Unlikely Serbian Designer Heads to New York
By Natalia Zaba
After aimlessly bouncing between careers for years, Marina Micanovic finally found her calling as a fashion designer and will showcase her wardrobe at the upcoming New York Fashion Week.
Although Belgrade native Marina Micanovic, 34, has been in the fashion business for less than seven years, her work has already been presented twice at the prestigious New York Fashion Week.
This autumn, she will be featured as an individual designer for the first time at New York’s Fashion Week when her collection will be presented on September 13 as part of AMCONYC, a platform for rising fashion designers and entrepreneurs.
But her journey to New York was not a direct path.
Micanovic told BIRN that she went in numerous career directions before enrolling in the Belgrade branch of Milan’s Accademia del Lusso design school at the age of 27.
After finishing secondary school, she graduated from business school with a Bachelor’s degree in trade and marketing. Micanovic then switched to Belgrade University’s Faculty of Political Science, where she finished a one-year course in political studies and social work.
After that, she started sewing classes, took multiple language courses, learned salsa dancing and took training courses in the care of handicap children. Her family was supportive throughout, but began slowly losing confidence that she would ever find a vocation that would stick.
“You can always come home and work in a shop. It’s safe… a sure thing,” Micanovic recalls her parents telling her.
While working at the family market as a cashier, she finally completed courses in make up and tango dancing.
Then she tried her hand at fashion design. Her parents were sceptical when Micanovic shared her plans to enrol in design school.
“Ok Marina, do you know at least something about the people from this industry, do you know what kind of connections you need to have in order to make a career as a fashion designer?” her father asked.
She said she didn’t have a clue. She just wanted to try. It was a risk that paid off very early in her fashion career, starting with the admission interview.
“I have no background in design, no knowledge, no experience, I’ve tried almost everything in my life and I never found a thing I’d like to continue with,” she told Accademia professors during her interview.
She was accepted despite her inexperience, and seeming lack of professional persistence.
Again, like so many times before, her initial enthusiasm waned and within a few months she was seriously considering dropping out of design school too.
“I didn’t know how to draw, and it was the biggest problem for me to learn,” recalls Micanovic of her first steps into the design world.
She says that with constant encouragement from a dedicated professor and six months of constant practice, she managed to master drawing. Two years later, she graduated Accademia del Lusso.
When she invited her family to a graduate fashion showcase at the end of her course work, they looked at her differently. “Then they understood, this time it’s something serious,” recalls Micanovic.
But finishing school is one thing and making it in the highly competitive fashion world is something else entirely.
Charting an authentic course
What helped Micanovic find success in the fashion world was the originality and boldness of her designs, and an unwavering commitment to her principles. What marks her clothing creations are a singular asymmetry, daring colours and handmade details, like original ‘strips’, which she invented and has included in her designs from the beginning.
Micanovic says she creates clothes for women who are courageous, self–confident and truly enjoy their authenticity.
“It might sound cliché, but we [Serbs] still live in a quite closed society in which it is very important how others see you and what they say about you,” she ex plains, adding many women in Serbia stay within their so-called “comfort zones”, and don’t follow their dreams because they are afraid of other’s opinions.
“There are women who actually appreciate the patriarchal lifestyle, which dominates in Serbia, and most of women I know prefer to stay in their comfort zone, because it is safer and you won’t be judged,” she adds.
She confesses that this was also her problem not so long ago and that she cared deeply about other people’s opinion of her, but thanks to her design and tango classes she managed to release herself.
“I was very insecure when I was listening to the others opinions about me and my life. At one point I just turned them all off and started secretly working on design,” she remembers.
Marina’s long-term plan is to continue working in fashion design, and to ultimately leave Serbia for New York, not just because the city is a goal for many in the industry. She explains that in Serbia she can’t find many customers, as her clothes do not follow the fashion sensibilities of rich customers.
“I was often advised to change my designs, so the women were less ‘covered’, it would be easier to sell, but there’s no chance I compromise on it. My women are covered, like in tango, she has a lot to offer and it takes time to discover her,” explains Marina.
Marina admits that currently this mindset isn’t very popular and most of her customers are foreigners who visit Belgrade’s designer shops. However, she believes her time is yet to come.
“Now it’s perfectly clear my golden age is about to start. When I was younger I didn’t realise it, but now I know what’s really in me,” says Marina.
This article was published in BIRN’s bi-weekly newspaper Belgrade Insight. Here is where to find a copy.
Originally published at www.balkaninsight.com on September 13, 2016.