THE SHIFTING BODY

Based in Skopje, North Macedonia, the Ludus brand is recognisable by monochrome swaths of draped fabric with occasional subtle gradients and straightforward, crisp silhouettes inspired by timeless tailoring. SWARM MAG sat down with the brand's founder Dragan Hristov to chat agender fashion, unapologetical approach to design, nurturing inspiration, and Slavic textile crafts.

Let’s start at the beginning. What was the inspiration behind launching an agender label, and how did that shape your brand philosophy?

I’ve started working with agender garments sometime around the 5th anniversary of the label when I felt it was time to rebrand and define practices towards sustainability, and improve the unique point of view of Ludus. It all came to me instinctively. Even though agender clothing was maybe a trend at that moment, to me, it was very personal and close to what I’ve worn and liked all my life. I also knew I didn’t want to show grey oversized sweaters on both boys and girls, but dive into a deeper exploration of where masculinity and femininity as social constructs meet, in different times and places (societies). I decided to unapologetically show what I considered beautiful and subversive, and even though I’m based in North Macedonia, a rather traditional society, it resonated with clients and a considerate following that has been growing since.

Do you have any rituals or practices that help you tap into the energy of nature when designing?

The only design rule I have is that I have to respect my personal spirituality, creativity and rhythms. And that comes and erupts regardless of deadlines. Some call it inspiration, to me, it is almost like a separate entity that lives in me, that needs to be nurtured. Lately, I’ve come to spend more time hiking in nature, so that helps a lot, just staying still and observing the woods. It’s where I also collect the natural dyes I use in my collections, so that makes me feel like I’m part of the natural cycles.

What emotions do you hope your design evokes in the customers wearing your garments?

The emotional connection to my garments is very important to my work and since the beginning of the brand, I’ve worked on this psychological relation people have to clothes, fabrics and colour. I’ve always been more interested in dressing the clients according to feelings and not occasions. I draw inspiration from melancholy, but the main purpose of my work is to make the clients feel more like themselves, to enhance their character and personality.

What are the specific challenges associated with producing sustainable clothing lines in the current market, and how do you navigate these challenges?

One of the biggest challenges I currently have is to avoid overproduction, which inevitably comes with scaling a business that’s been around for 14 years. Keeping production at a manageable pace means I can control the sustainable practices – watching the supply chain, keeping good and ethical partnerships with fabric suppliers, with production factories and studios, and, most importantly, the artisans who are a big part of our recent collections. Respecting these relationships and working ethically with all of the collaborators of the brand is my focus at the moment. 

Another issue I have with sustainability right now on a global scale is that I see it going out of fashion. I’ve always had a problem with luxury houses and high-street brands that seem to be unaffected by this problem. It’s always independent designers and smaller fashion organizations that promote sustainability, but never the “lead actors”.

Now, at SWARM Mag, we are focusing on the theme THE ROOTS OF TASTE. Last question: how do you remain connected to your roots while embracing the future?

I’ve recently been asked by the Forum of Slavic Cultures to be a part of a group fashion project that explores the Slavic textile heritage. It opened a new chapter for me, mostly driven by the frustration of how very little Slavic culture, mythology and crafts are known and studied in our region. I’m doing a master thesis in Macedonian textile crafts right now at the Institute of Folklore in Skopje with the main idea to publish an edition with educational purposes.

So, right now, I think the only way to proceed with my work is for it to have a social impact and to contribute somehow to a better future, be it by just setting an example of a sustainable and ethical brand or educating next generations about their rich cultural heritage.

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Bio

Ludus is a sustainable agender label, based in Skopje, North Macedonia, committed to working exclusively with 100% natural fabrics like cotton, silk, flax, wool and cupro.

Dragan Hristov, a former student at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera – Fine Arts Academy in Milan – designs collections that translate emotions, often melancholic and sad, into minimalist, monochrome silhouettes that reflect the dynamic shifts of gender within Western societies. Drawing inspiration from people’s mystical connection to nature, Hristov intertwines natural fabrics and natural dyeing techniques to craft avant-garde, futuristic garments that harmonise with sustainability.

Originally conceived in 2010, Ludus initially catered to the clientele of the eponymous concept store. Over time, it has evolved into a symbol of timeless design where a team of skilled artisans expertly transforms age-old traditions into contemporary designer products.

This exceptional dedication to craft has garnered Ludus BIG SEE Fashion Design Award in 2018, NJAL+ Award at Assembly Designfestival in Graz in 2019 and WOW SHOW AWARD at Ljubljana Fashion Week in 2020.

Credits

Fashion / Ludus (interview with Dragan Hristov)  @ludus.com.mk

web https://ludus.com.mk

Interview / @khynko

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