Meet The Child Refugee Who Became The Founder of fashion label War & Drobe


by Matthew Martino

Nina Kovacevic fled the war from former Yoguslavia as a child. It was during this time that her mother taught her the power of fashion and the strength it can bring. War & Drobe launched in the summer of 2016.

Having studied Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, Nina went on to develop her skills training under a tailor, couturier and working in a lingerie studio. She collates her past experiences, technical knowledge and creative background to bring to life collections with a purpose. By slowing down the making process and never mass producing clothing, War & Drobe celebrates and preserves traditional artisanal sewing techniques. Crafting clothing consciously is at the heart of the label, that’s why all fabrics used are already in existence and sourced from British suppliers.

As a sustainable fashion label War & Drobe looks at the full life cycle of the garments and what impact they leave. Detailed features such as authentic vintage buttons and immaculately finished lining make each piece an item to be treasured.

As the label grows, Nina explores new and inventive ways to create sustainable garments that stand the test of time both in style and quality.

War & Robe is part of the Prince’s Trust Collective hosted on Fashions Finest during London Fashion Week.

We had a chat with Nina

1. How did you get into being a fashion designer?

During my final year at Art school I heard about a tailor who came to London in the 60s and went onto have a flourishing and colourful career. I arranged to meet him wanting to know more about his experiences. When we met he showed me his studio and invited me to try some traditional stitching.

It was there that I fell in love with sewing and pattern cutting because I saw how they opened doors to bringing any garment to life; it was very much sculptural. After my degree I spent 3 months interning for him.

2. What drives you?

Everything we do leaves some sort of trace or impact. There’s been nothing more fulfilling to me
than building my brand and pouring all my creativity into it. However at the heart of what I do there’s an acknowledgement of the importance of how the garments we wear are made and what impact they leave. Making War & Drobe sustainable and continuing to craft garments consciously is what drives me most.

3. How has your personal life influenced your career?

My family and I came to London fleeing the Yugoslavian war in the early 90’s. Undoubtedly it was a difficult time and we lost everything material apart from a few items my parents managed to bring with them. However it was during this time that my mum showed great resilience and refused to feel defeated. She would still put on her Dior red lipstick and present herself glamorously. She would tell me that now more than ever it’s important to dress well and take care of yourself. She would say it’s the best way to show them they haven’t broken you. This stayed with me always and I learnt how empowering what you wear and how you look can be.

4) What was your greatest success in the past few years?

I’m incredibly proud that I found the courage to pursue my dream of creating my own fashion label.
The past year has brought many challenges but it’s incredibly empowering when you unlock the
persistence within you and find yourself to be resourceful and determined.

5) Do you have a Muse you wish you could see wearing your designs?

Sometimes I catch myself imagining Billie Holiday wearing one of my outfits on stage with her signature Hawaiianesque floral hairpiece. I often play her music while I’m designing and find it incredibly mesmerising.

6) Do you have a story you are particularly fond of, from the early years of your career?

When I first started working in the lingerie industry. Sheila, my supervisor spent months training me to sew undergarments to a high standard. I’ll never forget though the very first day when I was handed pieces of what I would soon be told by Sheila was a crotchless thong. If that doesn’t break the ice, nothing will!

7) What are your plans for the future?

War &Drobe is my future. A very inspirational lady recently told me ‘if you have a vision in your mind of what you want just make it into reality, it’s that simple’. I have a clear vision of what I want to see War & Drobe become and I look forward to making it my reality.

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