Marko Feher: The designer’s job is to create and not to think about the trend
Fashion designer Marko Feher is one of the most progressive young designers in the former Yugoslavia. He talked to Extraveganza about his work and ethical stance in creating.
November 6, 2019
Marko Potkozarac Feher is a Bosnian fashion designer who lives and works torn between Bosnia and Herzegovina and London. Even his first collection »Virdzina« has received a lot of attention and approval from the media and fashion connoisseurs, mainly for his uncompromising, boldness, talent and courage.
He is an ethical designer who does not use animal skin and other materials of animal origin when creating his collections. His collection »Confession« was presented several years ago at the accompanying events of Ljubljana Fashion Week. However, British fashion magazine Vogue spotted Feher at Vancouver Fashion Week and published his entire »Indestructible« collection on its pages. The multi-award-winning Feher is the first Bosnian designer whose clothing collection has adorned this British fashion bible.
Marko, you live and work in London, and in your creations, it is often possible to find a touch of the Balkans, that is, the place where you come from. In your work, you explore tradition, heritage and architecture that inspires and astonishes you, and then you add your creative vision and authenticity to your collections. I would imagine, the soul of the Balkans offers the creator an unfailing source of ideas and inspiration?
Currently, I spend most of my time in BiH, working on some projects that are based here. London is a place where I study, and I hope to return to London by the end of next year to finish my studies. It is true that my work is constantly pervaded by our Balkan traditional stories because this is where I come from, I am simply made up of these spaces and this history, it is a part of me. It would be hard for me to identify with African tribes or British punk culture because it is simply not part of our identity. Although maybe as an individual I really belong more to another space, but my roots are still here. For me, this is definitely an exploration of identity and I really feel that I will never be able to avoid it because I am essentially very connected to the Balkans.
What have the studies at Central Saint Martins in London offered you that you didn’t get from studying in Banja Luka?
Uh, it’s hard to relate and compare this at all. There are no similarities. I would like to see the Banja Luka faculty improve a bit, move forward and commit to true values and efforts to bring the design to life, rather than learning crazy things that will never benefit anyone. The key difference between the studies is that CSM teaches you what you need to know and at the same time forces you to jump out of your safe zone.
Through your collections, you explore the history, tradition and story of our once common state of Yugoslavia. For example, you included a five-pointed red star in the »Yugoslavia« collection, for which you were inspired by the Tjentište monument in Sutjeska (BiH). Given the current social situation and the tendency to change history throughout the former common state, I wonder what kind of response did you get?
That has always been and forever will be, each new »hero« making their own version of the story. Yes, I am very nostalgic even though I practically did not belong to that time, but I just see myself more in that system than I do today, when we are all trapped in small, supposedly free countries more than ever before. When I say trapped, I mean mentally, somehow we are all sure that we are enough on our own, but we are not, together we are certainly stronger and I still believe in it. I believe that if we stayed united, today we could be the country with the best faculties, economy, tourism … We have the potential for everything, but we are not [this great country], everyone sticks to themselves… At the same time, this »freedom« cost us all too much and we are still paying it off.
The response was great, I’m not even aware of how many people think like me, now it’s clear to me that I’m not alone. Many people have experienced my »Yugoslavia« very personally.
Marko, it seems to me that you are not one of those designers who has trouble finding a theme for their new collection. When one looks at your creations, one gets the feeling that you are telling the story of a space that is bold, confident, also raw, even dark, but also vulnerable, uncompromising, sensitive and playful. Which are also the shades of our former common state.
That’s right! I once gave an interview to the Italian magazine Esquire and when asked why everything is in shades of grey, I said that it was actually an expression of Balkan mentality, dark, grey, hazy, heavy, and it really is. We are a place that is constantly struggling for something.
I find it very important that you are extremely conscious when choosing materials. Because of the animals and the environment. For example, you do not use animal leather or other materials of animal origin, you are mostly using 100% organic cotton and other environmentally and animal-friendly materials. I wonder how the Bosnian and wider areas of our former common state accept your ethical stance on the non-use of animal and environmentally harmful materials. There are few fashion designers in the area of our common country who are interested in an ethical approach to design. At the moment, only the Slovenian Matea Benedetti comes to my mind.
