Explore Sarajevo with fashion designer Marijana Kramarić

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To bring you the best travel tips and best spots, we meet locals, entrepreneurs and influencers from all over the Balkans. Founder Ivana spoke with the passionate Marijana Kramarić, a fashion designer living in Sarajevo who creates unique, timeless, and multifunctional clothing with an attitude. Exclusively for Balkanlocals, she unveils her favorite places in Sarajevo and shares insights into her creative universe. 

Photocredit header: Ivan Hrkas

Hi Marijana, can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your brand Citoyenne K.? 

‘Hi my name is Marijana, I am a mom of a 10 years old boy named Bor and entrepreneur for the last 14 years. I was born and raised in Zagreb in the 80′. After finishing my studies in Philosophy and Indian studies I started this adventure of self-making me into a fashion designer and entrepreneur. I run a small slow fashion brand but it is more like a friendly club with focus on fashion, where I try to make my clients (who more often become friends) empowered and happy in their bodies through creative processes, laughter and clothes. There is hardly any line between my brand and me, one is a part of the other. It’s actually my creative universe that I share with the world.’

As a fashion designer, you have worked and lived in different places. Which place has made most impact on you and why?

‘The first and the most important stop on my route was Paris. Paris was liberating for who I was at the time, leaving dreams of becoming a scholar (I have never finished the master program I was enrolled in) and pursuing into the world of fun and joy once called hobbies. It came naturally that the fun creative side took over this more formal, strict narrative in my head…the joy of creating, making people happy and being paid for that felt just right and so good. 

People started ordering and that’s when I set this intention, I would love to make a living out of my fashion. I started sewing when I was three, was always making clothes for myself and my friends but never before felt it was good enough to take it seriously. These few years of living in Paris with an open mind and heart, as you can be in your mid twenties, were formative in every aspect. The strong visual, and cultural picture was set and the full profile was made: brave, modern, feminine, smart, funny women, this is who my designs should serve. 

Later on, I moved to Chicago where I was immersed in Retail management, the closest thing I could do with no experience in fashion to get as much knowledge as possible about customer service and operating the business, that I would later use on my own. 

I loved Chicago even though I missed Paris, but music, jazz scene, lake, architecture, friends…the best of America was there.’

And then you moved to Edinburgh?

‘When I was just about to move to New York to the most vibrant place full of energy build on all this dreams of starting new life, erasing personal histories, rewriting yourself I ended up in Edinburgh, crazy beautiful, fairytale like city with all the dark sides sweeping up the different levels of it.’

I remember you from the time you stayed in Rotterdam, was this also your residential address?

‘Before moving to Sarajevo, I briefly lived in the Netherlands. I spent months in Rotterdam, where I worked with students and at an amazing gallery called De Nieuwe Ontwerpers (The New Designers) back then. It was a very flourishing time for Citoyenne K. All the ideas that were bubbling inside me came to life in that environment. From Rotterdam, I moved to Sarajevo, and that’s where I’ve been spending most of my time since 2013 :).’

You are originally from Zagreb with an address in Sarajevo ;-)? How did you end up in Sarajevo?

‘I came to Sarajevo for the first time in 1996. And as you can imagine I was swept away by humor and charm of the people, cultural diversity and amazing creative energy found here. Later on I had strong Bosnian community in Paris and Chicago, that I kept working on different projects with and little by little the net of affection and dreams finally brought me to Sarajevo. My son was born here I felt this is the perfect place for kid to grow surrounded with such an breathtaking nature and closeness of the Adriatic see. I always have a special connection with the cities I live in. It feels like I might leave them someday, just like an old lover, but their charm never ceases to amaze me. For now, the magic is still here.’

What do you think is fun or distinctive about living in Sarajevo? 

‘Sarajevo feels like a perfect mixture of laid-back southern city hiding behind these seriously beautiful Austro-Hungarian buildings. I just love the mixture of these influences. Even though it sounds cliche, but this contrast and multicultural heritage is so present and creates a special feeling. I wish we could do something about the smog and pollution here, maybe in the future we will be dreaming big dreams for this city like once were.’

Where do you get your inspiration for clothes, and do you make everything yourself? 

‘As I am autodidact in design, I look for lessons and inspiration everywhere, Citoyenne K. is more like a movement, a living creature, through which I express my feelings and thoughts. On this trip I meet many interesting people that take part in that travel.  I read, see movies, go to concerts, talk for hours, cook and laugh a lot, all that life is the best inspiration.  Most of the time I work alone, but before bigger events I have amazing young women who helps me with sewing. I cut all the pieces from the scratch myself, leading the process to the last stitch.’ 

Do you think we women conform too much to the image of what we should wear instead of following our own trend and style?

‘The pressure is high and unbearable. Social media and the possibility for everything to be on your phone in a minute made us be less creative, all of the photos and information dumped on us make us incapable of making the right decisions or to build individual style. It is all too busy.

