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“If you act the hall-stand to your clothes, they won’t come alive”

Dessislava Tomova

Designer AGNESS is 31, from Sofia. She has been working since she was 17, initially in haberdashery, and later as a tailor. She believes there is nothing that cannot be done and demonstrates to her customers that one can design not only attractive bags and accessories but also clothes. She has inherited her affinity for tailoring from her mother (a seamstress) and father (a cutter).

Education and specializations

AGNESS graduated from the first private fashion academy in Bulgaria Jules Pascin with a degree in Fashion Design. She does not claim she learned anything there. “The only competent professor I had at Jules Pascin was Boris Serginov who made me understand I can do anything on this planet,” she says. Rather, the academy provided her with a space where she could demonstrate her view on fashion summarized in her study “House Fabric and a Skirt”. It involved combining leather and chiffon, light materials. This has not been done before or at least there had not been an artist bold enough to take the risk. It earned her a Union of Bulgarian Artists Award at the Bulgarian Fashion Forum. There, she was noticed by designer Ivan Alexandrov, who took her for a one-year specialization with him. She took an additional four-month course to get a clear idea of sewing and drawing.


At the beginning of her career as a designer, AGNESS worked as a face control person at the Spartacus club. After 2 years, she entirely devoted herself to design. While she carried her first child Christa (1999), she opened her own atelier. It occupied a basement, and she mostly repaired handbags there. She had no opportunity to sew clothes so she had to move. “When I got pregnant with Alex, I moved to my second atelier. My landlords decided they couldn’t stand watching me prosper and took the place back.” Next, AGNESS rented another room, and Rushi Videnliev become one of her customers. The two of them decided it was too small for their future joint work and moved to a better spot, right in the middle of Sofia (this is her most recent location). The atelier is a labor of  AGNESS’s imagination and vision: mirrors refracting the customers’ reflections, serene wallpapers with tiny blue clouds inviting you to dream away, the creative disorder of finished clothes impatiently waiting for their owner and pieces of fabric puzzled as to what is going to befall them...

Credo (life and professional philosophy)

AGNESS believes that those who dress well are the free people, the people who stand out and want to feel special. The others try to pass unnoticed, to disappear in the crowd, to avoid being talked about, and this signals lack of self-confidence. That’s all. When she tailors clothes for someone, her goal is to make them feel uplifted by the way they look. “I’m not aiming for power that would allow me to get rid of ready-made clothes. I’ve just found a way to alter them, to make them more avant-garde. Even a t-shirt can take on a very pleasant aspect if you give it a fix, more space and life,” she explains her ideas. She spends more time getting to know her customers than tailoring the clothes. She reflects on their design in great detail. She creates unconventional models, devising them as she goes. She never borrows any ready cuts from Burda. No customers exit her atelier until she has approved of them and they have said themselves, “yes, these are the clothes I was thinking of, this is the way I want them to fit me, they make me feel good.” When she has ascertained that, she is ready to let them go.

Preferred materials

She uses anything available. After she and Rushi went to Paris, they realized what real fabrics means. They claim that Bulgarians work with the lowest qualities, fifth-rate and burned stuff that people don’t use for lining even. “Quality fabrics is a gossamery substance that seems not to touch your body at all – say, fine velvets. The more expensive the fabric looks, the prettier the clothes become. The rest is about the way you wear them. If you act the hall-stand to your clothes, they won’t come alive. And when you can feel yourself inside them, they start glowing.” AGNESS most enjoys working with satin, chiffon, and jersey. She has a lot of fun with jeans: she takes them apart and gives them new existences. It is the least that can happen to clothes in her atelier.

Her joint work with Rushi Videnliev

The process between them flows naturally. They inspire each other, and all their production is the result of this inspiration. They keep experimenting with clothes: they cut down three pairs of camouflage trousers and piece together the perfect eccentric skirt.

“I was quite impressed,” she laughs and drawls the words fondly, “by the most recent MM TV awards. Rushi cut out everything, I only had to do the seams. And so I did, and did, and did ... and then we went to Veliko Tarnovo for the ceremony. It was on the stage there I saw what had become of my several days of sewing.” Everyone who knows AGNESS’s hand can guess who made the outfits of the actors in Rushi’s video “That One”.

Her dream: to live in a house in the forest with her beloved and her two children

On world fashion trends

She has no ambition to fit, anywhere. For someone else, this may be an issue. “In Bulgaria, there are about a dozen prominent designers, including Mariela Gemisheva, Kristina and Konstantin, Mira Bachvarova, Boyan and Maria. We lack this agricultural ambition to become the kolkhoz boss. Sofia has turned into a huge village. Right now, Bulgarian fashion podiums sport ready-made clothes copied from Turkey and little else.” Her favorite world-famous designers are people like Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. For her, they are on the mark, or rather, “off anything.”

On fashion shows

AGNESS has turned to photo sessions as a means for presenting her production. “There is no point in staging fashion shows except for catering to one’s ego and self-promotion,” the designer justifies her choice.

The customers

She sews for people who trust in her completely, individualists, eccentrics, high school seniors. She also works for ad agencies and makes photo sessions and videos. None of her customers are looking for classical apparel. The explanation is quite simple – there are enough seamstresses and cheap off-the-peg clothes.

The prices: up to 500 leva (250 euro). This is how much a wedding dress costs.

Marital status: happy

Her children’s father

I ask AGNESS to tell me a bit about Itso. She hesitates a while and then agrees to answer more personal questions: “I’ll fix you up a joint! At one point, I figured out it’s better to have two happy parents living separately than two querulous ones. Afterward, it turned out that we’ve got four happy parents and that I and the father really get along. He’s found himself a terrific wife that provides a great part of my children’s upbringing. We’ve found harmony in our interactions, without excesses, without screwed-up relations.”

She trusts

“My mother is one of the most trusted people in my life,” she confesses. It is to her that she owes her choice of profession and her freedom to live and work as she wishes.

She despises: stereotypes

Novinar newspaper, 27-28 August 2005