ELLE Romania Magazine – August 2021

ELLE Agenda


Octavia Chiru’s garments are abundant in fringes, pleats, natural textures, and small ceramic sculptures serving as accessories, and if all these details sound complicated, just a glance at the accompanying images shows how harmoniously she can assemble them into outfits – or artworks, as she calls them, with the habit of a longtime student who hasn’t left school in a long time. Moreover, Octavia graduated from her master’s program at UNArte just this summer, and for her, fashion is simply art. Perhaps it is from there that her tendency to think of clothing ensembles as artworks comes. She tells me that fashion is “a realm of possibilities, without restrictions in creativity,” an area she ventured into at a young age when she used to create abstract works on the walls of her house and when it amused her to meticulously prepare her outfit for kindergarten, for the next day.

“Clothing has always been close to me and readily available for experimentation. Even as a small child, I noticed how clothes mean more than just necessary objects for wearing in society. They helped me express myself freely and were my social support, giving me confidence.” It was from then on that she began to analyze the combinations of shapes and textures she saw in the outfits worn by others, and she still says today, amused, that she often didn’t remember much from her interactions with her colleagues, but she definitely remembered how they were dressed on certain occasions.

She got more seriously into making clothes at the age of 7, when “I had the opportunity to attend a camp that introduced participants to the world of creative industries, in short, a talent camp. At that time, I was already familiar with painting, clay modeling, dancing, and singing, all of which I had practiced in kindergarten.” From the long list of possibilities, she chose to explore fashion, and in six days of courses and preparations, she had to create an outfit from a single material for the entire fashion group.

“I remember it perfectly, the material was a cotton with elastane, and the print – one that didn’t excite me, with blown blue droplets, and here and there you could find the American flag.”

The challenge began when I cut the fabric; the outfit had to be finished in a different way, other than sewing. We were guided to make small perforations in the fabric and to join the cut pieces through strips, a system similar to that of a corset.

In the end, I made a ensemble consisting of a top and a skirt, which enjoyed a runway show, and the model who walked in the outfit was actually me.”

She enjoyed the sensation back then that an idea could transform into a physical, tangible product, and she never looked back. Even now, fashion remains an escapade for Octavia, a breath of fresh air, and she maintains the fascination she always feels towards the infinite possibilities ahead when she works.

She studied at UNArte for five years (bachelor’s and master’s) and says that the professors who guided her in school encouraged her to surpass herself.

There, she also learned to turn her ideas into coherent products in daily workshops, with a different theme every two weeks, and all this exercise taught her to be flexible in her thinking, “not to build walls. Everything is possible, just look from the right perspective.” But she says that, although college paved a secure path for her to explore and cultivate creativity, the journey to the final destination depends solely on her.

What she also learned along the way, however, is “how much this fashion-thinking profession can demand from you. As a fashion designer with her own brand, it is important to be a creator, pattern maker, tailor, seamstress, and to know PR, marketing, customer service, and many other things that sustain the world of numbers, which is not fun.” But she says that over time she has learned to combine them and that it challenges her to turn something she doesn’t like into something that pleases her.

She also learns by observing what other designers do (she looks at Issey Miyake for materiality, at Comme des Garçons for boldness, at Maison Martin Margiela for innovation, and at Calvin Klein for tailoring), but nature remains her main source of inspiration, “the one I love and want to be as close to as possible, to create in harmony with it, responsibly sustainable, while it becomes my muse.”

Nature immediately brings her clothes to mind, especially through the materials they are made of, which show that Octavia is mainly concerned with this area, the manipulation of textile material. She even says that she loves textures and enjoys bringing products to life by working with them. “Through this play of volumes, shapes, and shades, I weave stories into the pieces I create, and they narrate their story to those who enchant their gaze.”

She also says that the attention to detail contributes to the air of her work, as well as her emotional nature, and she enjoys it when, seeing a piece of clothing, she feels the emotions of the person who put their soul into making it.

“For me, every stitch matters, and it delights me when I notice the handiwork. That way, I can get closer and understand the garment I wear. Not just an object I hastily throw on and then forget in the closet. What I want to feel is what I want to convey.”

Her latest collection, “Organic Chapter: 002 – Sky and Earth,” is also her dissertation project, on which she worked under the guidance of Professor Doina Lucanu. It is a continuation of a volume, as she calls it, where the chapters already written or those to come tell the story of her creative endeavor, deeply inspired by the natural world. “I have transposed nuances, organic shapes, and textures from the three natural kingdoms – animal, vegetable, and mineral – into the garments. Each outfit explores an organism, abstracted, filtered through my own vision. Thus, the Ermine moth, metamorphic rocks, and Barringtonia asiatica are just a few of the characters of the second chapter.”

She worked on each piece with care for the environment, using only 100% natural, organic, and biodegradable materials, woven in Romania, which she manipulated through ribbing technique, projecting them in 3D by parallel sewing strips, weaving on rubber mesh. With the scraps, she then made braided tails, bags for bags, and accessories for recycled footwear, which she collected from second-hand stores and dressed in woven textile and organic shapes. Among all the creative methods she approached, the ceramic accessories especially stand out, all handmade: buttons, bags, rings, earrings, and pendants in organic shapes.

She was drawn to this form of creativity and wanted to integrate rigid material into soft textile works. She learned to model in clay and literally left her mark on the pieces. This is because she’s at the beginning of her journey and feels there’s room for experimentation and exploration. She enjoys learning new techniques, as she did for the first chapter of her volume, Tapestries, where she became familiar with working on a loom and wove all the pieces herself.

But most of all, she says, “I enjoy controlling the entire process. Being involved in every detail of the pieces I create gives me satisfaction, and I couldn’t present the public with a work devoid of myself and my emotions.”

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