Interview by Ina Vukic
Matija Vuica: designer, singer, couture dresses as well as theatre costume designer – originally from Metkovic, Croatia, she has been living in Zagreb, since 1978. Her singing career started in 1981 with a group called TROTAKT PROJEKT.
Alternative new wave rock sound alongside with a unique image, classified them as a cult band of the 80’s. Later on, the group changes its name to GRACIA, whose lead performers are Matija Vuica and Jurica Popovic. Simultaneously with her singing career, her fashion designer career took off and her first collection was presented in 1981. In the 90’s her love for fashion that mirrors pride, excellence and living magic transforms into a professional career.
These are the years that established her as a creator of unique evening gowns and since then her exquisite, couture creations have firmly taken her into all occasions’ dresses including stunning, world-leading wedding dresses and breath-taking special events couture dresses.
For the past couple of years Vuica’s creations started taking on the world – far beyond Croatia, the latest being 2019 Oscars in Los Angeles. I have spoken with Matija Vuica in Zagreb in June 2019 and here is that interview, out which come principles that should guide all in any walk of life they choose to tread.
What role do fantasy or imagination and dreaming play in your work?
Fantasy or imagination and dreams are a spiritual exercise that is an integral part of each or all of the set goals in life or of every creative process. To imagine on a “large scale” about some idea is not child’s play but truly a part of the plan for a goal. Intuition guides me in everything I do and I allow it to be the leader in my creative process, although my intuition has been nourished by my imagination, dreaming and desires over a long period of time, but above anything else by love towards fashion or the expression of fashion. That’s why it’s easy for me to allow the creative process to flow without calculation.
You recently said that everything has to be unique, that there is no duplication or run off. So, your creations are couture dresses. Your comment on this please.
From the very beginning I enjoyed playing, always creating new solutions that are different from previous ones. I’ve never done a series of same models simply because that was boring to me. Croatia is a small country and I knew that in the segment of the evening fashion there was a need for dresses that were unseen before, unique, and on that I based my brand. And that was my trademark since the beginning, which I have never strayed from even though I perhaps could have more easily made more profits if at the beginning I opted for some simpler creations. Hence, the reason why I will not do run offs or duplicates, I would like every woman to have a unique dress that’s hand made.
In your opinion, how important is uniqueness to a woman, or to a man for that matter?
As a matter of priority, a woman dresses to be appealing to other women, that is, so she can receive compliments for her dress from an another woman. That’s why a woman wants to feel powerful, appealing and sexy on special occasions, of course. To show respect for the event one is attending is a most important thing and that respect is demonstrated through dressing, through presentation of one self.
Each dress you produce has its own personal state of being. How do you manage to achieve this and what goes through your thoughts when creating dresses?
Every artist gives his identity, his personality, to his works; a painter to his painting, a sculptor to his sculpture, a musician to his musical notes, and I give my elation, my love, I bring into my creation every atom of my energy and the adrenaline, that elation carries me, my identity carries me when I create that dress. Because I put together, I keep joining pieces of lace on a mannequin for as long as it takes, until I am fully satisfied that it is what I imagined it to be. That’s why my dresses are recognisable and different from the very start. And what is really important they cannot be copied, because I bring my identity, my personality into them and that is impossible to copy. That is exactly like painting with fabric.
If we say that you create dresses in a space that’s between reality and dreaming, what would your answer be?
Reality and dreams are a part of everyday life, sometimes dreams are more real than reality and both point out to one’s interior and exterior, which when balanced or when doors are open in both directions, everything functions in the best of ways. Of course, there is a need to work hard on all that, to develop, to invest physical and spiritual energy, to give the last atom of energy so that the interspace you speak of is always fluid or flows.
To what do you attribute your great success in women’s fashion scene the most?
With work, work, persistence, faith in myself and even a tiny grain of talent the results come. Many talents are lost because they are not recognised or too little work is invested in order for them to become fruitful. I have the fortune to be a workaholic by nature, so work to me is really a hobby. And I did not need to calculate, not at any time, and then the cosmos simply recognises that and provides returns.
It feels as if I joined myself to the cosmos, to heaven, through an invisible pipe and I give all of myself to it, I send everything up there and then it comes back to be at the moment when it s recognised. And so, if everyone does the same, all such investments are rewarded. One must always be thankful, I have my own prayer of gratitude without which I do not leave my house in the mornings and that prayer is thankfulness for everything I do, for being given the opportunity to do what I do, thankfulness for al the people who work and collaborate with me, thankfulness for all the ideas and projects that come to my mind, thankfulness for love and, finally, thankfulness for everything I have.
