2020: the year of the community
Romani Design, the first Roma fashion brand of the world celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. We prepared for the occasion with a large series of events, but unfortunately, due to the coronavirus restrictions, we were not able to celebrate the jubilee in person with our friends, customers and supporters. Romani, like Roma communities that have survived centuries of adversity with creative adaptation strategies, redesigned its plans.
With this website, we would like to sum up 2020, which, despite the personal and work-related difficulties, has allowed us to turn to Roma communities and people with whom working together has brought much beauty and joy into our lives in a year that has been mainly characterised with isolation.
Amidst numerous hardships, we built on the strength of the community: working with different Roma groups, we created visual materials that commemorate the work of the past decade and illustrate what Romani’s community-building and identity-shaping power means to us. On the website, we present the pictures from our community photo shoots organized in 2020 with our photographer friend, Zsófia Pályi, and a capsule collection dreamed up this year, which reflects on the traditions of the Roma communities in the Visegrád region and their intertwining with Hungarian, Slovak and Czech folk costumes.
You can admire the photos and Visegrad garments live until January 15, 2021, walking in front of the LOffice Budapest building in Budapest, COVID-compatible.
Community photo shoots: more than fashion
Csatka: modern meets traditional
Our big dream came true when we visited the fare in Csatka in the autumn of 2019, which is the most important festival of Roma people in the Carpathian Basin. Thousands of pilgrims and Roma from all over the world come to the small settlement in Komárom County on Assumption Day.
Romani's designers have been visiting the religious festival for years, and this time they even came into more intimate contact with the young people, the elderly and their families, as they have taken portrait photos in collaboration with photographer Zsófia Pályi, both in their own and Romani's clothes. The images also feature elements and accessories of festive wear: giant gold chains - and jewelry, layered skirts, pendants depicting saints and cross-shaped necklaces, even life-size statues of Mary. The Roma communities that visit Csatka see the Virgin Mary as a symbol of fertility and family, and this is also emphasized in their attire. The photos wonderfully illustrate the diversity of clothing of Roma communities and the exciting encounter of traditional elements and modern trends.
Our beauties: Roma women we are proud of
It is now a tradition to prepare a visual campaig on the occasion of International Women's Day, as it is an integral part of our mission to change the often generalising and steretypical narrative of Roma women. In 2020, a few weeks before the arrival of the coronavirus, we asked four Roma women to formulate messages to other Roma and non-Roma women, dressed in our Blueprint collection. The collection draws on the tradition of blue painting and emphasises pride in the Roma-Hungarian dual identity: the patterns of Hungarian blue painting workshops and traditional Roma motifs are organically linked in the pieces of the collection.
"From the beginning, I think it is important that our business - in addition to providing livelihoods and training for Roma women - is a space where Romani girls and women can be together, reconnect to their identity and each other. I really enjoyed this photo session where we could spend meaningful and creative time with these talented and wonderful women in the rethought Roma interior of our salon, ”said designer Erika Varga.
The Romani Generation Z and its cutural narrative
To what extent does the presence of our modern, globalized world and social media that infiltrates all areas of our lives provide an opportunity for the young Roma generation to express their personal narratives related to their culture and identity as Hungarian Roma?
In our third community photo shooting, we sought answers to these questions with young Roma people in higher education, including musicians, dancers, economists, tourism professionals, romologists and educators. What they have in common, however, is that they are first-generation intellectuals who continuously reflect on their dual Hungarian-Roma identity, search for ways to express it and communicate about these topics in the online space.
Our colours: Romani's Visegrad-themed collection
In 2019, Romani Design started a partnership project with Slovo 21 from the Czech Republic and the Association for Better Life in Slovakia. The aim of the project was to acquaint those interested in fashion with the traditions of Roma wear, which have already been forgotten in many cases, based on the traditions of the Roma communities living in the three countries, thus building the prestige of Roma culture.
Romani and its partner organisations involved Roma women and young people from different parts of the three countries, with whom they conducted creative fashion sessions and collected archival photos and costumes from the participants' families. The materials and inspirations collected were put together by Romani into a collection that is modernising old styles with contemporary tailoring and unique patterns based on local traditions. The collection was presented online in December 2020 as part of a fashion event, and the Slovak partner organisation photographed the pieces near Kecerovce with young girls living in local Roma settlements, who also took part in a joint workshop with Romani in February 2020.
A photo-shooting in Slovakia: using the Romani-method for community-building
When the young Roma girls in and around Kecerovce received the clothes and accessories made for them by Romani, they expected something completely different: heavy, long pleated skirts, headscarves, and embroidered blouses. These are the pieces they have identified with Roma women’s clothing.
Trying on overalls, midi dresses, tops and pants, they recognised Roma, Slovak and Hungarian motifs, which are now rarely worn. "We were impressed. The variety and modernity of the cuts, the beautiful and unique patterns fascinated us. We even said how wild! What followed was the posing and work in the photo shooting showed how much these colors and motives add to our beauty., but also how tough it is to be a model” - said one participant.
My Identity My Freedom exhibition
In December 2020, the photos made during the year and the clothes reflecting the Visegrád traditions were presented within the framework of an exhibition that can be viewed from the street in a COVID-compatible way until 15 January 2021 in Budapest. Through the exhibited material, we can get a glimpse into the ever-changing, organic cultural narratives and self-representation of the traditional Roma community and Generations Y and X.
Romani Design created its own concept inspired by Hungarian, Slovak and Czech traditional Roma and non-Roma motifs within the framework of a partnership project supported by the Visegrad Fund, and then prepared a collection that connects the Roma communities living in these three countries.