November 08, 2014 2:06 PM

"Introducing a new generation of designers"

For his Fall/Winter 2014 collection Dejan Despotovic was inspired by the moody experimental music of Max Richter. The collection is both elegant and melancholic with incredible details. Despotovic is an extremely talented fashion designer who brought his acclaimed line BLACK’D to NYC when he left Serbia. The dark beauty of his designs has attracted stars like Lady Gaga and Brandon Maxwell to his work. TWELV Magazine had the privilege of picking Despotovic’s brain and asking him a few questions.  


Susan Schell: What attracted you to designing clothing?

Dejan Despotovic: As a child I was always intrigued by people on the street, thinking "why did he/she put this piece of clothes on or combine those pieces together" so I started creating the world of people who were dressed as I wanted, and I really got into creating my own space and ideas for my "ideal visual concept" for people I guess.

Later on it became an obsession and I was just thinking about dressing people and I would spend a few days sitting at home after school and doing drawings of people dressed in my ideas. I thought it was fun and I was very into it.


SS: What was it like when you first started designing in Serbia, what were some of your first fashion experiences?

DD: I started designing more seriously in my high school. I wanted to have a fashion show so bad, it was my dream. I really worked hard and I was at fashion week every season really dreaming about me being part of that world, real fashion world I would call it. Close to the end of my high school we had the Nokia competition for young designers where I won the first place, and an editor of Elle magazine saw me and said to me " we will see more of you I am sure". I was scared as a bird but that made me work harder. After that I got the invite to participate in the competition at Belgrade Fashion Week. It was a competition called "Black and White" with all major Serbian designers. I was 21 at that time and the youngest. I won. I got 3000 euros as a price to help me produce my first collection and in Serbia that was a lot of money at that time for me. I had my first collection and after that everything started. I got invited to Berlin with that collection, I was in every newspaper as a new talent. I saw my dream in front of me.


SS: Black’d is your third fashion label, what makes it different from your other lines?

DD: I had my main line with my name Dejan Despotovic. Then in 2010 when I opened my store in Belgrade I decided to call the label BLACK by Dejan Despotovic. It was a cheaper version for the store. But when I moved to NYC after I closed everything in Serbia and decided to leave because I needed a serious market and I wanted to progress further, I started looking for something that would really combine my imagination, my life, my past and my future. So I decided to start from zero and started the label BLACK'D. It has my past, my dark/elegant imagination, it is my future, and it has the first letter "D" of both my first name and last name. I wanted it to be simple and loud.

So it is not different from what I was doing before, it is just a new beginning with a new name but the esthetic is the same and it will only be more developed.


SS: Your Fall/Winter 2014 Black’d collection was inspired by Max Richter’s music, what drew you to his music?

DD: I have always been interested in that melancholic, dark, elegant world where classical music puts you into. I was always thinking about how actually beautiful and romantic it can be. I listen to classical experimental music a lot and It really gives me something special where I can enter my world and just start imagining different characters, movement of fabrics, women and clothes.

But the most fascinating thing is that the ideas are always different even if the music is sometimes the same, it just gives me unconditional inspiration. Max Richter is really just at the moment moving a lot in my mind.


SS: In an all black collection, textures and fabrics are obviously hugely important - What is your favorite technique or texture in the collection?

DD: I really like to play with fabrics and to combine stiff fabrics with very soft ones. Leather is there to give shine and richness to everything but there are still a lot of transparent, floaty items that are dark but still so romantic that every time I see them moving I can hear music around me. The other favorite thing of mine is constructing clothes centered around a very strict detailing. But BLACK'D won't be always only based on black color, I will try to show you through my work how I see different things being blacked or "BLACK'D" in this case.


SS: Do you have a favorite piece or outfit from the Fall/Winter 2014 collection?

DD: Maybe after Lady Gaga wore one of the dresses I really started admiring that piece, probably because her and Brandon Maxwell were the first to recognize BLACK'D. It was a big moment for me, especially since I had first arrived to NYC, new, alone, doing everything from the start again, after 9 years of making fashion in Serbia and accomplishing a lot of things. But my ego is almost not existing so that keeps me moving on.


SS: What is your general design aesthetic?

DD: Dark, strong, romantic and everything needs to be wearable. I love to combine masculinity and femininity and that is what makes me combine soft and stiff fabrics and it is the same in detailing. You will see very cubic, stiff forms with beautiful seam lines moving all over as wind or water.


SS: Can you describe your design process?

DD: I think extensively about ideas and just listen to a lot of music while I'm thinking. Sometimes I walk around my room in the dark imagining the perfect silhouette that will satisfy me at that moment. When I imagine the perfect silhouette I sit down and start sketching. I don't believe in mood boards because I think that if you are visionary you can imagine and translate on paper or fabric anything you want and keep yourself in that world of imagination through the whole process. When I really find my perfect place where I am comfortable with my ideas I start imagining fabrics and how it would look on a human's body.

That is the longest phase, after which I start with the test fits and then after all changes I do, the final fabric comes.

It is a very beautiful and easy process when you think about clothes all the time like I do. I always think about new approaching ideas and moods that I want to reflect trough my designs. It is very important not to stop creating because only if you never stop, at the end you will reach your best innovations and biggest ideas.


SS: What do you do to find inspiration?

DD: Listen to a lot of music in the dark with just one lamp over the paper. It is something that will never become strange to me and I have been doing it since I was very young. Just be a dreamer and you will have ideas coming to you all the time.


SS: What gets you motivated about fashion?

DD: Beauty, imagination, and that I am free to dream as a child even when I am 50. The moment you see in front of yourself something you created in your mind is priceless. Competition to create something different all the time is driving me faster and faster all the time. It is addictive.


SS: What are you doing next, what can we look forward to?

DD: I am preparing my Fall 15/16 collection and trying to make BLACK'D a recognizable brand in the fashion industry. I hope that I will present BLACK'D at NYFW soon. It is one of my next goals.

A lot of projects are on my mind so I am just waiting for the right moment to start developing those ideas.






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