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May 26, 2022

Ena, Zagreb, May 2022

It's been a month now that every Thursday around noon I go to Lopašićeva, to the new Zagreb oasis of quality coffee, Luta, to hang out with Ena Čuček. I noticed Ena a long time ago, almost ten years ago, which means I remember her first fashion steps. However, I always somehow missed her, and we never met. We looked at each other in photos, sometimes wrote to each other, and then this year we finally met. Since then, we have drunk cappuccino and discussed what makes us happy.


Ena Čuček knows what she likes. She built her interests through acquaintances, high school, trips to the world's fashion capitals, through everything that surrounds her... All this, she says, shaped her. Ena confirms that many of our interests are formed very early, in childhood: I got my first inspiration from my family. I grew up with Josip Depolo, an art critic, and visited his studios as a child... It was a natural environment that I liked. And those conversations... Their house (Depolo and dad's aunt Lela) was full of paintings, lamps, ceramics, plates... I discovered art in their company. Ena also underlines that the school she attended had a significant impact on her. Ena grew up in Togliatti (Tolyatti), Russia, where she lived until eleven years old. She used to cut, make collages, arrange, and shape magazines as a kid. In short, she had a feeling for certain things back then and still does today.


After graduating from the school of applied art and design in Zagreb, she knew she was in the right place where her growth and development in art began. But Ena knew that life should not be rushed. After high school, she decided to devote herself to another interest, modelling. She tells me that she dreamed of travelling, of getting away from the Zagreb routine, but she also had the desire to work. And it was like that. Ena visited Paris, London, Milan, and New York. – The first Hermes casting! she begins to tell me about her modelling career in Paris. She proudly says that in the end, she was not hired for the Hermes shoot, but she also tells me the more important, the more vital – those very meetings and acquaintances, that feeling... It's something that builds you up. Excellence, humility, professionalism... To nineteen-year-old Ena, it seemed like a movie, in which she ultimately lived for five years, and then, as she states, she felt the desire to create something of her own. – There were moments when I was shooting and wanted to be in a different role; I didn't want to be just a model. I was also interested in the art direction, and I lacked my vision that someone could hear me. Ena, therefore, decided to combine her love of fashion with that of art. She returned to Zagreb and enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts, majoring in New Media and Animated Film.


We order another coffee; that's how it is with pleasant conversations. Ena begins a story about work that, she says, might interest me. She picks up her phone, looks for photos and finds her final work, Tailored body, an exhibition held in Jabukovac. – I wanted to transfer an experience from New York to work. They sent me to a photographer who taught me how to pose. Even though I had already been working for a long time, he taught me how to stand still and how to look at the camera. That experience taught her that, just as there are fashion trends in cuts and materials, there are also fashion trends in posing – our movements, our behaviour toward the camera, our attitude, face, expression, movements of hands, legs, gestures... It is not the same as what was expected in the 50s, 60s, 70s.


A few years after New York, Ena, graduating from the Academy in Zagreb, decided to combine fashion and art. It was intriguing to her that poses and gestures were invisible and fleeting, which she wanted to stop. – I wanted to stop my pose. The artist Vlasta Žanić helped me by smearing me with plaster, and I stood in that pose for about 30 minutes until the plaster dried. Ena was taken out of the cast almost an hour later, and the pose, exactly as she desired, was recorded. She also wrote a text that explains to the viewer how to strike that pose. She demonstrated how to combine her posing experience with art that emphasizes the ephemeral.


Ena is working on her second graduation thesis, in the School of Design at the Faculty of Architecture, where she continued her education after graduating from the Academy. Following her work, I noticed that she is interested in different media. I asked her which one was her favourite. She replies that it is difficult for her to choose just one, but the collage is currently the most interesting. Acquaintances pass by Luta, waving and greeting, and Ena focuses on collages: – I enjoy creating collages because I can quickly put together something on paper that intrigues me, what I feel, and I can immediately transfer it from my head to paper... It's a fast technique that I can combine at home in peace. Ena doesn't stop there. She wants to "expand" collage from the flatness of paper and make "reactions" to collage by combining it with other materials. In this way, she builds on the textile – she is intrigued by the print on the textile and the transfer of the collage on the textile. All this, she continues, is ILIYA.


I could see the joy on Ena's face after I asked her: How would you describe ILIYA – is it, in fact, the artistic and designer Ena that you want to be? She replies with a smile – This project was formed in my head a long time ago; it all started from modelling. When I was working on a shoot with different emerging brands, it was inspiring to watch the work of art directors and how they created the mood board for a specific shoot. Ena absorbed her surroundings and decided to connect fashion and art differently – she launched her own brand. Indeed, she believes that these are two inseparable concepts that, in today's fast fashion, deserve to be returned. ILIYA, in short, is an emerging brand that will first offer silk scarves and later expand to a specific and selected collection of a few pieces that she believes in and wants to have around her. – Why wear a silk scarf? I ask her. She responds that it is a great piece to start a brand with, but it can also show her love for textile prints. She created three silk scarves and used her artwork on them. ILIYA has had its warm-up period; the next step is the web shop, and then – Who knows what the future holds! It is a blend of my knowledge and experience, and my goal is to grow and learn through the brand. I would like there to be a firm and clear vision of that brand, she concludes excitedly.


The sun is getting stronger, and we are enjoying spring in the city. I open the next page of my notebook, look up at Ena and "shoot": What is the style for you? She answers me instinctively, without thinking too much: – For me, style is how someone wears clothes, but the way... I find style when someone wears clothes and surprises me with their energy and attitude, even if their garments are visually inconspicuous to me. She says she builds her style through others, just like in works of art; she likes to absorb everything around her and take the best from it. Equally, she explains that she is very careful when buying new clothes – I have never bought something by force, and I am not impulsive. But if I can't stop thinking about something, then I go back and buy it! She is drawn to dressing because we all play certain roles and express our own moods. However, like many other aspects of her life, she associates clothing with her work – I build clothing in a very similar, if not identical, manner when working on a specific work and its structure. It was about collage, objects, furniture, installation, cuts, colours, and patterns that I tried to combine by wearing... All these elements interact in the process, creating a rhythm that combines my style and creative practice in my work.


As we discussed clothing, I noticed her ideas and thoughts connected me to one of my favourite books What Artists Wear, which I return to often. – That's my made-to-last item that I wanted to tell you about! Ena tells me. I was impressed that she chose a book for her made-to-last subject, so I asked her why. – It's a truly inspiring book; I have a feeling that it somehow brings you back... There are days when you don't think about clothes but just throw something on. This book is here to remind us that clothing is our companion, not just a piece or an object


Another favourite day of mine, Thursday, enters the second half. We finished the second coffee, and Ena was about to go to the city to arrange the labels for the ILIYA scarves and then to the consultation for the thesis. – Now I'm making a table! I am attracted to everyday objects that we are surrounded by all our lives, but as if we do not give them enough attention, this is what I want to emphasize through my vision of the table. We say goodbye. Until next Thursday.

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