Are Romani people more interested in fashion than they are in politics?

Written by By Maggy Masodá, CNN Budapest, Hungary Written by Maggy Masodá, CNN Budapest, Hungary

The direct immigrant connection between Roma and Hungarian designers is well known: Zimmermann and Baliwand’s Romanesque house is in the Austro-Hungarian portion of Prague, the Austrian designer Maarten Baas is often mistaken for Hungarian after designing his fall 2017 collection for Venlo and Baliwand and the Romans even went as far as to commission a Roma-inspired hat from Tobin Zand.

But this shared heritage goes beyond the style.

Yoko Santos is from the country’s Baltics region but has represented it at fashion shows for more than 25 years. It’s her designs for her very own fashion label Dom Horváth that are also emblematic of the shared consciousness. She says: “My drawings with my grandmother were very detailed and inspired me when I was creating my designs. The Romani mythology and religious symbols are our main inspiration.”

A prototype of Szingoma’s new exhibit at the Hungarian Fashion Studio Szingoma

A Romani culture is something of a construct, especially among Europeans today. Santi Szingoma, design director of the Romani fashion label Szingoma and the fashion studio’s muse and fashion director, believes this collision of European, Roma and Eastern European countries is a reflection of the complexity of the social construct. “I think it’s interesting that there are still thousands of Romani living in Hungarian towns like Szeged, Timisoara and Magyar Gágia,” she said.

The Romani Artworks and Fashion exhibition at the fashion studio Szingoma aims to show the Romani heritage through the lens of fashion as it intertwines with the Romani identity of Hungary. Szingoma herself believes this intersection is crucial for the growing awareness of the Roma’s traditional clothing in Hungary and around the world.

An early print by Danish Romani artist Yosová Robert Weissnäs. Credit: Szingoma

She says: “You must remember that for so many years Hungarian society tried to convince the public about Hungarian Romany being not real. You can go back to the 1950s and the 1960s when of course someone was lynched for wearing Romani clothing. But even from those days there was a significant number of Romani who had to hide their culture, their heritage. Through this exhibition we hope to have a proper awareness of the history and culture of the Romani people and their clothes.”

Roman Kosiner, chief executive of the fashion studio Szingoma, appreciates the heightened awareness the exhibition has brought to Hungarian Romani culture.

“One of the greatest moments I had at the artist show, we noticed that the 12-year-old boy who we had pointed to in front of us as being ‘representative of the Romani community’, thought it was himself. He was proud. He pointed to himself. He told us: ‘look, I am not a Gypsy but you want to think that I am just because of my clothes, so I want to be recognized.’ The last person in the world you’d expect to feel this way. So it’s really important we have this kind of pride.”

Leave a Comment