It seems all the time that pictures and details are already seen. There is no peace of mind to sit calmly with ourselves and to feel within what we truly want or feel like wearing. Style is a feeling, feeling for yourself in a concept of time and wider picture, it’s about the role we play at a given moment. It’s about liberation, this is what I try to teach my clients and friends. I make things for them. They don’t choose things I’ve made, I am here to serve them, help them feel empowered, free, and beautiful all the way in and out. That’s why I had this slogan Citoyenne K. Is a part of your identity not part of your wardrobe :).’

What is your view on slow fashion?

‘I hope younger women will be more free to experiment and choose consciously. Slow fashion also became prestigious, it is harder and more expensive to produce things this way, which leads to higher prices on one hand and trendy cheap fast fashion, produced in horrible ways, is super approachable for masses. But if you ask me for advice I would say shop vintage, shop for the history and stories, make that as part of your exploration and creative way of expression. Get few vintage pieces spiced up with some slow fashion and we are on the right track, plus reuse and exchange clothes among your friends and things will start changing.’

Bascarsija, Sarajevo

Can you take us to hidden gems or favorite places in Sarajevo?

‘Sarajevo is small enough to go exploring by foot, and the disclosures of the historical layers are more visible this way. It is magical to go from Austro-Hungarian to Otoman part called Bascarsija, getting lost in its small streets. Explore local shops and artisans, and taste best baklava. My favorite is Baklava shop in Bascarsija, have some traditional food at Hadzibajric resto and then after long walk and sightseeing cross the river and go to oldest hamam at Careva Dzamija. Next day enjoy the ornaments of Artdeco buildings and visit Jewish community center for lunch and a visit to Sarajevo synagogue. In 10 min walking distance you can find orthodox church and catholic cathedral, all inspiring and beautiful. Sarajevo’s main market Markale is also a place to meet people and try some amazing local food. And don’t miss to get some of the most beautiful locally grown flowers at “aunt Nerma” at Markale open market!’

How do you spend your weekend?

‘Most of my weekends are divided between work and nature. Sundays are reserved for hiking in the mountains around Sarajevo, foraging wild herbs, picking mushrooms or just emptying my brain and breathing all this beauty in. My favorite place for an easy lunch in the woods not far away from Sarajevo is” Novka” at Crepoljsko, only 30 min drive from Bascarsija. One of the most beautiful experiences is hiking across Visocica and sleeping at the mountain house Vrela.’

For people who want to buy or have a garment made by you, how does this work? Do you also have a website?

‘The easiest way is to follow me on Instagram or Facebook. There, I share updates about the fairs I attend and where you can find me. Over the years, my items have been sold in various cities, but I have never found the perfect offline or online spot that completely resonates with me. I’m still working on that 🙂 Before the concept of the store becomes a reality, you can find me and reach out on Instagram or Facebook; I try to keep that “storefront/display” regularly open.

You can also send me a message and order the items you like, and I will create and ship them worldwide. I always ensure my customers can choose different colors, fabrics, or details to keep the designs customized and special, made just for them.

Additionally, when I am in Sarajevo or Zagreb, you can visit my studio. A few times a year, I participate in smaller design fairs and events in Vienna. The only store where you can still find my designs is the museum shop at MAK in Vienna, they always have a selection of my work there.’

What destinations are still on your wishlist?

‘I travel quite a lot, most of the time I drive myself and explore places on my way to fairs and exhibitions. I am minimally 5 times a year in Zagreb or at the Adriatic coast. Most of my travels are divided between work and pleasure that I share with my son.

Last trip vas visiting our friends Vila in Montechiaro in between Napoli and Amalfi coast, where we were “lucky” to have our car get broken and we would spend three more days in picturesque small Italian village, all unexpected routes are the best. I love to travel, after the Salzburg area upcoming winter I would love to go to Portugal.’

Franz & Sophie

Which place do you cherish the most in the city, and why do you enjoy visiting it?

‘A favorite spot in Sarajevo is my friend Ado’s tea place, called Franz & Sophie in the small street above Markale market. This place is pure magic, as you enter you get immersed in this time capsule when spices and teas were transported from Asia and were all boxed in this beautiful thing and labeled on the shelves. Ado has one of the most amazing selection of organic teas, aromatized, infusions, rooibos, Ayurvedic, you name it he has it. Each time you open one of the boxes the smell brings you to different places. Besides teas, beautiful pots and spices you will find here the most interesting people who are open to chat and share jokes and stories. This place is a true inspiration, you can meet aspiring artists, musicians, journalists and any kind of interesting people while you are drinking your tea.

Instead of coffee I usually have my matcha latte there. And the best thing is that you can buy loose tea there and take it home or as a gift. I call this place my second office.’

Meeting up with friends I do at …

‘Since I love to cook, I invite my friends at my place for dinners, but time from time we organize parties at the one of the most beautiful apartments in Sarajevo, owned by my friend Amela, that is overlooking Sarajevo Vijecnica. The apartment is kept intact in it’s original shape, with all the furniture and art from the beginning to the mid of the century. If you are visiting and looking for a place to stay this is the place to experience the true spirit of Sarajevo.’

Special finds I shop at …

‘Franz&Sophie and local Farmer markets.’

Thank you for your openness and enthusiasm to participate in this interview and good luck with your brand / business!