When thinking about Hungarian fashion, there aren't very many brands or designers that immediately spring to mind, even for the well-initiated fashion follower. That's because, previously, it served as more of a local tradeshow — but Budapest Central European Fashion Week is setting out to change all of that. This season, sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, the official fashion week had more international press, influencers and buyers than ever before.
"In the last year, a lot has changed and people in Budapest are starting to care more about fashion," says Dora Abodi, the designer behind Abodi, who has previously shown her collection in international cities but decided to return to her native Budapest this season. "There are very important journalists, influencers and brands kind of building an international hub."
The three-day event featured Hungarian designers both new and old alongside labels from other central European countries, such as Poland, Czech Republic, Romania and Ukraine. Here, we're rounding up some of the most exciting designers on the brink of making it big on an international scale.
Originally trained as a ballet dancer, the Prague-based Jiri Kalfar launched his line last year. Inspired by the divas and club culture of '70s glamour, Kalfar showed a collection of dresses constructed of recycled sequins, flowing chiffon blouses and paisley printed pants and tops. As a designer, he's extremely devoted to sustainability, inspired by his lifestyle as a vegetarian and hybrid car owner. For the first time, Kalfar also delved into shoe design, with 3D printed silhouettes made of corn and wood — all completely compostable.
"We do everything in Prague," Kalfar said after his spring 2019 show. "I'm a bit of a magpie, I'm attracted to everything gold and shiny. Prague has massive film studios with so many leftovers, so I just take it apart, piece-by-piece and make my own patterns out of it. I hate waste. The real luxury is no longer money, the real luxury is the uniqueness and the consciousness of the mind."
Designer Dori Tomcsanyi started her namesake line in Budapest in 2010 with an emphasis on easy-to-wear, minimalist silhouettes. What makes the brand really stand out is its focus on playful prints, which Tomcsanyi designs herself, and the attention she places on her cultural heritage being born and bred in Hungary. Her Spring 2019 collection took aesthetic cues from the Hungarian countryside and the architecture surrounding it, which was mostly built during the 1970s. Shades of salmon, peach and pale pink punctuated the dresses and pants, printed with tiny houses.
"They look 90 percent the same with different colors and windows. That was the inspiration, that something could be so different but also so similar in so many different ways," she says. "In Hungary, when you see someone wearing my prints you know almost immediately that they are from me, because it's what I do. It's my signature."
Based in Poland and founded by Roman Buk in 2011, Neige was one of the few fashion lines with a streetwear edge that presented during Budapest Central European Fashion Week; think graphic logo scarves, colorful hoodies and jogger pants and covetable t-shirts and button-downs. He chose to show at Budapest Central Europe Fashion Week because he believes Poland and Hungary have similar histories and also believes in supporting the localized fashion community. Buk designs his piece to be worn by either gender too, depending on how each piece is styled.
"Right now, the biggest inspiration for me is transitions," Buk said after his show. "It doesn’t matter if it's colors — I like to combine a lot of details that usually don't combine. It's important for me to mix things but still be minimalistic."
Molded bodysuits, silky slip dresses and reworked garter belts are just a few of the things designer Andreea Badala showed as a part of her Spring 2019 collection for Murmur. Badala studied Pattern Technology at London College of Fashion, and went on to work for Alexander McQueen's menswear team and Richard Nicoll before launching her own line, based in Romania, in 2011. And while Murmur still may be a very young brand, it's been worn by celebrities including Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Kylie Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Madonna, Paris Hilton and recently, Dua Lipa.
"I'm so into translating underwear into outwear and going into '50s references," said Badala post show. "This season, I wanted to take all of the vintage pieces I saw in Hollywood movies and rework them into modern, wearable pieces." Many of her dresses and bustier tops came with hourglass silhouettes in flattering shapewear fabrics, and garter straps that served as decoration. "We as woman don't have the time we had in the '50s, so as a designer, I think about that," she explains.
Abodi is the creation of the Transylvanian-born, Budapest-raised Dora Abodi. Before launching her line in 2013, Abodi obtained a Masters in Fashion Design at Domus Academy Milan, and in her five years of splitting shows between Milan and Budapest, the brand has been worn by Gwen Stefani, Rita Ora, Dita Von Teese, Grimes and more. She regularly infuses her ready-to-wear collection with unicorns, pastel-hued tulle, crystals and transformable sequins, and this season was no exception: Models walked down the runway wearing layered tulle dresses with crystals, holding onto studded unicorns. Others wore intricate sequined hoodies and strappy dresses with matching shoes.
"This season is inspired by the lavish and glamorous lifestyle Los Angeles in the '90s. It's a little bit humorous and funny. We developed the fabrics ourselves, and they're all hand-cut and hand-finished. I just imagine that after a party in Los Angeles in the '90s, we'd be going in a car to the desert and feeling so empty and then, you'd see a lizard in the sun, you’re a little bit hungover, it's shining in the sun — that's the inspiration," she said, with a laugh.
Many credit Katti Zoob as being one of the original fashion designers in Hungary, and this year she celebrates her 25th anniversary — though she has yet to gain wide recognition in the West. Unconventionally, she started making clothing as a student for her classmates and teachers before working as a costume designer in Hungary. Over the course of the brand's lifespan, she trained to learn couture techniques, showing at Paris Fashion Week, and now focuses on ready-to-wear and custom couture orders for cultural heritage events. Her Spring 2019 collection was packed with jazz references.
"This collection was a whole celebration of that era — Jazz is controversial because everyone thinks pop music is pleasant but jazz some people like it, some people don't," explained Zoob.
If you follow a certain influencer crowd on Instagram, you've likely seen designer Sandra Sandor's signature knotted satin dresses, vegan leather puffers and belt bags. Following the brand's second presentation at New York Fashion Week, the Budapest-based Nanushka hosted a runway show at Budapest Central European Fashion Week to showcase their Spring 2019 collection, which included plenty of the aesthetic for which Nanushka is best known — with the addition of biker shorts, checkered separates and fuchsia satin.
"We're really a local brand. We're based here and it's a cultural mission for us," said Sandor of why she decided to continue showing in Budapest. It's been a over a decade since she first launched the brand in Budapest (which is now sold around the world at Net-a-Porter, MyTheresa, Nordstrom and Moda Operandi) but there's still a lot to come: Next season, they'll be launching their first ever foray into menswear and there are also plans for stores in New York and L.A.