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Egle Ziemyte and Simona Samojauskaite are both from Lithuania, a small country nestled by the Baltic Sea. Egle is a designer behind the successful brand D.EFECT, which has gained a global recognition and garnered the likes of such fashion bloggers and influencers as Nicole Warne (Gary Pepper Girl) or Andy Torres (Style Scrapbook). Simona has her eponymous jewellery line, distinguishable from others for its sharp, minimalistic style.

Recently, they’ve joined forces for a special collaboration; but it’s not the only reason why we meet to talk with them –while being the front line representatives of Lithuanian fashion, Egle and Simona talk about the current shift in the industry–. It seems that it is finally becoming more welcoming to creators from small countries, or even fascinated by them. Is it really the case? Or is it only a temporary trend? Is it a privilege or a burden to live in a country where there’s no fashion heritage and it’s developing in front of you?

Last year you presented a special jewellery collection together. As some time has passed, it’s easier to look at the project from a different perspective: what was the most memorable thing in the process? What have you learn from it? Are you satisfied with the results? Do you wish to make more collaborations like this in the future?
Simona: The most memorable thing probably was that we could understand each other from half a word, so there were no big discussions concerning the way our collection should look like. Egle showed me her future clothes collection, which was to come out almost at the same time as our jewellery project, and as soon as I saw the dominating undulating forms, I quickly understood what motif was going to be the main element of our collection. We’re both very satisfied with the results. I would also love to make more collaborations like this in the future. It’s a very good thing, especially for a young creator.
Egle: First of all, I discovered jewellery, which was an unknown sphere for me before. I’ve become familiar with technical work: how to work with metals, how they’re made, melted in hot temperatures, what are their main characteristics, etc. The collaboration was very easy because our aesthetics are similar. The process was the most fascinating thing: as I had to engage in a dialogue with another creator, it was very interesting to discuss the form and the content that we wanted to present, feel the creative intimacy between us. I wanted Simona to feel absolutely free while creating this mini collection. She proved to be very technical, talented and creative.
Simona, you’ve mentioned in other interviews that the process of this collection was special because you experimented more, didn’t hesitate to create bolder and riskier accessories that gravitate away from your traditional minimalist style. Has this ‘out of the box’ moment inspired you for your further creative path?
Simona: Yes, this collection is more daring than my other works, but I wouldn’t say that it’s something completely and extraordinarily different from what I usually do. D.EFECT is a fashion brand; that’s why I wanted the accessories to be noticeable. But my other goal was to preserve this intimate quality, which lets the wearer have a special relationship with the jewellery. It wasn’t supposed to be a theatrical collection. It’s always useful to step out from the comfort zone, but I intend to continue working in the same direction as I’ve been doing until now.
Egle, you’ve recently presented your new collection, which has quintessentially Lithuanian motifs. You’ve turned your look on the fall of the Soviet regime and symbolically returned not only to the roots of Lithuanian style, but also to the very roots of Lithuania as a country. In such a context, a very natural question comes: as 27 years have passed from the restoration of the independence, what do you consider to be “Lithuanian” design? Can it be defined as the Italian or French ones?
Egle: I thought for a really long time when I had to answer this question. To be sincere, I think that Lithuanian fashion doesn’t have a clearly developed identity yet. I could only think of some elements that are quite common in Lithuanian design: taking ‘safe’ decisions, moderation, natural manners, naivety, and romance. Overall, in my opinion, the approach of our designers is very cautious and timid. We’re in the process of learning; we watch the world and try to find our own path. We often emphasize our Baltic roots: we try to deepen our understanding of the Baltic symbols, and make clothes from linen, cotton, and wool. But the history of fashion here is not as impressive as in Italy or in France, and the priorities of the country are definitely not in the favour of this sphere. So I’d say that, in the whole context, we look like unique and naïve creators who believe in the romance of fashion and the successful stories. It’s probably why we’re interesting.
I know that, currently, the world is going crazy for the post-soviet aesthetics and brutalism (this particular period of time when the consumption was at its minimum level). Recently I met a journalist from the United States who asked me in what ways am I inspired by this soviet period; and everything I could think of was to say that it doesn’t inspire me at all. Only after that interview I started thinking about strange and rather poor aesthetics, art and architecture of this period of time. We went to the Sporto Rumai in Vilnius (Palace of Sport), the remaining artefact of this brutal soviet style, where we shot photos of the SS17 collection. It’s only now that we, the designers from here, start looking at this period and we try to understand why the West finds this aesthetics interesting. We try to be fashionable and start taking photos of ourselves outside the grey blockhouses that we’ve grown in, while, in reality, it was the West who imposed this style after taking notice of some designers from post-soviet countries (and not the other way around).

