Interviewed in Zagreb, 22 February 2013
Branka Donassy has a remarkably consistent and recognizable body of work in the area of fashion design, art fashion and costume design. This accessibility of genre enables her to test her ideas and concepts in different contexts that all have their own rules, complementing and supporting each other. Donassy insists on the synthesis of aesthetic, technologically constructive and even cultural aspects. She is definitely recognizable for her specific shapes and interest in researching the properties and potential of materials. Her position as an author is critical since she starts from authenticity and a reflexive understanding of fashion within a wider social context. Her work is also known internationally in New York, Paris, London…
ORIS: You were educated in art history and ethnology. It’s a very interesting background, but not completely uncharacteristic of this region and the 1980s, when you came out strong with your creative practice. Namely, looking at the graphic design and individual artistic practices from the 1980s, we can see that many young authors in those fields were also educated as art historians, or came from some other field. The 1980s in Zagreb were a period of a certain cultural fermentation and a growing cultural life. I would like to hear your thoughts on the postmodernist time and the fact that your intellectual and cultural background formed your foundation, and that you adopt what we conditionally call a trade in accordance with your affinities, thus shaping your creative practice.
Donassy: I agree with you that the 1980s were a golden era in the sense of the intensity of events and starting new developments in a broader artistic sense. However, the roots of this reach back to the early 1970s, even the 1960s, with new movements like Nove tendencije (New Tendencies), which were avant-garde on a global scale, and with the appearance of conceptual art that referred to a wider social context. These years were very important for the future development of art in Croatia. The Zagreb Salon played an important role there. A remarkable spirit was created, artists of all profiles hung out all the time, they were connected, involved in intense discussions. This never happened again, but it created a foundation for what became evident or clearly defined in the early 1980s. Living in this environment, I very consciously decided to study art history. Since I was raised in a family of painters, I had a very good foundation. Being in a studio near painters, their thoughts and discussions about art, learning different techniques, this was all a platform I wanted to upgrade with theoretical knowledge in art history. Ethnology was my second choice, perhaps closer to fashion, although it does not seem so at first glance. Everything that could be learned from the folklore and traditions of various peoples was a true treasure for my future development.