Eva Dragoeva is a Portsmouth based fashion maker, who has dedicated her effort and creativity to sustainable fashion making in the past 2 years.
Sustainability means constraints and boundaries, which are imposed to the decision making process. From the material sourced to fabric preparation, from the environmental impact of large-scale production to dealing with garment waste, every step of the production-consumption cycle requires thorough considerations, willingness and determinations to take responsibilities.
Applying one's creativity within these constraints is a challenging practice, and solving it is an art of fashion making as well as an art of problem solving.
The idea to embark on sustainable adventure came to Eva when she was the astonished by the mountain of clothes piled in shop at sales. She then restricted her fashion projects to utilize the unwanted fabric and garments. And living by the sea, the natural objects and surroundings along the beach have also given her aesthetic inspirations for her design. These two strings of ideas have merged into the identity of her own label "UNDERDOCK".
With her projects and workshops, Eva is trying to influence the community to cherish what they already have, take a creative approach to deal with their no-longer-loved clothes and give them a second life.
The collection of shirt converted garments was all about Dazzle Ships and draping on the stand. The making process is pretty much a complete improvisation. It was about looking at each component of a garment and using it as something else!
For parts which have an opening such as collars and sleeves and cuffs, Eva tried to work out if these openings can be used for other parts of the body in a similar way, and came up with cuffs as waistbands and collars used as cuffs.
Components such as button stands can make not only great fastenings but also great details. Eva has used parts of button stands on the shoulders and at the back of the waist - in places that don't usually have any extra detail. Practicality is an important principle Eva follows in her design. She recommended not to install large details at the back of a skirt or trousers as it may be uncomfortable to sit on.
Another practice that she has adopted is to disassemble all components of a garment - for example a shirt has two sleeves, two front pieces, a collar, a back and a yoke. She then took each piece and played with different placement on the body and build a new garment out of these components.
Hoodies Gone Wrong
The hoodie dress was made using decommissioned hoodies 'gone wrong' from a local printing studio.
But luckily these hoodies found their way into the right hands. Eva applied a similar method as in her shirt projects - working on the stand and re-evaluating how the various hoodie components could be used as something else. For example the halter neck top is made almost entirely of hoods. As a starting point she looked at classic evergreen styles and little black dress ideas as well as Hollywood glamour.
'A Twist of Casual Glamour' is a reflection on how fashion has become progressively more casual, while incorporating vintage styles that everyone knows and loves.
Earlier Project - Origami Charm
The Origami project was an earlier experiment that Eva worked on prior to starting her enterprise UNDERDOCK. She designed her own textiles in this project, and all prints were digitally printed in the UK. To make it sustainable, the collection uses of recycled wool - a waste free and ethical alternative to brand new wool.
The inspirations of this project stem from Eva's fascination in Japanese art and contemporary styles. She also took this opportunity to advance her skills in paper draping and translating ideas from paper onto textiles.
For pieces in this collection, Eva added little origami elements to the most ordinary and functional details - zip lines, button lines and pockets, and turned them into eye-catching features.
Interview with the Designer
Could you tell us a bit about your background?
I come from a rather creative family. My dad is a brilliant painter, my mum would always make her own unusual clothes and my grandmother was Head of Wardrobe in my hometown’s theatre. So from an early age I was exposed to clothes, textiles and styling! I moved to the UK from Bulgaria because I wanted to study fashion here. I learnt so much from my Fashion and Textiles Enterprise degree and since graduation I have enjoyed working as a freelance designer and as fashion technical support in higher education. I am lucky that my background has enabled me to develop both the creative and the technical side of my fashion design skills. I think both are equally important - understanding construction in depth means creating better designs and injecting a creative twist breaks the mould. 2 years ago I decided to embark on a creative adventure by starting my own label. I have always wanted to share my imagination with the world and I am now able to do this – in a sustainable way!
How did you decide on embarking on a journey in fashion design and sustainable clothes in particular?