And when I come out of my house with that payer I am not afraid of anything and all the doors are open. The common term for all that is: go positively through life.
At this year’s Oscars three of your dresses were worn on the Red Carpet. Who were the women who wore your creations, what does such success mean to you, in what words would you describe the path to this great success on the world’s scene of high fashion?
Something wonderful happened to me on Hollywood’s Red Carpet and that is that two Channel 5 (KTLA TV) Anchors, reporting for television from the Red Carpet wore my dresses, presented them on live TV in the best of lights and spoke of my name, and that meant the most to me as this was the first appearance ever of a Croatian design on the Hollywood Red Carpet. The TV Anchors were Megan Henderson and Megan Telles.
And the third woman who wore my dress on that Red Carpet was actress Annalynn McCord. Everything we spoke about here in this interview resulted in the Oscars event. That means, work, devotion to our work, positive energy, all that with a grain of luck and cosmos’ blessing we spoke of resulted in this crescendo. Actually, I’m lucky that my current assistan Zvona Vuckovic simply sent photos of my creations to some people in Los Angeles t literally make me accessible to them, and that was recognised by Ivan Bitton.
Even before the Oscars, last year, my dresses were featured in various events abroad by Carmen Electra, Laverne Cox, Rumer Willis and others, and that was like some first test for me for the American podium of high fashion. Now I’m continuing on that path and who knows what surprises await me in the future.
As in all things so too in fashion one needs to have firm beliefs, solid goals. What are yours?
Always the one and only and the most important thing is to work with honesty at what I do, with full energy, and the goals comes on their own. Goals are paths that are realised with such approach, they appear all by themselves and come to fruition. A lot of small goals lead to a big one.
I have come to the places about which I once dreamt, and now I want to be accessible to different parts of the world, not because of some wealth accumulation or to sell huge numbers of dresses, because that is impossible to achieve with the type of production I am in, but because of personal satisfaction and confirmation to me personally that these dresses of mine do have a place in the world.
Early July this year, Alenka Bonic is opening an Artelier at hotel Shraton on the Park in Sydney, Australia, where Charles Billich’s works of art and your dresses will be offered to the public. What does this mean for you? What does this mean for Croatia itself or its name in the world?
That will be the crown of all the small successes that have so far aligned with each other to lead to that event. I could not even imagine that appearing at the Oscars would attract the attention of people from different parts of the world, and when Alenka Bonic called me, and when soon after our first conversation she flew to Zagreb to meet me and to tell me of her ideas I was absolutely delighted.
First of all, with her as a person with an open heart and sincerity and with her idea to open an Artelier where my unique dresses would be exhibited and sold alongside Charles Billich’s works of art. This is that peak, the top heights where art and fashion meet together. The idea was gladly approved of by Charles Billich and his wife Christa and this is just the beginning of a wonderful collaboration.
It’s sad, I must say, that there is no office or institution in Croatia that would keep abreast of individual successes of Croatians in the world and especially not in fashion, one doesn’t come across any support of note and individuals like myself are left to themselves. To me personally it means that it becomes known that I come from a small country called Croatia and an even a smaller Metkovic, and that I can proudly say that I would encourage other attempts to make an impact outside of Croatia’s borders.
Because the brand of a nation lies with prominent “jewels” individuals like myself create for the world; they and their ceativity and efforts also make their country of origin recognisable. Today, Croatia is most recognisable by its tourism industry and some successful business industry but fashion is also that through which we can become widely recognisable – after all, half of the world’s population is female and their influence on branding is significant especially if we add to their numbers the influence they have on attitudes and choices male population, their friends and partners in life, have.
How important is it to you that through your highly appealing and delightful fashion creations you are also recognised in the world as being Croatian?
That is very important to me and I cannot separate that from my creations. I would love the most to include that in my logo as in, for example, “Matija Vuica Croatia” so that the name of my country, Croatia, is spoken every time my logo is read out or pronounced.
Where do you see yourself and your creations in ten years?
I do not like or want to know that because I simply like for life to surprise me. I want to participate in the creation of the future but not to outline it in advance. I will just imagine it into reality as I go along.