Sustainable Couture, Mega Yachts Mingle in Montenegro

“I really want people to see that green fashion can be extremely glamorous, sexy and attractive,” Ronald van der Kemp said on Saturday night, moments after the last of his models — in drifting chiffon gowns — exited the palm-lined catwalk, with mega yachts and mountains as the backdrop.

The Dutch designer was the latest high-profile participant in the International Fashion Festival, a two-day, open-air event in Porto Montenegro designed to shine a spotlight on local and international designers — and a spectacular resort destination of fjords and crystal-clear water.

Van der Kemp was gobsmacked by the seaside vistas, the cypress trees, the picturesque medieval villages — and the fashionable crowds strolling the marina in their Gucci dresses, Bottega Veneta mules and Lady Dior bags. “The women really take care of themselves. That’s a very important thing that you see here,” he marveled.

The designer brought his fall 2021 couture collection, unveiled in Paris earlier this month: a smattering of past designs, plus a surfeit of “very floaty summery dresses” exalting a cache of vintage couture prints from the 1970s and 1980s. The show proceeded at a very leisurely pace — in tune with the speed of Montenegro — and spanned 70 looks paraded one-by-one on a long pier.

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This year’s International Fashion Festival took place at a smaller scale than past editions due to pandemic-related restrictions. The backstage area could accommodate only 20 models, and the outdoor runway setting only 200 guests.

Yet the organizer, the Belgrade-based events agency Fabrika, welcomed a handful of television crews from Balkan countries, plus a raft of sponsors including the luxury hotel Regent, the European Union, watch brand Hublot and carmaker Renault.

Vesna Mandić, founder and chief executive officer of Fabrika, said Porto Montenegro is keen to create a lively social calendar for the people who flock to its world-class marina and luxury hotels and residences — and the International Fashion Festival adds to a slate of dance, sport and music performances organized over the summer season.

The two-day program had a “green” theme and included runway shows by Lisca, a Slovenian lingerie and swimwear company that does business in 60 countries, and two Montenegran designers: Maja Pavićević, whose three-year-old atelier does only unique pieces, and Aleksandra Džaković, whose Akka brand is built on biodegradable materials and sewing-free production techniques. Her pert fashions brought to mind the geometric, Space-Age forms of Pierre Cardin, but were in fact inspired by Montenegrin national costume.

A look from Akka by Aleksandra Džaković. Courtesy

Before moving to Porto Montenegro in 2018, Mandić had previously organized her fashion festival for 23 years in Kotor, a fortified town prized for its winding streets and Romanesque churches. Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Dior, Zuhair Murad, Diane von Furstenberg, Emanuel Ungaro and Max Mara are among the famous brands to have participated.

Mandić noted Calvin Klein staged its first fashion show in Europe in Kotor, which also boasts its share of mega yachts and famous visitors.

The Montenegro region shelters a lot of budding designers, with a biannual fashion week in the capital of Podgorica.

Saturday night’s fashion shows were livestreamed, and the RVDK and Akka collections were also paraded through the bustling waterfront cafés of Tivat, the town that is next to Porto Montenegro.

“I believe that sustainable fashion is for everybody,” Oana Cristina Popa, the EU’s ambassador in Montenegro, said ahead of the display.  “We must support young creators and designers who are promoting sustainable, slow fashion instead of fast fashion.”

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