Lea Vene: The crisis has taken hold - case study magazine Svijet and Mila magazine (1991-1992), 2021

Mila Magazine, cover, no. 219, dated 16. XII. 1992

The crisis has taken hold

Fashion in the Age of Transition - case study: magazine Svijet and Mila magazine (1991-1992)


Lea Vene


Within the second phase of the Fashion in Transition project, the research focus was on the last year of Svijet magazine (the magazine stopped publishing in mid-1992) and a comparative view of Mila magazine, which took on the role of a simplified representation of current domestic and foreign fashion. The period from 1991-1992 was covered for both journals. year, and special emphasis was placed on texts and visual contributions dedicated to the domestic fashion scene (domestic designers, clothing, events, sweepstakes, the world of modeling and the presence of foreign brands in the domestic market). This text complements the previous one entitled Time of What Changes? Fashion in Transition - case study magazine Svijet (1990-91) and is an attempt to contribute to the research of the hitherto unpublished domestic fashion history of the early 1990s.



The time period covered by these magazines is marked by the state of war, which is very explicitly covered by texts such as Boutique for the Homeland (No. 22, 1991) by Feđa Kalebić, which hires fashion designers to help defend the homeland. from stellar moments, so many boutiques are therefore reoriented to war production. We talked to several owners of Zagreb boutiques and asked them what they are doing to help defend the homeland. Designers such as Mirjana Kočiš (Kapric), Vesna Muhić (Nataša) and Branimir Hundić (Branimir) are primarily fighting on a professional level for their boutiques to survive in post-war inflation, but at the same time they are expected to receive direct support in the field of war production. war uniforms, but also sending humanitarian aid (shoes and clothing) and the engagement and employment of refugees. At the same time, many designers feel it is their job to offer customers clothing they can afford, even though the country is inflationary. Mirjana Kočiš states: Women should be allowed to continue to feel like women, because I think that despite the war, women should not wear pockets. Namely, beautiful imported shoes are sold in Zagreb, but due to inflation, the prices are fabulous. I want to make beautiful but affordable models.


In the same issue of the magazine Svijet, the text Last year's Snow Fashion by Tihana Demetar was published, in which the author analyzes the economic situation in Croatia, emphasizing that wages were reduced by twelve times in 1991 compared to the previous year. The author regrets Zagreb's inability to come to life as a fashion center at that time, saying: At the moment, Zagreb is forgotten as one of the fashion centers, boutiques are still full of goods, but eerily empty, and department stores still offer synthetics at the price of pure silk. The crisis has taken hold. Saleswomen, for example, notice a large disparity in the purchasing power of customers, so some barely buy a few small items, while others easily spend 20,000 dinars. Tihana Demeter therefore concludes that the middle class, which until recently lived off wages, has disappeared, and the fashion offer at that time has been reduced to two extremes - one sale for the poor, and the other trendy offer in exclusive stores. Cheap clothes and copies at more affordable prices are trying to attract customers, but citizens are turning more to simple tailoring salons where they can get basic clothing items at more affordable prices. The author of the text optimistically described life with the current crisis: For years, in addition to sales, my mother's singers and hand-knitted sweaters, we have been waiting for some better times. And patience is priceless yet.


In an article about forgotten workshops, the magazine Mila after 1992 brings an article on the topic of patching socks. In the midst of the crisis, the text encourages the maintenance of socks and condemns the falsely high standard by which socks are easily discarded as soon as they are slightly torn, so in Zagreb the practice of mending socks, clothing and changing buttons has been revived. The aim of the text is obviously to make readers aware of the possible ways to save even more and to illustrate the bad economic situation in the country in a very vivid way.




Promises of a better life are regularly placed through many advertisements for modeling competitions, such as the one in the magazine Svijet called Novo lice (New Face). In cooperation with the fashion agency Ford models, Svijet guarantees the winners a more successful world career that will offer them new life and financial successes outside Croatia. The text of the title Beautiful Our Future Models calls: As the previous winners conquer the world market and fill their accounts with hard currency in the World, the race against time and beauty begins again. Despite the war, we are organizing a traditional action and we invite you to follow the instructions in the next issues of the newspaper. Calls often point out that despite the war, such elections must be held and that the turnout is extremely high. It is the world's modeling fame and wealth that the girl presents as a possible way out of the gloomy post-war Croatia. The girls are also encouraged by the head of the Parisian Ford Models, who points out that the interest in European models is growing, and the Slavic charm and type of beauty is still in full trend.


