Keeping traditions alive is very important for teaching future generations about a part of their heritage.
We met one person in Zagreb who is doing just that. Ivana Hađina is the owner of Etno Motiv – the only company in Croatia engaged in the commercial production of fabrics with traditional Croatian motifs.
We caught up with Ivana who told us about her story about keeping an important tradition alive.
When did you first get into making fabrics with traditional Croatian motifs?
My father was a professor at the Faculty of Textile Technology and more than 25 years ago he sketched and weaved traditional motifs out of love. After he retired, he closed the trade and thought he was done with that story. But as an economist, I recognised the business opportunity because at that moment (and even now) no one was doing it, and I decided to start over.
I knew absolutely nothing about it, I was slowly learning and I’m still learning because it’s a very big and complex matter.
I have no employees, I do the vast majority of it myself, from tailoring, sewing, packing, photography, marketing, running a company… everything you see actually. My father is a great help in weaving, without him everything would be much more difficult.
How do you source the motives?
All samples are traditional, inspired by the Croatian national heritage. National costumes, fabrics for various purposes, embroideries… in fact anything traditional that seems interesting and feasible to me on the machine, because there are great technical limitations due to the type of machine.
Which motives do you like use?
I use motifs from all over Croatia, but let’s say that the most suitable are the patterns of central Croatia, because that’s where weaving was the most developed, and these samples are closest to what can be done on the type of machine I have. But I always try to make sure that all parts of Croatia are represented.
Of course, each sample has its own story in terms of heritage, because each is part of the heritage of an area.
What products do you produce from the fabrics?
I produce fabric by the metre, it has a variety of applications, such as folk costumes, clothes, bags, etc. In addition to manufacturing, I don’t have the resources to expand into new products, so I’m leaving it to someone else.
How long does it take to make a tablecloth?
This is a complex issue because it involves not only making tablecloths, but making fabric, for starters.
The machine I work on is industrial, but it is not modernised or not computer-driven, so the designs, preparation of the program and the weaving program itself – everything is done manually.
The preparation of the program is time-consuming and complicated because it consists of drilling thousands of holes in the foil. The sheer length of the program depends on the complexity of the sample; the more elements have a pattern, the more complicated it becomes to prepare and perform. Once the programme is finished, it cannot be modified – any change in appearance means creating a new pattern.
The process of creating a new pattern depends on its complexity, so we are talking about a period of one and even up to a week.
It’s a big handicap compared to computer-driven machines because we can’t make a lot of samples, but on the other hand, that’s what sets us apart from mass industrial production.
Once the fabric is woven, then tailoring, preparation for sewing and sewing follows.
How has the reaction been from the public?
Excellent, people are very surprised to discover that someone still produces traditional fabrics and that they can have such decoration in their home. Or give someone such a typically Croatian pattern, and at the same time high quality and usable value. This is especially valuable when people travel outside Croatia, then they want something representative. Or Croatian diaspora, they just love to have it at home to remind them.
The structure of customers changed last year, due to COVID. Until then, most of it was focused on tourism (souvenirs) and hospitality, but this stopped completely and I turned to the end consumers. It was something I always planned but never had time for. So, it’s a true saying that when one door closes, another opens.
Do you also sell your products abroad?
Yes, you can find products in Australia, USA, Chile.