticeable economic advances and investment dollars in the real estate and tech sectors (as well as a significant surge in luxury goods) makes for varying contradictions when trying to decipher the new lexicon of contemporary regional style. Many households, even in Sofia, display a mix of embroidered heirlooms from family members, new tableware from Ikea, and the latest clothing offerings from stores like H&M, Zara, and international brands that are featured in Bulgaria's state-of-the-art malls.
Due to centuries of artisan traditions centered around handmade ceramics, traditional costumes and textiles, exquisite woodworking techniques and hand-built architectural finishes, the current flow of craft innovation and style expression seems to come from the reconciliation that a well-made artifact or design object has always been a necessity. Today’s vibrant mix of diverse crafting motifs and cultural threads suggests that there is indeed an awareness of what previous generations endured (and worked to preserve in a shifting political landscape). Internal contradiction and even the ex-pat diaspora is consistently part of the undertow here.
As Bulgaria’s Fashion Revolution Day country coordinator for 2014, I am searching to understand and facilitate a platform for the next generation of designers who are working to promote a genuine, creative aesthetic that reflects what local materials and methods might authentically demonstrate. There is also a burning desire to connect, on equal grounds, with a broader, design-driven dialogue. The good news is that Bulgarian designers are not held back by their traditions but rather propelled forward by an awareness of how and why an inclination towards the handmade and thoughtful resourcefulness can be a beautiful thing.
We invite you to explore the results of a new generation of makers who are carrying on the ‘ancient futures’ dialogue in slow textile and accessories – all on the path to a more tactile and sensory-based global community.