It was love at first sight. When our eyes were graced with Ivana Knezović’s creations hanging from a rail at Eco Fashion Week’s pre-runway gathering, we had to go over to see each piece in detail. Her dreamy collection emanates elegance and femininity yet each design contains a element of surprise–pleated necklines, cut-out sides, cape-like additions and exaggerated shoulders. After confirming that we would both wear every single piece, we decided we must find the divine creature behind these designs.
One of the lovely organizers introduced us to Knezović, who was standing with amiable charm at a table in the corner, quietly observing the shenanigans taking place around her. All it took was a warm handshake and sincere smile for us to feel a connection with this talented queen. Knezović’s friendly demeanour and humble disposition prompted us to ask her if she would be Witch of the Week, to which she replied with great enthusiasm “I’d love to!”
After seeing her gorgeous designs on the runway (which received a standing ovation) we were surprised to find out she had put together each element of the collection herself in just three months, including Murva’s website and photos; the model’s hair and make-up; the show’s angelic music and aesthetic image projections and of course, the beautiful clothes themselves. Furthermore, this was her first international show and her first ever collection. We could not wait to meet with Knezović to learn more about the extraordinary soul behind Murva.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your designs.
I’m very intimate and introverted, which is almost a contradiction because I’m in fashion. I like being present but at the same time I like being on the sides, being an observer and a participant at the same time. I like having some mystery—like my creations! There’s always a cape or something to hide behind but at the same time, you reveal certain parts of yourself. It’s so me!
What did you do before Murva?
Let’s see. I did my masters in Italian and Czech language in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital. I moved to New York for six months and was a waitress in a Greek restaurant. While I was there, I was offered a job to be a translator on a movie project for National Geographic, because I speak five languages. Then I went back and got myself an internship in a finance publishing company in Zurich, Geneva. I also took a course in making chocolate—I love chocolate! But I’m very picky. I like quality—in fabrics and in chocolate! Then I moved to Toronto to teach languages. On the side, I was an assistant to a professional pastry chef and loved it. When I got back, I thought I’ve travelled and had many experiences but what is it that you really want to do? Murva is a result of my life. It’s a reflection of who I am and how I developed over the years.
When did you decide to start designing clothes?
It’s always been in me. It was just never the right time. I have experienced a lot of ups and downs in my life—disappointments and phases where I thought I had failed. But I’ve always believed that upon the ruins of life, the best things happen—the best friendships, loves and decisions. I found myself and it was just the perfect place and the perfect timing. I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Murva is actually the name of a tree in my village. This company represents a return to my roots, to who I am at my core. If you really want to be an artist, to create something and be original then you must be prepared to look deeply into yourself. That’s the most challenging but the most beautiful part of this whole process.
Did you teach yourself to design and manufacture clothes?
Yes! It was all in my head. I don’t like being in the centre of attention so I worked on it alone. I do have a seamstress now though!
Why did you want to be eco-conscious and sustainable with Murva?
Again, it’s who I am. I make my own cosmetics, I make all my clothes, and I eat healthy—I’m always choosing quality. I think eco is a product of maturity and of wholeness that you can only achieve when you really and truly grow up.
What inspires your designs?
I’m inspired by everything around me. Architecture, museums, geometry – I love geometry – and people I pass in the streets. I like structure. I like hiding the body behind some kind of a structure.
What’s your reputation like in Croatia and Europe?
It’s big right now! I’m the only eco designer in my country. I’ve been published in many magazines and media outlets in Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia—everyone wrote about me coming to Vancouver! It feels like it will only grow, which is a wonderful feeling!
What do you think needs to change in the fashion industry?
The fabric. It’s just so artificial. In terms of people, I think we need more warmth and modesty. It’s not stylish to be arrogant and vulgar.
What’s been your favourite part of Eco Fashion Week?
Observing. That’s my favourite part of most experiences! This week has been so organized and those working are so professional. It’s been amazing!
How do you balance your love of clothes with your love for the earth and minimizing waste?
I don’t buy clothes! I make everything I wear. I don’t own a lot. I have like ten pairs of underwear, a few bras, some dresses and shirts and a couple of coats. I actually made a new one for this week!
Knezovic’s new coat she made especially for Vancouver. Thanks to Street Scout for this image!
What do you do other than make beautiful clothes?
I renovate and hand paint furniture. I read, run and dance salsa. I danced for 12 years. I love to go out and dance for my soul and my inner happiness. I love walking, on my own or with… just one friend! Oh and movies, I love movies! They’re a great escape. I also like going to cute little coffee shops and eating cake. I find beauty in that. I’m not the partying, clubbing type—I’d rather eat cake!
Where do you hope to be in the next five years?
I want to keep designing. I’d like to be based in my hometown Split, Croatia and to travel from there—go to fashion weeks and to grow as a designer. As a person, I want to be better and better. I don’t want to let the industry get to me. I want to radiate light in others’ lives.
The goddess herself.