SUNI: THE FAVOURITE OF BRITISH RAPPERS
A Bulgarian designer in Oxford creates impressive leather jackets
Prof. Lubomir Stoykov
Bulgarian designer Suni (here - at his request, I present him only with his artistic nickname) was born in Kardzali, but has lived in England for 20 years. He is only seven years old when he leaves home with his parents. He has been through a very difficult period at a refugee camp in Sweden, but that was a long time ago. At 18, he enrolled to study business in college but decided to leave, moved to Oxford and opened his first car wash. For three years, together with his girlfriend, Pavlina Tsolova, they created a chain of private car washes, which they later decided to sell in order to invest in a new venture, thus creating the luxury fashion brand "Kozha" (London).
The designer connects his fashion brand with his Bulgarian roots and draws inspiration from the traditions and history of Bulgaria. His first collection of unique author's leather jackets was inspired by Bulgarian folk costumes and and the clothing and rituals of the Kukers. The premiere “Kozha” collection, launched in December 2018, has received strong interest from renowned stylists and celebrities in the United Kingdom and the United States. The climax came when the influencer Manny Ezugwu appeared with a shirt-jacket by the Bulgarian designer in the company of top model Winnie Harlow. This happens during the biggest fashion event of the year in the world on May 7, 2019, at the renowned Met Gala charity ball at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Suni’s second collection is almost ready and he plans to present it first in Bulgaria.
My memory of meeting Suni would be incomplete if I did not share the impression that this young and charismatic man makes with his energy, enthusiasm, determination and emotional and professional confidence. I was stunned by his knowledge of Bulgarian (speaking without an accent), though - and understandably so - sometimes he forgets some words. The production of leather jackets speaks of precision, the pursuit of uniqueness and at the same time shows the artist's sense of the spirit of time and temperament of the new generations. Bulgarian folk and traditional symbols - rose, seamstress, embroidery, etc., are woven and inlaid masterfully and unobtrusively. Suni's style is particularly striking with his ability to impart restrained elegance to a leather jacket, which in the usual interpretations is rude and aggressive. We'll learn more about his fashion philosophy and his concept by talking with him.
What was the main motive for you to choose to become a designer?
I have always had an interest in fashion and the idea of creating my own brand has been a part of me for a while. The right time came, I found the right team of talented and hardworking people and we began to work enthusiastically.
What do you get from your profession as a designer and what does it give back to you?
It gives me the freedom to express myself, to create something different and interesting. I am proud of the fact that I have connected my brand "Kozha" with my ancestral roots, and that I am able to use motifs from Bulgarian national costumes and draw inspiration from the traditions and history of Bulgaria.
How do you get your ideas for new collections? Where do you get your inspiration from?
The process from idea to realization takes time. First, with my team, we analyse and reflect on trends in the moment and in the near future. We start to think of ideas and, of course, last but not least, we study folk costumes from different parts of Bulgaria, we delve into the traditions and – in general - everything related to Bulgarian history and traditions. This connection between the past and the modern is unique and important to me. Each of my garments contains messages and is loaded with symbols that are important to me.
Which contemporary fashion designers fill you with admiration and respect?
I admire Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as the work of Mike Amiri and Rick Owens. Irina Chervenkova is also my favourite Bulgarian designer.
Tell us how your usual work day goes?
I wake up early in the morning, make coffee and start looking for stylists, get informed about upcoming events and communicate intensively to create new contacts. Most of my day is spent traveling and meeting. The good thing about this job is that it constantly enriches you, because every day is different and it is full of opportunities to discover and meet new and interesting people.
Which are your most famous customers?
For the moment, these are British rappers Russ Millions, DaBaby, Young T and Bugsey, football players André-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Clinton Njie. We also have quite a few other clients who are extremely important people, but I don't want to name them specifically until they themselves are dressed in “Kozha” and are noticed. I expect a lot of pleasant surprises this upcoming season.
Which technique do you consider to be your "trademark" and guarantee your diversity?
I think there are a few things that make me different. The first and most key to my brand is the ethnic strip, which was recreated and borrowed from the folk costume. This strip containing a stylized Bulgarian rose is present in most of my clothes. It attracts attention, often becomes an occasion for conversation, and for me it is a great opportunity to talk about Bulgaria. I strive to create interesting and original products, but I avoid the overuse of caps or other unnecessary accessories. I rely on the combination of different fabrics as well as the functional design, as you can see in my first collection.
Who influenced you most as a designer and how?
My ambition and desire to pursue my goals.
The leather jacket is a symbol of rebellion and male sex appeal. Why exactly did you decide to create leather jackets? What was your first impulse?