Well, in our society this attitude is being laughed at, I have to say that in Bosnia maybe even the most. I have been a vegetarian for 11 years, in my beginnings, it was a difficult concept to accept. Everyone had something to say, to add, to comment, to advise because it simply wasn’t »normal.« Today the situation is a little better or I just got too used to it. (laughs)
As for the materials. I always make sure that they are organic, recycled or organically grown. At times, not all requirements can be met, but I strive to meet my standards to the greatest extent possible. Now, this is also becoming a trend in the world, which makes me very happy. I hope that both manufacturers and consumers will become conscious, not only of clothing but also of food, cars and all other industries. It is quite difficult to find the right materials in our region, but the world is a world village, so today everything is at your fingertips if you try.
It is well known that materials that are not harmful to the environment and animals – apple and pineapple leather, muskin (mushroom leather), bamboo textiles, orange and coffee textiles, eco-friendly wool, silk and knitwear, polyurethane (recycled plastic) – can be more expensive and / or more difficult to access due to the limited production (and complexity of production) of such materials.
Like I said before, the world is a global village, and everything is accessible. The materials I work with are more expensive than usual, but this is what my customers appreciate and support, so of course the products are a bit more expensive. The only thing is that the delicate and rare materials do not tolerate manufacturing defects as the whole piece is then unusable. And then again, the problem arises as to whether the same material is in stock.
You are one of those fashion designers who does not want to follow the trends. Your collections are always a bit avant-garde, maybe even a little dark. I wonder if this makes it harder for you to find a compromise between what we call a trend and your vision of what you represent as a designer. After all, you make a living from designing clothes, so you still need to find a common language with the buyers of your clothes.
I think it is the designer’s job to create and not to think about the trend. When you think the most about what you are going to sell, it just doesn’t work out, but when you decide that something will not sell, it usually does. Compromise is, in my opinion, a bad thing if it is forced, so it has come naturally with someone on the same wavelength. I didn’t look for my customers, they didn’t look for me either, we found each other quite simply and spontaneously.
Yeah, that’s how we »found« ourselves in Sarajevo at the Bazerdžan concept store. Marko, you mainly create unisex fashion, that is, clothing that both men and women can wear. The Ice Machine collection was a journey beyond this androgyny. Yet you seem to be one of those designers who break stereotypes in this »macho« space, that is, in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, and proves that you can create differently, that as a creator, one should dare and think freely. Is this also something that defies society, or is it more about your modus vivendi, which you consistently and uncompromisingly bring to your work?
No, I am not trying to defy society, I just try to express my views, whether accepted or not. Somehow I try not to accept all social norms unless I consider them good, though I certainly internalized a lot of it. I no longer know what »macho« means, in fact, I don’t even know how it is defined in our country. Is it someone who is aggressive or is it someone who makes a sacrifice for their family. I think these terms are mixed with us. (laughs) And always and forever, what I do is a reflection of me, whether someone likes it or not.
Kolekcija »Kozara Ethno Fusion«
A few months ago, I discovered that pieces from your latest Kozara Ethno Fusion collection can only be ordered through your Instagram and / or Facebook profile. Mainly because of the complexity of textile fabrication and the fact that each garment is sewn according to the client’s measurements. This means that some pieces of clothing can one has to wait for 14 days or more. How is this type of purchase accepted by your customers, given that most consumers live in style: try – buy – wear?
Yes, for many reasons. One is that production is often not easy, and the other is that I’m pretty lazy about the online shop. Often I am on the scale, I do not know whether to set up an online shop or to continue doing it like this. It’s kind of more authentic when you know who’s buying your stuff, but on the other hand, an online store is a matter of anonymity, it’s kind of nice to know the people who buy my pieces.
We cannot find your collections or clothes in Slovenia. When will Slovenian buyers get the opportunity to buy your fashion pieces as well?
I must honestly say there ware inquiries from some stores, maybe we will arrange something soon. Honest to be, most requests for the »Yugoslavia« T-shirt came from Slovenia, and I’m sooooo glad!
Photos: Aleksandar Arsenović, Edvin Kalić, Marko Feher personal photos.