Evening Standard - ES Magazine


Ahead of the British Fashion Awards, Hannah Tindle talks to first-time nominees Chopova Lowena


Much like the risqué Alexander McQueen bumster trouser or an ankle-threatenin­g Vivienne Westwood platform, there are some pieces that go on to become a cultural moment as much as a brand emblem. For London-based Chopova Lowena, that item is an eccentric multicolou­red, pleated skirt in mini and maxi variations, which hooks on to a large leather belt using carabiner clips. A viral fashion sensation, with 13 million views on TikTok and counting, the #chopovalow­ena skirt has been worn by both the It crowd and A-listers alike. Even Madonna is a fan.

‘Honestly, I have no idea how it happened,’ says 31-year-old Emma Chopova of the brand’s rise to cult status. ‘It’s quite amazing.’ Laura Lowena, also 31, who forms the other half of the eponymous brand that the pair founded in 2018, shares in her co-creative director’s surprise. Although, she explains that it’s likely the label’s unique aesthetic is what got them here. ‘We have a really loyal customer base, and I think that comes from our strong brand identity,’ she says. ‘I think that we know what we like; we tend to merge the hardcore and the soft. And I think what we make is fun to wear.’

The design duo, who are based in Deptford, met each other while studying on the prestigiou­s fashion MA course at Central Saint Martins, quickly becoming friends and creative partners. ‘Saint Martins shaped us completely,’ says Chopova. ‘While the college doesn’t necessaril­y teach you a specific skill set, it does give you an independen­ce that has enabled us to have our own brand.’ Their signature blend of references comes in the form of traditiona­l Bulgarian dress (inspired by American-born Chopova’s Eastern European heritage) merged with sportswear (drawn from Lowena’s outdoorsy upbringing in Somerset) and youth subculture­s. For example, the pair currently have 1970s ski-wear references pinned to the mood board in their studio, and the 2000s nu-metal band Disturbed was included on the Spring/Summer 2023 show soundtrack.

This collection, their eighth to date, marked Chopova Lowena’s runway debut at London Fashion Week. A cacophony of texture, colour and print — including tinsel boots and sweaters, denim versions of ‘the skirt’ and macramé accessorie­s woven with healing crystals — it was met with widespread acclaim. Held in Bayswater’s Porchester Hall, the likes of Vogue’s Sarah Mower described it as ‘a grade A moment better than even their super-fans could’ve hoped’. Up until that point, the brand had only presented its work in the form of look

“London has really helped define what we do. I don’t think our brand would have necessaril­y been as successful elsewhere”

books and campaigns. ‘I think with a live show you’re able to feel the whole Chopova Lowena world come to life,’ says Lowena. ‘Of course we can still do this with printed matter or video, but I think a show really forms a different and emotional connection with people.’

Everything that the brand produces is made in Bulgaria. With a strong focus on sustainabl­e, craft-based processes, Chopova Lowena is now making collection­s on a larger scale than previously possible. ‘In the past year we’ve been working with a luxury factory in Bulgaria that actually approached us,’ says Chopova. ‘Our clothes are quite complicate­d to make, and before now we were operating very much as a small brand. It’s definitely something we’re very proud of because it takes a long time to get to a place where you’re producing enough to be able to work with a factory like that.’

The brand has also just been nominated for its first British Fashion Award, cementing its place in the industry. While the duo are currently prepping for autumn/winter 2023, I ask if there are any other projects that Chopova Lowena has in its pipeline. (You’ll be pleased to know that the answer is ‘yes’, but we’re all going to have to watch this space as they are unfortunat­ely top secret.)

In the meantime, the pair are gearing up for the BFA ceremony, which takes place on 5 December at the Royal Albert Hall. The label is in line for the BFC Foundation Award, which honours emerging designers who have received support from the BFC Foundation. ‘It’s amazing to be nominated,’ says Chopova. ‘So exciting. I don’t even know how to prepare for it,’ continues Lowena. ‘We went last year for the first time and we absolutely loved it. It was really fun dressing up and people watching from the balconies was amazing. So, I think between now and then, we’ll just be planning outfits.’

Do they have their sights set on expanding outside of London any time soon? ‘We absolutely love London. We both came here as teenagers a lot and I can’t imagine living anywhere else,’ says Lowena. ‘The city has really helped define what we do,’ adds Chopova. ‘I think it has a lot to do with the history of fashion here, the subculture­s… I don’t think our brand would have necessaril­y been as successful elsewhere.’ When the designers are not busying themselves in the studio, you’ll usually spot them visiting the dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park, getting dinner at Italian restaurant Marcella on Deptford High Street, or hanging out with friends in Camberwell. Keep your eyes peeled: Chopova Lowena are ones to keep watching.

 ?? ?? Folk heroes: Laura Lowena and Emma Chopova
Folk heroes: Laura Lowena and Emma Chopova
 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ?? Runway success: Chopova Lowena’s London Fashion Week debut show
Runway success: Chopova Lowena’s London Fashion Week debut show

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom