Exclusive Interview: Dragan Hristov of LUDUS Appointed Curator for Macedonian Lab Design Market - Avant Gardist

Exclusive Interview: Dragan Hristov of LUDUS Appointed Curator for Macedonian Lab Design Market


We had an exclusive conversation with Dragan Hristov, the founder of the agender sustainable brand LUDUS and the newly appointed curator for the Macedonian Lab Design Market.

AG: Recently, you were appointed as curator of the exhibition and sales hall at the Laboratorium Center in Skopje, where you lead the "Lab Design Market," a community of Macedonian designers and craftsmen. Can you explain more about your role? What are your plans for Macedonian fashion brands?

Dragan: The opening of a showroom that unites the work of Macedonian designers was long overdue and I’m glad it finally happened after long preparations and that finally we have a selling point that is an insight into a contemporary form of traditional Macedonian crafts, a sort of a museum of design and artisanship. My role was exactly that, to invite designers and artisans that base their work on the ancestral knowledge of craftsmanship, but have an internationally appealing contemporary product. I personally stand against a very present narrative that crafts are dying out. Lab Design Market shows exactly the opposite, it shows how they have been transformed into a new modern form. I personally choose the participating designers and artisans and I base my choices on the quality of craftsmanship and the contemporary appeal of the products.

AG: Can you share your journey into the world of curation and what led you to focus on Macedonian emerging brands?

Dragan: Lab Design Market derives from a previous annual exhibition “Slowscapes”  which showcased the work of 8-10 designers. I was the initiator and curator and all of this comes from the concept store Ludus which I started in 2006 with my sister, where we launched and represented local designers. My focus in the past 15 years has been on my agender label Ludus, but I’ve never stopped showing my work alongside other designers’ work. I’ve always believed in community work, helping other designers whose work I really appreciated. 

AG: What excites you the most about curating exhibitions for emerging brands, specifically those from Macedonia?

Dragan: When you curate an exhibition or in this case a gallery, or showroom I’m very excited about the storyline that comes out, about the narrative that I’d like to communicate with the audience and clients. I think all important exhibitions reflect a certain historical aspect of society or humanity and the most important ones change the viewers perspective on things and have a memorable impact on them.

AG: What is the current situation with Macedonian fashion designers? How can you improve it, and what are the main objectives?

Dragan: I can say that the situation on the Macedonian fashion scene is always changing, but I’m not sure it’s evolving, it’s tied to the economic and financial situation and the lack of fashion design schools. However, I hope that with Lab Design Market a significant push is made and we’re yet to see the changes.

AG: What is the central theme of this exhibition, and how did you develop this concept?

Dragan: The concept of the showroom came from the Slowscapes annual exhibitions, from the unifying aspect in all of the designers’ work, which was the ‘slow fashion’ movement, the strong artisanal approach, the dedication to high quality. 

For Lab Design Market we focused on finding handmade products and designers who work in small production studios and have a product that is ready and competitive for the international market. 

AG: How do you select which brands and designers to feature in your exhibitions?What criteria do you use to identify and select the emerging brands you want to showcase?

Dragan: The base for the market was made by approximately 10-12 designers who we invited and after this an appointed jury decides on the sustainability criteria in the work of the designers who apply on our Open Call.

AG: How do you support these brands before, during, and after the exhibition to ensure their success?

Dragan: The main idea of Lab Design Market was to give the support Macedonian designers and artisans needed and that is sales. Selling their products is the best way to help them and we’ve conceived this place as a showroom where a community will be developed, where designers can find makers and artisans, and craftsmanship can be helped in their branding and presentation. The community is slowly growing and the first collaborations are made. 

We don’t only sell their products but have a mentorship programme, internationalisation strategy, group exhibitions planned where different designers will be presented with a unique point of view and that is craftsmanship, a high-quality entirely handmade product.

AG: How do you see the landscape of Macedonian emerging brands evolving in the next few years, and what opportunities do you foresee?

Dragan: The Macedonian market is a very fragile one. It's challenged by the economic situation and the financial power of the clients, so having a fashion business or any kind of design business is very difficult to keep up and to maintain, but there are opportunities regarding the lower costs of materials and lifestyle so when the right balance is found and with a lot of hard work I think that any designer who has a very unique and distinguishable point of view will eventually break into the international market.

Lab Design Market represents a unique point of view for around 20 designers and with 20 different voices behind it the market could become a serious platform for growth of the local design scene.

AG: How do you engage with your audience to make the exhibition interactive and memorable?

Dragan: At Lab Design Market we like to show each of the designers presentations and collections one by one telling their stories and their practices to the visitors. In a way this is like guide in an art gallery and that is exactly why visitors and clients keep coming back to see which new designers have joined each month and this interaction is probably one of the reasons that people find our showroom interesting to visit often.

AG: What feedback have you received from past exhibitions, and how has it influenced your approach?

Dragan: We have always received great feedback from the audience which has reflected in sales and that has kept me personally working to achieve greater goals when it comes to curating design exhibitions. One of the main things that keeps me working in this field is the fact that many happy customers leave the showroom and are willing to come back and support the designers work.

Stay tuned for the rest of the interview next week!

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