Sustainable fashion is green not only by definition but also in terms of maturity. It wasn’t something I ever thought about. Until I walked into a table top sale a couple of years ago – only to discover a mountain of clothes piled onto a long row of tables. It then suddenly hit me – each item used to belong to someone. Someone made a choice to not keep that item. In this case – it was the sheer volume of clothes that had an impact on my perception – we all dispose of clothes every day – to buy new clothes. So, I thought – what if old clothes could be used to inspire, rather than pollute? I was already looking into naval ships for a project and Dazzle Ships in particular – which are covered in stripes. So I got a few men’s shirts with stripes and started experimenting on my mannequin, cutting into the cloth and creating interesting results. This is how the UNDERDOCK fashion label was born. Since then I have adopted a lot more heightened interest in sustainable fashion and lifestyle and I now cannot imagine how I ever lived to create without sustainability in mind!
What are the challenges you have faced in the sustainable clothing business?
It’s been a couple of years of learning and concept development and I am still learning every day. Every day presents small challenges and the key is to learn from what does and doesn’t work and keep going. It is hard for me to think of specific challenges – I really enjoy what I do and while I too get ‘one of those days’ every once in a while – I feel grateful that I wake up knowing that I get to do what I love every day.
Where do you get inspiration for your projects?
I am always on the lookout for inspiration – anywhere and everywhere! If an object catches my eye it could become the basis for a whole creative project! I especially love to work with geometric shapes, patterns and unusual textures. As an example – I have worked on projects inspired by origami and geometric cuts as well as animal internal organ textures.
When I launched my sustainable label – UNDERDOCK, I focused on the beauty of coastal lifestyle. I love living by the sea and there is always something to find on a nice long walk along the beach. I love finding texture in my everyday surroundings – and there is so much of it along the coast! My first UNDERDOCK project was inspired by ‘dazzle ships’. Dazzle camouflage is a special type of camouflage used on battle ships during WW1 and involves sections of the ship being painted in black and white stripes, which change direction all over the exterior of the ship. I loved how this combined the illusion of texture and simple geometric shapes onto a coastal object and the collection, which resulted from this was really well received!
What are the areas you would like to explore in your future projects?
I recently came across this quote ‘Create before you consume’. It really spoke to me. Creativity is a driver for progress, it is key to problem solving. In this case – the problem is over consumption and waste in fashion and textile context.
I am embarking on a journey to show people how they can make the most of what they already own through interesting customizations. While this may not seem as artistic as some of my previous work – it is in fact an exciting and challenging new chapter. I aim to create a world of possibilities for people to explore their own creativity and style, so they can create the sustainable wardrobe they deserve. My next projects include series of interactive workshops, online resources and sustainable styling books. Alongside this – I have started filming my new YouTube series Fashion Transformation with Eva ’10 Ways With..’, in which I explore the concept of taking a single garment and changing it 10 times. The first episodes show quick and easy techniques and in time – I aim to introduce more advanced and unexpected transformations!
What influences or changes would you like to make in our society?
I was recently given a mystery envelope at a networking event as part of an interactive activity and when I opened it I saw the following message ‘Provide a solution to your potential customers, rather than just a product/service’. This has been life changing and it has shaped the direction that I am taking.
I would love to inspire people to fall in love with their clothes all over again and cherish what they already have. We live in such a fast-paced world and our wardrobes are a result of this. 21 century fashion is complex and problematic in many ways. Over consumption and easy access to shopping have in a way made experimentation and creativity of a daily basis - void. At least when it comes to clothing. Yet - using resources we already have is the best way to tackle waste and embracing the principles of circular economy is key to a brighter future. And it all starts with a creative mindset and experimentation!
Unless you are a sewing enthusiast - it is the easy option and a very tempting one to buy a cheap dress than to cut into an old one. It can be intimidating. Through my work I want to help people find the true value of their clothes and reconnect with their creativity. I want to inspire them to embrace customization as a tool to re-invent their own style. I want to show them that it is easy to stay sustainable through the power of imagination!
2011 BA Fashion and Textiles with Enterprise, University of Portsmouth
2011-2013 Retail customer service & Freelancing design
2014-2017 Lead Fashion Technical Support, University of Portsmouth
2017 Launched "UNDERDOCK"