Chopova Lowena is widely touted as one of fashion’s most exciting emerging brands. Helmed by Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena, who met on Central Saint Martins’s MA Fashion course, the south London-based design duo have become known – and loved – for their offbeat creations (particularly their skirts), which riff on Chopova’s Bulgarian heritage. Their graduate collection, for example, looked at Bulgaria’s mountain dwellers, namely the women, and the way they dressed, while their Spring/Summer 2020 collection represents a hybrid between parachute outfits and victoriana. This collection is captured here in a campaign starring Lily McMenamy, photographed by Charlotte Wales, styled by AnOther Magazine’s senior fashion editor Agata Belcen, and art directed by Dazed’s art director Jamie Andrew Reid.
Stocked at Dover Street Market and Matches Fashion, among others, Chopova Lowena’s clothes and accessories have become cult must-haves, something that is evidenced here by five of their most devoted fans, who tell AnOther just why they love the brand so much.
Steff Yotka, Fashion News Editor, US Vogue
“I know exactly when I discovered Chopova Lowena because my friend Anny sent me an email marked ‘high priority’, written in all caps: “STEFF GO LOOK AT MY INSTAGRAM. THIS BRAND IS LITERALLY YOU. IT’S YOU IN A NUTSHELL. IT’S TIE-DYE AND KILTS.” My eternal gratitude to Anny and to Matches Fashion, which had brought Emma and Laura to New York for a press day last April. Upon meeting them and seeing their clothing, it took no more than ten seconds for me to be hooked. I ordered my first skirt on the way back to the office from the appointment.
“I think because the three of us are around the same age – and Emma is also from New Jersey – we have a lot of the same cultural touchstones and fascinations, which is why their clothing resonates with me on such a personal level. I feel shades of my Catholic schoolgirl uniforms in their pleated skirts, remember the way I tried to make my own carabiner necklaces as a teen thinking I was so cool and punk, and relate their shell details to my summers spent kicking up at the Jersey Shore. Every time I see Emma and Laura’s new pieces, I feel like they have scanned my mind and turned all my strange little fashion obsessions—some ghoulish lace here a little PJ Harvey energy there – into bizarrely beautiful clothes. From a fashion editor’s perspective, I have immense respect for the way they work: using upcycled materials and innovating in no-sew techniques with carabiners and snaps.
“Currently, I have two skirts and two necklaces of theirs, with big plans to buy their S/S20 plaid, pouf-sleeved dress. Whenever I wear their pieces I am showered with compliments and curious glances, which is of course very nice, but the best feeling is stomping around New York in platform boots and a Chopova Lowena skirt. That’s when I feel the most Steff.”
Lily McMenamy, model and actor
“I first encountered Chopova Lowena while reading an article in the New York Times about creative talents to watch. I had also seen the book they did with Charlotte Wales that I found quite confusing and thus very intriguing. We were mutual fans from afar until they asked me to be the face of their new campaign. And now it’s love!
“I love it because it’s unlike anything else; it seems to stem from no direct fashion references and is therefore completely original. The clothes, the name, the imagery… it all makes you go ‘what?!’ I love the traditional, folkloric aspect that has been made distinctly modern. And the very femme silhouettes with more tough-girl fabrics. I love it all really!
“Currently I own a chain necklace with a dragon on one side and my name on the other; a lovely gift. And I’ve got a full wardrobe reboot on its way... Literally all I’ll be seen in for 2020. Their clothes make me feel special. They perfectly tread the line between weird and sexy and make you want to have an amazing time.”
Michelle Li, Fashion and Beauty Editor, Teen Vogue
“I first encountered Chopova Lowena two years ago at a Matches Fashion preview. Even though I wouldn’t describe my style as very punk-y – which is what you would think about the pleated skirts at first glance – I was instantly drawn to the carabiners that suspend off the fabric on the skirts. It makes you do a double-take.
“Ever since I was introduced to Chopova Lowena I’ve been deliberate about wanting to include them in our upcoming shoots and staying up-to-date on their new collections. It’s cool to see the brand stay true to their original identity of pleated skirts and folkloric construction while continuing to innovate and find more ways to create unique pieces every season. It inspires you to want to research more about traditional Bulgarian dress, a culture that I definitely overlooked.
“Chopova Lowena resonates with me because it reminds me to always keep an open mind about what my aesthetic is. The brand has such a specific world, and yet it works on so many different people. All of the pieces are such a statement and I love seeing everyone’s interpretations on it. I like to brainstorm different ways to wear the Chopova Lowena skirts because there’s so much versatility to it and how you style it makes such a difference.
“For me, Chopova Lowena’s skirts make me feel like a different version of myself. I own a black mini-skirt and I love that I don’t have anything else like it or that even resembles the piece. And I love all of the little details. That’s what makes a Chopova Lowena piece so special, the carabiners on the waistband or the whimsical keychains and hand embroidery.”
Molly Shillingford, Fashion Assistant, AnOther Magazine
“My first encounter with Chopova Lowena’s clothes was when I was interning at AnOther Magazine, checking in samples for our editors. Every piece felt like nothing I had come across before and I loved the counterplay between stereotypically femine concepts – dresses with big sleeves and colourful pleated skirts – with more masculine elements – through the use of hardware.
“I love that Emma’s Bulgarian heritage plays such a huge part in the design concept. It’s inspiring when someone can harness their background when creating a piece of work. It gives a designer a clear point of view and a platform to share their message, but most importantly gives the clothes a sense of individuality. The Chopova Lowena girl has many guises – she’s feminine, bold, tough – and to wear the clothes makes you feel powerful.
“Nowadays it feels like to work in the fashion industry but also care about the environment feels like a contradiction, but Chopova Lowena proves that you can care about both. By using recycled fabrics and creating something that still feels youthful and current, it demonstrates to other young designers that prioritising sustainability in the design process doesn’t require you to compromise on aesthetics. This precedent-setting is what we need in the industry going forward!”
Chioma Nnadi, Fashion News Director, Vogue.com
“A colleague of mine introduced me to the label and I was instantly obsessed. Then I met Emma and Laura at a showroom appointment in New York and became even more obsessed. They were both wearing their kilts and the heavy chains, and seeing how they had put it all together in real life was great. But more than that, the story behind the clothes was fascinating to me. I love that each piece has its own secret history.
“After meeting Emma and Laura in New York, they invited me to check out their studio in south London. At the time they were working on making dresses for the first time, so I had a chance to see their process. I think I spent at least 30 minutes just looking through the found bits and bobs they use to make the jewellery.
“I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to getting dressed, and I like that there are so many quirky lived-in details about their work – the keychains and the Bulgarian hand embroidery, for example. Their clothes have this whimsical but really punk attitude about them that appeals to me and the vintage hand is totally my vibe too. I’m just a hopeless romantic at heart, so I like to wear things that have soul.
“I have a couple of the chokers and a shorter kilt that I like to wear over beaten-up jeans. I have to sit up a lot straighter when I’m belted into the skirt. You just kind of feel like a lot more badass right off the bat.”