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Editorial blog

War & Drobe embraces London Craft Week

10 May 2019

With May marking a milestone anniversary for London Craft Week, the fifth year of the pioneering five-day festival has kicked off in style.

The annual event showcases a spectrum of disciplines and exceptional craftsmanship, with over 240 independent makers, influential brands, designers and artists from 15 countries coming together for a packed programme of exciting exhibitions, one-off events, hands-on workshops, behind-the-scenes demonstrations and fascinating talks in 150 locations.

From London landmarks, shops and department stores, to open studios, galleries and museums, many spaces not usually accessible or widely open to the public are allowing everyone exclusive access to explore the exceptional talent of emerging and established designer-makers and leading brands first-hand behind the velvet rope! St Paul’s, the V&A, LOEWE, the Christian Louboutin boutique, The Conran Shop, Fortnum & Mason, the Barbican, Maison Assouline, dunhill’s leather workshop… even the Apple Store is hosting a pop-up shop for expert crafters including Hand & Lock. Vivienne Westwood celebrates British millinery with a journey through the iconic brand’s avant-garde hat archive, while Paul Smith is teaming up with ceramics brand 1882 Ltd to present a range of unusual objects.

Spanning everything from fragrance and furniture, and couture and calligraphy, to quilting and jewellery, and woodturning and yakisugi, London Craft Week is a platform for international artists and makers in every sector, offering all a rare ‘access all areas’ behind-the-scenes invitation. Whether it’s darning and dressmaking or lacquering and luthiery.

London Craft Week continues to break new ground and, alongside celebrating ancient craft techniques, the 2019 programme provides unprecedented insight into the future of the creative industries, spotlighting how cutting-edge innovation and technologies, such as 3D printing and virtual reality, will redefine and transform the industry in the years to come.

War & Drobe – Handcrafted with Love

With countless venues across the capital celebrating global creativity, London Craft Week presents unique opportunities to engage with leading makers and try their disciplines first-hand, discovering the stories behind some of the world’s most beautiful crafts and creations – the material, the maker, the process and the inspiration. Among the master craftspeople sharing their secrets is Nina Kovacevic, founder and creator of sustainable fashion label War & Drobe. She talks to Angela Sara West about empowering women through fashion and hosting her very first sewing workshop at London Craft Week in association with The Prince’s Trust.

In a time when so much of what we own is mass produced, Nina is determined to carry on creating by hand. Having fled the war in former Yugoslavia as a child, she came to London with her mother, who taught her the power of fashion and the strength it can bring.

The War & Drobe label was named and born out of a love for empowering women and allowing them to feel fierce and feminine by creating garments with not only a striking style and exceptional fit, but a meaningful purpose.

Having studied Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, Nina developed her skills training under a tailor, couturier and working in a lingerie studio. Crafting clothing consciously is at the heart of her label; her ethos is to always look at the full life cycle of a garment and the impact it leaves.

She hand makes each piece from her collection, which she describes as “clothing designed for defiant women”, using sustainable fabrics, and influences on the importance of the ancient craft of traditional sewing, which she’s passionately playing a part in preserving.

When did you first discover your love for sewing?

From a young age, I was inspired by my mother, who was a passionate self-taught seamstress. She would make us clothes with such pride and enthusiasm that this left an inherent impression on me. What I love most about sewing is that it’s a historic skill which can be passed down from generation to generation. When people gather to create, there’s a sense of bonding between them that I find incredibly appealing.

How would you describe your style in three words?

Consciously crafted elegance.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

As a small independent brand, I’ve found I have more freedom to experiment with how I get my message out there. With so much competition in the industry, it can feel that the impact you make as a creative is finite. However, I find that each brand has a unique voice and style, which means there’s room for us all. I stay true to the story of why I launched War & Drobe and this feeds into my designs and my making process.

You’re passionate about ensuring your products are responsibly and thoughtfully created… What would be your message about the importance of sustainability, slowing down the making process and never mass producing?

The issue of how we consume and the negative affect fashion is having on our environment can be overwhelming. I believe that if we all make one small change individually, then together we make a greater change as a community. Our clothes are our second skin and should be a reflection of who we are as people.

There’s a beauty to having a thoughtfully-curated wardrobe that throwaway fashion can’t compare to. If we invest in well-crafted garments and nurture them by going back to our ‘make do and mend’ ways, then our clothes will last us a lifetime. How wonderful would it be to be able to pass down our garments as if they were cherished heirlooms?

What are you looking forward to most about London Craft Week and working with The Prince’s Trust?

I love both organisations. The Prince’s Trust has given young entrepreneurs like myself the opportunity to make our passions into functioning businesses, while London Craft Week gives us a platform to voice what we do and be heard by a wider audience. During this LCW, I’m most looking forward to hosting my first sewing class in celebration of the event.

What can crafters expect from your workshop?

I’ll be holding a headband-making class, so any fellow lovers of the accessory can come and join me to make their very own! For many crafters starting out, sewing is one of the go-to crafts but can sometimes feel intimidating to tackle on your own. It’s a great workshop for both beginners and those more experienced because the techniques we’ll be using are simple, but effective.

Headbands are big news at the moment! Is the trend set to stay? How do you see them evolving?

Headbands are definitely having their 15 minutes of fame! As a headband lover, I believe they’re here to stay. They were around in the 90s, 80s and can even be seen in the 1920s, but how we wear them is evolving. I feel with sustainable fashion on the rise, it’s the ideal time for us to consider how our accessories are made, not just our garments. That’s why I individually hand make each War & Drobe headband from sustainably-sourced fabrics.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of sharing your knowledge with others and empowering women through fashion?

I’ve been able to collate my knowledge on sewing and pattern making because others have taught me. I’ve been so fortunate to be trained under experts in the tailoring, couture and lingerie sectors. I have so many precious memories from my time learning with each of them. Sewing is a beautiful process and one that comes loaded with historical meaning. Throughout the ages, fashion, particularly for women, has been a tool of expression and creativity.

It’s so crucial to encourage the younger generations to sew and to keep the age-old craft alive… How are you inspiring them to pick up a needle and thread?

It’s so important to pass on craftsmanship skills to younger generations. Even a basic amount of knowledge can open the door to so much creativity. People often tell me they don’t know how to sew a button back onto a garment and I can’t help but think that that loss of skills is a shame. If we’re able to repair our clothes then we dispose of fewer garments, and this, in turn, has a positive effect on our environment. Without new generations taking an interest in crafts such as sewing, these valuable and necessary skills are in danger of being forgotten. By being able to teach others, I feel I’m continuing the cycle and keeping those skills alive. I love sewing and, to me, it’s a gift that should be shared so that it doesn’t become a thing of the past. I want to serve people well by teaching them the art of sewing as well as offering them a brand that creates thoughtfully-designed and created garments.

What’s the secret to your success?

My family and closest friends are the secret to War & Drobe’s success (it’s cheesy but it’s true!) I’ve also learnt that perseverance can be an invaluable tool. There have been times when I’ve come across obstacles and, if I hadn’t persevered, then I know I wouldn’t have come this far.

Any collaborations on the cards?

I believe it’s important to work with other small independent brands because together we are stronger, after all! I’m currently collaborating with upcycled brand We Resonate, who share my values on sustainable fashion. We’ll be launching a collection of headbands made from vintage scarves later this year.

Finally, what’s next for War & Drobe?

I’m very excited to be doing a solo pop-up shop this summer - 4th-16th June in West Brompton!

War & Drobe:

London Craft Week takes places between 8–12 May:

The Prince’s Trust: