Valens Modno Pletivo, Fashion Knitwear
As soon as I held the knits of Marija Subotić, the immediate thought that came to mind was luxurious. The rich texture, traditional colors, and indulgent weight create a feeling of rare quality.
Marija and her husband, Andrija, originally came from a small Slavonian village. Close to 50 years ago they moved to Vinkovci and opened their business, “Valens” (named after one of two Roman Emperor brothers who were born in Vinkovci). They started out making all kinds of knitwear for men and women—sweaters, dresses, shirts, pullovers, and skirts—which sold in major stores around then-Yugoslavia.
Among their goods were traditional cardigan sweaters, called rekla or špencle, decorated with regional designs. Still in use today, the colors and patterns are said to go back to 1700, when Austria–Hungary established a military border after 150 years of rule by the Ottoman Turks; local residents were recruited for the military and dressed in their regional folk wear. You can often spot these sweater designs in photos of traditional Slavonian costumes. Among them is the traditional cherry design that is found on many of Marija and Andrija’s knit pieces, a pattern which also graces the colorful umbrellas at the outdoor market Tržnica Osijek.
Marija still creates the traditional cardigans for men, women, and children, as well as dresses and accessories, all from her home workshop. Her daughter, Andrijana, is an accomplished fashion designer and collaborates on new ideas based on the traditional designs. Andrijana started her own label, Etna Maar, 15 years ago; she opened a boutique on Ilica in Zagreb and exports her collection to Europe and America. Sharing a strong family bond, she chooses the knits produced by her parents as her primary material, then incorporates other fabrics and textures into her avant-garde designs.
We are happy to bring you some select accessory pieces from Marija’s workshop. The time I spent there was as warm as one of her thick knit scarves, and I think you’ll agree her mix of modern and traditional—from lined crossbody bags to folkloric torbas—captures the spirit of Slavonia, past and present.