A long journey ends, another begins


“I was looking for somewhere I could be. And think. And have the facilities to make a large collection in a short space of time. After looking around, I found Building BloQs.”

Zhanna arrived at Building BloQs in spring this year, ahead of her graduate collection fashion show at The Cass.

In a short space of time, her awe-inspiring collection of leather-based fashion has come together and Zhanna has become part of the fabric at BloQs: an inspiration in our Textile Studio, and a magnetic addition to our community.

More than most, Zhanna’s journey here has been extraordinary. Her journey to The Cass catwalk began in the former USSR – in Lithuania, making clothes for her dolls.

“My father enjoyed art and tailoring,” says Zhanna. “He made art from glass, wood and amber.  “Sometimes when a child is interested in something like that, parents don’t allow them to develop it. But given his interests, my dad was supportive. I think my creative side came from him.”

After high school, Zhanna studied apparel technology at college in the late 1980s. She went straight to a job in a mass-production Soviet clothing factory.

“I worked there for some years but I was young, I was hungry, I was angry.”

It was the early 1990s, and Lithuania was one of many Bloc countries drawing away from a crumbling Soviet system.

Zana using one of the professional standard machines in the BloQs Textile Studio

Before long she was heading up her own business: a fashion design and boutique tailoring outfit specialising in women’s clothes.

In the name of love, Zhanna moved to London in the mid noughties. Despite a considerable professional portfolio, she was a latecomer to the English language so struggled for work and met a lot of dead ends.

“I didn’t speak English at all when I came here,” says Zhanna. “I tried to find a job but it wasn’t possible. And then there was the people who paid you very little because they know you can’t go anywhere else. So it was a tough time.

Undeterred, Zhanna kept the faith with fashion and set her sights on Croydon College’s Fashion Design and Production course – a composite introduction to all sides of the fashion industry.

Her collection focuses on the use of leather

Zana switched from Croydon to The Cass in year three to complete a BA (Hons) in Fashion Design. And at the beginning of 2017, she was staring down the herculean task of pulling together a collection for the school’s final show.

That show is today.

“There was big demand on space and machines at The Cass so I started looking at other options,” says Zana. “I was looking for somewhere I could be. And think. And have the facilities to make a large collection in a short space of time. After looking around, I found Building BloQs.”

“At first I thought I could buy a machine and do it at home but I didn’t have space. So I phoned a few studios but one was too small; one had only a domestic sewing machine; one wanted me to bring in my own sewing machine; others were fully booked …

“And then I came here. The space is full of creative people which is really nice. People are friendly and happy to help me. It’s fun. It’s a creative environment and people like to see what other people are doing and get involved.

“There’s good machines, including a walking foot sewing machine which is very important. And space. There’s a lot of space.”

The BloQs Textile Studio

In just a few short weeks, Zana has put the facilities at BloQs to good use, compiling an entire 11-piece collection of women’s fashion made almost exclusively of leather.

The designs are beautifully coordinated, provocative, and etched with emotion, particularly the recent loss of a friend who struggled with addiction.

“I wanted to make a collection that resembled an explosion, a dream, an enigma,” she says.

One of Zana’s pieces from her final collection

“Salvador Dali always captures the kind of emotion that I want to put across. I’ve made very strong pieces but there’s a playfulness and a lightness to them too. There is a positivity there.”

Like most students, Zana isn’t sure what the future holds beyond her studies but she is planning for two things: one, that she can again run her own business. And two, that she can continue to work out of Building BloQs.

“In here I don’t need to bring machines, I don’t need more space. I don’t have to be here every day,” she says. “I can come only when I need to – and I can pay only when I need it.

“When I’m ready, I know Building BloQs will be ready.”

See more of Zana’s work on the BloQs Directory

MEET: Building BloQs is a not-for-profit open workshop space created to provide London’s freelance makers, small businesses and designers with the tools needed to establish and grow their careers.

Posted in design.

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