Hévíz….Hey who? You may be asking right now. If so, I can’t blame you, it’s a fair question. Héviz is one of those well-known and beloved Hungarian resort spots that is wildly popular only amongst our parent’s generation and Russian tourists. Every young Hungarian knows of it, but probably doesn’t have real plans to visit it any time soon, opting instead for the far more dynamic shores of Balaton for a weekend getaway. But despite my Millenial age and non-Russianness, a few weeks ago my beau and I visited the healing waters of the Héviz lake. We wanted to have a quiet, serene few days to break up the mad rush of the week, and we had a wonderful time!
Part social enterprise and part fashion brand, Romani Design is a collection of Roma folk dress inspired fashion promoting social tolerance, responsibility, and Roma culture. Erika Varga has worked with Roma youth her entire life, instilling pride and awareness about their cultural background and identity in a community crippled by prejudice. Romani Design is her latest project that endeavors to open a strong communication channel that peers and youths alike can respect, look up to, and take inspiration from. Taking notes from Roma traditional folk dress and replanting them in modern shapes and lines, Erika succeeds again and again at reimagining age-old tradition and bestowing it with contemporary cultural relevance.
Romani design is not only making waves in the Roma community but also turning heads in the Hungarian fashion world. I met with the label’s vibrant prints, blossoming embroidery, and modern silk cuts at Marie Claire Fashion Days, Budapest, as both Hungarian and Hungarian Roma models queued up to show off the collection during the event’s final Sunday lineup. Aptly named My Identity-My Freedom, this year’s collection is Erika’s favorite, but it’s been a long road of learning, cooperation, and organization to build this channel.
I originally sat down with Erika at Romani’s downtown salon and studio to learn more about her bohemian, embroidered prints, but what I emerged with after a warm, inspiring chat was a vision of social equality, Roma cultural pride, and cross-cultural cooperation.