Simona, how would you define “Lithuanian design”?
Simona: I hear this question more and more often, but I think that we’ll have to wait for a while until we’re ready to answer it. It won’t be easy to find the definition because Lithuania has been independent only since 1990. We’re in the process of creating our own identity. On the other hand, we also have to acknowledge the fact that we’ve moved forward a lot during these past years; especially the last five years show us that Lithuanian design is recognizable around the world. The creations of Lithuanian designers are often compared to Scandinavian ones because of the natural colours and the usage of natural materials. We like functionality and we pay special attention to high quality finishing; that’s why Japanese buyers, for example, are interested in our works. I’d also mention that Lithuanian design is affordable.
In what ways are you fascinated or inspired by the works of each other? Do you find any common things between your brands?
Simona: I think that Egle’s creations are of a very high quality; they are exemplary in Lithuanian context. It’s a Lithuanian brand known worldwide, and it knows how to present itself properly. Everything is done thoroughly and meticulously, and also very responsibly. And despite the fact of how purified and how aesthetically clear the brand looks, for me her works are also avant-garde. I believe that creative freedom and responsible approach are two things that connect our works.
Egle: I think that both our works can be characterized by cleanness, pureness and functionality. I often like to change my mind, and remove unnecessary details. I also want the clothes to be wearable. I search for special forms just as Simona searches for them. I’m not a huge fan of accessories; usually my hands, neck and ears are accessories-free, but once when my husband gave me a very subtle, small, light ring from her, I never took it off. It was so comfortable for me! That’s how Simona’s work grabbed my attention. I always followed what she was doing and later invited her to collaborate. I liked her approach and her philosophy that accessories should not only be beautiful but also comfortable.
One of the main topics of this interview is the place that Lithuanian designers occupy in the world of fashion and jewellery. What are your main ambitions? Do you dream of reaching worldwide recognition, or are you more willing to rest in the niche sector?
Simona: I like communicating with my clients in a very personal way and I love the special bond that we create together. There are many loyal clients that come to buy, let’s say, their fifth piece of jewellery, so I become some kind of ‘family jeweller’ who keeps their secrets and stories. That means I dedicate most of my time to Lithuanian industry and intend to do so in the future, but I also have plans to accept any interesting projects on an international level.
Egle: I think it’s very natural for every designer to aspire to create a widely recognized brand and to be noticed. But there’s always another side of the coin. The longer I am in this business, the better I understand how complicated it is to become famous and widely successful in this sphere. You need huge investments, faith, 100% dedication, relationships, success; and I don’t even talk about such simple things as logistics and other business things! Not only you have to be a very strong designer, you also must have a strong financial background or a strong partner. Another difficulty concerns identity – the bigger you become, the more difficult it is to stay true to yourself. These sweet Cinderella stories are rare exceptions from a rule.

Judging from the last few years, we can state that huge attention is given to designers from small countries, which don’t have strong fashion traditions yet: there’s a renowned interest in cultures and aesthetics that differ from the Western ones, and which are considered to be ‘exotic’ (Eastern Europe, Asia). Do you agree with the affirmation that the future of fashion belongs to this group of designers from small countries? How do you see yourself in such context?
Simona: I agree, even though the affirmation sounds rather brave. Big cities will always remain the centres of fashion. But it’s not a secret that the most famous designers look for inspiration in other places rather than the streets of the fashion capitals. It’s not surprising because, in such small countries as Lithuania, designers have more freedom; creative decisions depend only on themselves. There isn’t a burden of strict deadlines or a set of clearly defined rules. Here, we create our own rules.
Egle: I don’t know. Sincerely, I don’t think so. Maybe I could call this movement a certain trend. It’s very natural and human to look for something unknown, yet undiscovered, fresh; but I really doubt that the future belongs to designers from small countries. In my opinion, the future belongs to big global businesses that follow main trends and help everyone get access to them: from the aesthetics of the so-called small countries to the futuristic trends. Fashion is a very organic business. Of course we can try to search for links between the slow-living lifestyle, nature, low consumption philosophy and the ability of these designers from small countries to stay creative and economical while designing. Or maybe the future does belong to them? It would be very fun and interesting if that happened!
But do you think that such designers have any insecurities? Are they self-conscious of this fact? Or, on the contrary, do they have some advantages?
Egle: Of course that we do have our own advantages! I don’t think it matters if it’s a big or a small country; each one of them has their own insecurities. Of course, such a small country as ours –that doesn’t have a rich fashion history– feels weaker than others. Probably our biggest insecurity is the fear of not being understood, not being “right”, fear to be just the way we are. We still want to be similar to something else, something ‘relevant’. I think it’s the heritage of our soviet times. On the other hand, we’re curious, big optimists, hard working, and naïve. Naivety and romance sometimes lead us to mistakes, but they also make us interesting and unique.
What would you wish to Lithuanian designers?
Simona: I’d wish not to be afraid of hard work and create things in which you believe.
Egle: I’d wish patience and love for this profession.

Monika Repcyte

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