English-Bulgarian label Chopova Lowena is rooted in folkloric craftsmanship. Tapping into tradition in a manner which benefits the future, co-founders (and Central Saint Martins alumni) Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena approach their collections from a sustainable perspective.
At their studio in South Bermondsey, this is evidenced by the medley of vintage Bulgarian fabrics and recycled textiles (we counted a lot of checks and tartans in those stockpiles) which contribute to the composition of their cultish kilts. From schoolgirl minis in jarring colours to box-pleat midis suspended from carabiner clips (80s rock climbers are a source of inspiration), Chopova Lowena silhouettes run the gamut. Regardless of cut or style, the traditional Bulgarian bruchnik skirt serves as a creative kickoff.
Using overstock and deadstock fabrics from both the US and Italy, the brand prioritises provenance. Celebrating both British and Bulgarian craft, the owners consider their collections "a balance of easy-to-wear and editorial pieces". Their airport style takes similar cues: "big dresses and compression socks" (though, we should note, getting your foot into elasticated stockings is easier said than done).
Designer: Chopova Lowena
Origin: Bulgaria, US, UK
Homebase: London, England
Type of brand: Womenswear
Where can we shop your collections: MATCHESFASHION.COM
Where did you grow up?
Emma: I grew up in Bulgaria until the age of seven and then moved to New Jersey. Laura: I grew up in Somerset, England.
Define your brand:
We combine juxtaposing references, traditional dress and sports themes to create pieces which involve craft and tradition but are still modern. We use recycled textiles to create our pleated skirts, and approach design in a sustainable and long-lasting way.
The name, Chopova Lowena, is a combination of your surnames. What's it like to design as a twosome?
It's a perfect balance of strengths and vision which we combine. The great thing about it is having two filters so only ideas we both feel very strongly about are realised.
Do you remember how you first became friends?
Yes, we started becoming very good friends after going out together in South London in our first year BA at Central Saint Martins.
Where should we hang out near CSM?
At the student bar. It's close by, so you can work late - and it's cheap.
What does your creative process look like?
We have different methods of working, we both start out by researching and then Laura works by collaging and patternmaking while I [Emma] work by drawing and draping.
Where is your studio and what does it look like?
Our studio is in South Bermondsey. It's a warehouse space and it's big and light - an amazing find in London.
Where are your fabrics sourced?
We source vintage textiles in Bulgaria and some in England as well. We use overstock and deadstock fabrics from both US and Italy. We try to be resourceful; the fabrics we find are great quality but have been discarded by factories.
What is the appeal of the pleat?
The pleat comes from a Bulgarian skirt called "bruchnik" which is a three-quarter length skirt that is tied around the back of a woman's body to keep her warm. The pleat also references kilts and uniforms.
Handmade, sustainably sourced materials are an important component of your brand. How can other brands work to become more sustainable?
That's very individual, there's no rule. I think we just like finding things and coming up with a way to make them work, for us that's a really fun part of design. Being sustainable is very important though, brands should work in a way that contributes less to the damage this industry causes.
Is travelling a source of inspiration?
We don't travel as much as we want to, but it's something we really want to start doing more.
Three destinations on your travel wishlist…
Hungary, Czech Republic and Japan.
What are your go-to airport outfits?
Big dresses and compression socks.
What are you reading right now?
Reborn by Susan Sontag, My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh and Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig.
What podcasts are you listening to?
Uncover: Escaping NXIVM, The Moth, Modern Love, Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness, Endless Thread and Someone Knows Something.
What's next for Chopova Lowena?
A new collection and campaign.