The first collection had to be very strong and different to generate enough interest. It was for this reason that I decided to start with leather jackets. I think it turned out very well and I managed to get the attention of a lot of stylists. The next collection will be ready soon and will contain other interesting and different products besides leather jackets.
How exactly did the Kukers inspire you when creating your first collection?
Kukers are some of my favourite Bulgarian folk characters, in which the carnival mood, the original masks and the sounds are intertwined. I really like the fact that they are noisy, different and a little bit scary.
The jacket is among the most common fashion fetishes. How are your works different from the others?
I think we are quite different from everyone else on the market. I create eccentric models, but I do not rely on unnecessary accessories on them and - as I said before, I avoid caps and huge zippers. In my opinion, the right combination of different fabrics provides a great effect.
Tell me more about the materials you work with?
We only work with the highest quality materials down to the last detail - zippers, buttons, etc. We use the best cowhide, as well as the so-called horsehair. The raw materials are mainly from France and Italy, but everything is made here - in England.
How would you respond to any criticism from environmentalists (animal rights defenders) for working with animal skins?
We select the farms we work with very carefully and it is very important to emphasize that skins are actually a secondary raw material from animals.
Modern women also like jackets, have you thought about this, and do you intend to create women's jackets in the future?
Yes, I have such ideas for the future. I get a lot of inquiries from rapper stylists, various musicians, showmen and singers, so interest definitely exists.
What is the latest trend in "leather fashion" and which jackets are the most up-to-date today in design, colour, shape, decorations, and workmanship?
Currently vests are very relevant. In the next collection we will introduce our variant and our view of this new trend. I am convinced that we will not disappoint our audience, fans and customers.
Will you be attending London Fashion Week and what will your collection contain?
We have a planned participation in Rip the Runway, which is a pretty popular fashion show in England. At this point I think it would be early for London Fashion Week, but I know that one day the time will come.
Your works have been sought after and liked by world-renowned stylists. Who are they and how exactly do you work with them?
Yes, I dare to say that I work with many good stylists such as Neesha Sharma, Sean Azeez, Quinton Faulkner, Jay Hines, Kiera Liberati, Jason Rembert and Ugo Mozie. They are the first people to whom I show my models and their opinion is of great importance to me.
Tell us who was dressed by you at the last Met Gala and what were they wearing?
It was a really great and very significant moment for me. The man who accompanied Winnie Harlow - one of the most famous female models in the world right now - is named Manny Ezugwu. He is an extremely popular influencer and chose "Kozha" for one of the most significant fashion events in the world. In the photo he shared on social media himself, he is wearing an over shirt from my first collection. And it only happened five months after my brand was created.
How do you dress yourself? Do you incorporate symbolism into your style and what is it like?
I love dark and clean clothes. Most often I choose black jeans and a black T-shirt.
What is the most expensive garment worn by you and how much does it cost?
My Givenchy leather jacket which is worth about three thousand pounds purchased before my brand was created. I can no longer imagine wearing a jacket other than “Kozha”.
What is the most fun to you?
My hobby is fast cars. I have a group of friends with whom we share our love for super cars and we often organize weekends where we go to different destinations – usually a column of 20-30 super cars. It really is a great experience!
What really makes you happy?
Of course, my family. I have an amazing woman beside me who helps me with every step and without her I would not have achieved any of this. Also our son, who is just amazing and the meaning of my life.
What are you most afraid of?
To wake up without desire, without purpose and mission.
What is your biggest dream?
I have no dreams. I set clear goals and do my best to achieve them.
What is your motto?
Go big or go home!
1. The designer Suni
Photo: Suni's personal archive
2. - 8. Unique designer leather jackets from the first collection of designer Suni and his fashion brand "Kozha".
Photo: © KOZHA
9. Winnie Harlow and Mani Ezugwu at the Met Gala star event where he is wearing a jacket by the fashion brand Kozha.
Photo: Instagram / Manny Ezugwu
10. British rapper Russ wearing a jacket from the fashion brand Kozha.
Photo credit: Instagram / Russ Millions
11. Rapper “DaBaby” on stage wearing a model from the first collection of the fashion brand "Kozha".
Photo: Instagram / DaBaby
12. Rappers Young T and Bugsy in a photo shoot for BLEU Magazine.
Photo: © BLEU Magazine
13. Designer Suni and football player Neymar.
Photo: Suni's personal archive
14. Prof. Lubomir Stoykov together with Suni - Sofia, August 2019.
Photo: Kalin Stoykov
15. Suni, his wife Pavlina and Prof. Lubomir Stoykov, Sofia, August 2019.
Photo: Kalin Stoykov
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