Traditional motifs are fashionable again
Strangers often ask me about the typical Romanian customs, the aspects that make our country different. Usually, the questions are directed to the culinary aspects and people wish to try our traditional dishes. However, what inspires me the most about Romania is not the so-called ‘sarmale’, nor the Easter cake. What I admire a lot in some Romanians (and I say some because they’re not all necessarily like this) is their warmth and capacity to welcome visitors into their home, to tell stories from their childhood, from their grandparents’ times and to talk about past customs and traditions. My grandmother told me so many stories about how she weaved towels and rugs during the war ! She even gave me traditional costumes to wear at school festivities. And even today, at modern weddings, we still play traditional music and can see old people passing out to the new generation their own love for the past, customs and traditions.
At one point, a few years ago, when consumerism was spreading with the speed of light and everybody was running to buy the latest clothes in Western Europe or in the United States, I was under the impression that the Romanian craftsmanship and fashion were fading away slowly and the customs were doomed to disappear. However, fortunately, people didn’t get carried away, didn’t forget about the Romanian identity entirely and about the not so far away past. Not long ago I discovered two initiatives emphasizing the talent of the Romanian craftsmanship:
– the “brand” Adrian Oianu, whose activity you can follow on Facebook
-and Mrs. Mihaela-Iuliana Dumitrescu’s workshop La Blouse Roumaine – Demetria.
Both initiatives are worthy of admiration because, with true talent, they bring back the Romanian customs, sometimes associated with the dusted image of the ancestors’ costumes. Today however, these sources of inspiration have proven to be profitable both financially and spiritually. Tradition has become a core value of fashion and a valuable asset/feature of the new national identity and a Romanian spirit.
Mihaela-Iuliana Dumitrescu, whose workshop was opened in Bucharest almost ten years ago, is enlivened by a “great passion for our ancestors’ clothing; she has a big love for our beautiful ornamental motifs and charming styles, colours and traditional sewing points.”
How do the ornaments inspire you?
“In my childhood, I used to spend my holidays at my grandparents and great-grandparents’ and I remember dearly the beautifully decorated rooms with old objects of popular art, covers, carpets, sewed and painted with natural pigments, tablecloths and national costumes, all embellished with our beautiful motifs. My grandmothers sewed a lot and I saved the work, books and notes of her models. My great-grandparents had workshops in Pietrosita, where they would weave wool carpets, so I’d like to think that they passed their passion for Romanian art to me.
Today, in our workshop in Bucharest, we use sewing programs, machines and equipment, but also manufacture seams and crochet or braid accessories. We make clothes for babies, kids, teenagers, mothers and fathers with love, inspired by the traditional Romanian clothing.”
What values do you wish to transmit through this activity and your products?
“Lately the Romanians have drawn away from the traditions and customs. Times have been rougher, and now, we are coming back to our natural selves. We have under our skin the ancestors’ traditions, customs, clothing and folkore. It is very sad that there are also Romanians outside the country who name their kids foreign names, don’t teach them Romanian, who look with contempt at our country’s shortcomings, bad roads, the system that isn’t working and feel glad that they’re not part of the ‘filth’ around here. It would be a great exercise to boost our country, our fellows, to believe in ourselves and in a better future, that we truly deserve.”
What are the categories of products that sell best and are the most wanted?
“There are moments when we sell more of the kids’ articles, for example on the occasion of school festivities or themed events. The embroidered peasant blouses for women sell best in the summer, whereas in the winter the wool vests and coats sell best.”
Who are your clients? Individuals or organisations, kindergartens, theatres, dance clubs etc?
“We have worked for all the categories mentioned above. Many artists approach the old Romanian music and are in need of outfits, inspired by the popular clothing. Romanians here or abroad choose to organise important events in a traditional way, so we do trousseaus for baptism with popular costumes and very often the whole family wants to wear stylish costumes.”
Do you have a catalogue?
“All the articles are ordered and our presentation catalogue is actually our blog www.LaBlouseRoumaine.ro. Our clients choose the models and can change the motifs or colours of the embroideries. They have full liberty.”
Any projects for the near future?
“I am working at a collection of wedding gowns, made of silk, with stylish embroideries and a lot of lace insertios, and in the spring I will organise a photo session, in a place full of history.
Also, I wish to improve the offer for men. Men are very sensitive to customs and come with their homework very well done when they order a shirt. They study the motifs very carefully, they want a certain combination of colours, certain cuts and very fine finishing touches.”
To be honest, I have to confess that I haven’t worn an embroidered blouse, an apron or a beautifully ornamented skirt for a long time, but I sense this kind of purchase is not far away.