The emerging designers everyone is talking about
Chopova Lowena is the label generating quite the buzz in the fashion industry at the moment. At a time when consumers are asking more and more questions about where their clothes are coming from, and demanding a deeper level of authenticity, Chopova Lowena is a genuine breath of fresh air. The brainchild of Central St Martins alumni and founders Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena – Chopova Lowena is a brand that is rich in heritage, celebrates true craftsmanship and is thoughtfully produced. Fabrics are sustainably sourced, Chopova’s mother assists in the accessory making, and they work with people who have skills within local communities. They are the small brand that are big on ethics.
Now in their third season, their kilt-like wool skirts – adorned with buckles, belts and chains – are garnering quite the following. The avant-garde styles come smattered in hand-embroidered Bulgarian patterns, and are modelled on the region’s folkloric craftsmanship. Although American-born, Chopova’s parents are Bulgarian, which explains the connection. In their steady, integrity-fueled rise through the fashion ranks, they’ve caught the attention of fashion phenomenon Susie Lau (Susie Bubble) and Natalie Kingham, Fashion and Buying Director at Matches Fashion. And the fact they eschew catwalk shows in favour of more intimate presentations, just reinforces their ethos. Last week they celebrated the launch of their 8-piece exclusive collection for Matches Fashion and the start of a two week instillation at 5 Carlos Place, London. We caught up with the designers for a quick tête-à-tête.
Q: How did you meet?
CL: We met on the BA at Central Saint Martins where we were both studying Womenswear.
Q: How did Chopova Lowena come to life?
CL: After meeting on the BA we became very close friends and were a strong influence on each other’s work. We applied to the MA course at Central Saint Martins as a duo which we completed two years ago. We started our brand after graduation and are now in our third season.
Q: Was fashion always something you both wanted to do?
CL: We both came from households where creativity and craft were encouraged, and we both knew we wanted to work in fashion from quite early on.
Q: What role do each of your play in the business?
CL: We both design and run the brand together but we each have our strengths which we have learned to play up to. Emma focuses more on draping and textiles, and works more on dresses and skirts, while I (Laura) pattern cut and works more on outerwear and structured garments. We divide and conquer.
Q: What was the inspiration behind the colourful wool skirts? Can you talk us through this, from concept to creation?
CL: The concept of the skirts came from a Bulgarian traditional skirt called “bruchnik” which is a heavily pleated wool skirt made to warm women’s backs. We work with recycling traditional textiles, so each skirt is completely unique. The skirts developed from our MA collection and have now been refined over time.
Q: How does your heritage and upbringing influence your designs?
CL: Heritage largely influences us. When we think about our brand and what we are trying to do, we think about always involving an element of craft. We believe that luxury is very intertwined with craft and skill.
Q: What’s special about these pieces?
CL: Our skirts are made from traditional textiles and are one of a kind, they are born from tradition clashing with sportswear elements.
Q: Can you tell me about the decision to show your clothes privately, instead of on the runway?
CL: We love the idea of producing print projects and private events. It feels more special and long lasting.
Q: How has your ascension into the fashion industry been, has everyone been supportive?
CL: Yes, Matches Fashion have been, and the creative team whom we work with – Charlotte Wales, Agata Belcen and Jamie Andrew Reid – are an incredible support. As well as team 1 Granary – a publication supporting emerging fashion design talent. We have a family of supporters who are our world and we couldn’t exist without.
Q: What’s next on the agenda for you both?
CL: We are working on our S/S20 collection, and a new method of presentation.
The capsule features the signature kilt skirts in colourful Bulgarian fabrics, dresses and a wool coat – all detailed with leather belts and rock climbing carabiner fastenings. All available at Matches Fashion.
- Words Elaine Lloyd-Jones