Bratislava is not the first European city that comes to mind when thinking about striking street style trendsetters. But like everywhere else, the post-lockdown craving to dress up and show off created an eclectic runway of logo tees, designer handbags and vintage gems in Bratislava’s old town.
I moved back to my old hometown after over 11 years of living in the UK and quickly realised that Bratislava is a different city from the one I left in 2009. I was originally taking photos of my stylish fellow Slovaks for a fashion blog, but this project soon turned into a more personal reacquainting with my homeland. I didn’t know what to expect or what kind of pictures I would get, I was just curious to see how people dressed. What do they like, how do they shop, how and what do they communicate with their clothes? I have to say in some instances I was pleasantly surprised. I saw diversity that I either didn’t notice before or that was lacking 11 years ago, especially among young people.
Undoubtedly, the post-lockdown euphoria contributed to the enthusiasm to dress up, but there seems to be something inherently expressive about the way people here use clothes to communicate their beliefs, aspirations, status and taste. I first came across this strive for individuality whilst researching the symbolism of traditional Slovak folk costume, i.e. everyday attire for most rural people until the mid-50s. But there is no such thing as one single traditional Slovak costume. Every person decorated, embroidered and otherwise customised theirs, to make it as individual and original as possible. Whilst (most) modern day Slovaks follow the trends (consciously or not) just as anyone else around the world, there is something distinct in the way they wear them. This might be the case in every country and one could argue globalization, online shopping and the monopoly of big fashion names makes everyone shop and wear the same clothes. To some extent this is true, you can find most well-known designers and highstreet brands in Bratislava nowadays. However, there is something distinct in the way people dress here, even when sporting big global names.
Adapting global trends - be it in music, art, food or fashion - to fit the Slovak taste is not a new concept, nor is it exclusive to Slovakia.
I understand and use clothes as a communication tool of self-expression - what was intended as a commercial local trend research turned into a study of the Slovak nature and individualism. I walked familiar streets that suddenly seemed new again and watched my fellow-countrymen express their individualities in ways I never noticed before. So, how are Slovaks dressing post-lockdown? They are definitely celebrating, proudly showing off and adding their flair to global trends.