Designer Focus

Designer Focus: LAIMA JURCA



Was there a particular moment that made you decide you wanted to work in fashion? 

I was lucky to get to know the fashion through the prism of art. I fell in love with fashion when I was in primary school—so it's safe to say I've been passionate about the art form for quite some time. In my hometown we had fashion design classes where the attitude and the atmosphere were very artistic. I suppose that was the time when I realized that my passion could be part of my future, so I continued to plan my path in the art of fashion with love, dignity, and joy!

After moving to Riga from the countryside, it was a bit hard for me to settle down and get confident in my craft. But I had the drive—I wanted to study fashion at the Art Academy of Latvia; I did not get into the school at first, so I had a tough year of improving my skills for entrance examinations, but I did not pass the second time either. At that time I was feeling desperate and miserable, but I did not want to give up my dreams, so I had a backup plan: I entered the university, which was more technical and was all about clothing materials science. After one year I had more confidence that I want to study art. So, I decided to try once more. And there I was—one of eight new fashion students at the Art Academy of Latvia. I was really happy and I felt like I was finally in the right place! So, I dedicated myself and studied very seriously and worked really hard on my fashion projects, appreciated every lecture, and listened to the professor's comments.


In your opinion, what’s the problem with fashion today? 

Of course the biggest problem today is the fast fashion industry, which is harming our planet and people across the world. It also promotes fashion design as a very easy and irresponsible profession for anyone who suddenly wants to build a fashion brand, without any knowledge or background. 

I think It's important to go through the particular route; study, develop your taste, and get the sense of how your work will make the world better. 

Fast fashion is the opposite of sustainable, artistic and "intelligent" fashion, so this fast fashion culture narrows down society's perception. I would love to encourage people to think and explore before buying particular stuff. Every piece has some story behind it, but, unfortunately, not all of these stories are good.

I am so emotional about this because I have had a bad experience. There was a situation when two young ladies, who had the idea of building a fashion brand, came to me and offered to work as designers. For me, it turned out like a nightmare, because everything they actually wanted was to copy some other designer's work from random pictures and, at the same time, denied my original ideas. So, of course, the collaboration failed and we split up. It’s just my own story, but I am sure that in the world there are many of that kind featuring self-proclaimed “designers."


Has your relationship with clothing changed as you delve into the fashion world? 

For me, the clothing is not just the clothing, it's the way of representing personality, the way of thinking and showing your attitude! Clothes are the way we speak with the world around us; we can inspire others and take the inspirations of people around us. By making the choice of "what should I wear today" we also make a decision about what position we are taking in society—it can be provocative, eco-friendly, sustainable, or indifferent.

I don't want to support fast fashion, so I have a deal with my friend, who also studying fashion in my school, that we will not buy any new fast fashion clothing—at least until graduating. I think it will come as a great habit and after this small experiment we will not even look at fast fashion from a consumer standpoint. I think if you want to make changes it's important to start with yourself! So, I want to wear clothes that I have made.  Also, I’m sometimes supporting other Latvian designers, especially shoemakers by buying new shoes from them.


What are the trials and tribulations of being an emerging designer? 

I think that trials are the best part of being an emerging designer. It's so important to take a risk and experiment while you are studying or just at the beginning of building a brand. It is how you can go forward and find your own identity. To be in the early phases of a design career is actually both easy and hard. It is easy because you can allow yourself to experiment more and take a risk because you don't have much to lose.

For me, the hardest part of being an emerging designer is figuring out how to get to the next step and become an established designer. It's necessary to change your way of thinking: you have to think about the business part and how to make a living out of it. 

For me, as a fashion, art, and design student, it is very necessary to integrate into the professional community while I am studying. So, that's why I am participating in the new designer contests, fashion shows, and showrooms. At the last contest "Łódź Young Fashion" I won the main prize, which included financial support and new contacts with people of the professional fashion industry.  


How do you balance your creative vision with the harsh realities of the fashion industry?  

As I said before, I look at fashion as art. I fight back against the industry by creating sustainable and unique pieces. My aim is not to produce a million clothes, my aim is to create high-quality clothes with strong concepts and important stories. To change the reality in the fashion industry I, as a new designer, feel the responsibility of making the change. I think it's possible to make the world better, so I will start with myself.

I want to believe that I can do big things, and I want to use fashion to do so—I can speak with the world through my collections. So, to balance my creative vision with the harsh realities of the fashion industry, I need to focus on my values. And my values are high artistic quality, sustainability, personal touch, care, and future thinking.


Laima Jurca on NJAL