A year after graduating from Central Saint Martins with a collection inspired by Bulgarian national costume, design duo Emma Chopova from Bulgaria and Laura Lowena from London – behind label Chopova Lowena – have once again looked to their heritages for their most recent collection. This time, the designers have fused costumes from the Kukeri festival – the Bulgarian equivalent of carnival – and 80s wrestling culture brought together in a book with images shot by photographer Charlotte Wales, styled by AnOther’s senior fashion editor Agata Belcen, and art directed by Dazed’s art director Jamie Andrew Reid.
Working with the photographer for the first time also fed into their own aesthetic: “We always admired how, to us, her work portrayed a light feminine 80s glamour while capturing a nonchalant cool attitude.” For the project, the team travelled to Bulgaria to document the Kukeri festival while also shooting the collection in a London studio – to pay homage to both designers’ backgrounds.“We went to Bulgaria not knowing exactly what the festival would be like while in London everyone had a lot more control,” they explain. “The London shoot needed to capture the glamorised sport which wrestling was in the 80s while the Bulgaria shoot was in the midst of a festival so it was chaotic at times.”
The new collection also brings in references from 80s wrestling, a world seemingly far away from Bulgaria’s traditions. “We were drawn to the over the top performances, the extravagant characters, and the DIY interpretations of the costumes and personas,” the designers explained. “80s wrestling and the festival both shared such extravagant characters which became a central focus to us when first imagining the project.”
The overlap of different cultures is illustrated in the book by collaging two different images together to create new characters, which looks like a fashion catalogue or flip book with a documentary feeling to it. Cropped images of people are reassembled in unlikely and colourful combinations in a brand new setting. “The pairings we make help us create new characters, separate from either reference by seeing the imagery in context with each other,” they explained. “The whole world of inspirations and references we have in our heads was brought to life by this project.”
Kukeri launches on June 6 at LN-CC, The Basement, 18–24 Shacklewell Lane, London, E8 2EZ from 6:30-8:30pm and is available to pre-order from Claire de Rouen.