While young girls are sold the story of a new life abroad, local designers are crying out for new initiatives that would unite and support local designers. In the text Clothing is looking for the state (No. 8 1992) by Jadranka Dozan, which calls for the creation of a fashion institution (it was proposed at the time to be the Chamber of Commerce called the Croatian Fashion Community) that would promote Croatian fashion and image. At that time, he naively dreamed of a very early penetration of Croatia into the European market, both with the fashion and textile industries. One of the most vocal advocates was designer Drago Muhić (Nataša fashion studio), who recognizes the biggest problem in the financial uncertainty that designers face and the need to find sponsors who can continuously support the work. Obviously from his own negative experience the story: So it would not happen until the author invests the last dinar to present the collection at a foreign exhibition, someone notices it, becomes interested and suggests a job of 5 thousand models of pants. But who will invest in 6000 meters of materials, the same number of zippers, workers' salaries… Without acceptable support from banks, business is failing…


From the above, it can be clearly concluded that smaller fashion salons and tailor's boutiques are struggling to survive in the midst of the financial crisis, but new success stories of some major brands of the time, such as Varteks, are being published in the media. In the spring of 1992, a new Varteks department store was opened on Ban Jelačić Square. The text of Metropol in Varteks promotes the newly created store which, in addition to men's and women's clothing, also offers Mura, Rašica, DTR and the collection for young people Metropolis. Varteks is also working on the placement of Levis, so the eco-conscious new Levis collection was shown at the EX disco in Varaždin, complemented by the artistic action of Sven Stilinović and Davor Antolić. At the same time, Zagreb hosts the International Textile and Fashion Fair Intertekstil, the Leather, Footwear and Clothing Fair and various hairdressing events such as Hairstyling and Fashion,  1992. The fashion scene is also alive in Split, where young fashion designer Mladen Radovniković founded imposed themselves on the local fashion scene and squeezed out overpriced smuggled clothes that dominate Split's shop windows.


Mila magazine brings domestic fashion closer to a wider audience through a series of articles such as an article from our stores that gives visibility to local designers and brands that are financially available to a wider audience, usually presented through a simple fashion editorial shot by local photographers and models. Then we should definitely mention the section Mila fulfills your wishes, where in each issue several readers are offered opportunities for make-up (new hairstyles, make-up and clothing combinations). Each item separately represents an individual designer or a selected local boutique (boutiques Zak, Vandero, Eurostyle, Tradate, Italy shop and fashion salon Kuljiš) that stylizes readers in order to promote new fashion trends. In addition, domestic brands are visible in the advertising space of Mila magazine, where the Image Haddad boutique stands out in the early 1990s. Their advertisements change regularly in each issue, which means that a new set of photos with a new selection of clothing items is coming out, and readers are regularly offered a 10 percent discount on future orders.

The big difference between Mila's and Svijet's approach to fashion is that Mila has almost no specialized fashion journalist, which can be clearly seen by the type of simple, short, unsigned and exclusively informative texts. Rarely is a good overview of the fashion scene given through editorials and work with local photographers and models. However, most of the fashion content is transferred from some foreign magazines, with not always adequate adaptation to the local context (some of the fashion items that are transferred do not correspond to domestic fashion offered through advertisements or from our stores). Mila is intended for a very wide profile of readers who do not try to educate about fashion and clothing, but reduce their knowledge of this domain to a practical dimension. Such a decision is probably a reflection of the times, the economic crisis, but also the redefining of relevant new fashion strongholds. In the period of the second half of 1992, there is no real fashion magazine in Croatia as the Svijet used to be, and Mila is only currently fulfilling this role very superficially.





* The text was produced within the project Fashion in Transition: Fashion and Clothing in the Early 1990s in Croatia, 2021.

* The project was supported by the Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia, the City Office for Culture of the City of Zagreb, for 2021.

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