Owning Your Origins: Andra Clitan & Ma Ra Mi

All my adolescence, I dreamt of leaving home, of creating a new life somewhere, of being me. Untamed and unaltered by adults. I thought those family ties were holding me back from fulfilling God-knows-what glorious destiny lied ahead. Roots were something to avoid, something reserved for the unavoidable adulthood.

But as time passes by, you realize what a complete moron you’ve been with your folks and that solitude actually strips away the bits of character that had formed in the place you were born in and the things you were surrounded by. In fact, I’m starting to believe that creativity doesn’t come from thin air. In the world of design, in order to be original, you have to go back to those roots and take out those memories that are unique to you, that have forged you.

I was happy to meet Andra Cliţan five years ago and see that she shared those same beliefs. I was doing a paper for university about Romanian designers and she was kind enough to meet me and tell me what’s her opinion on the subject, how her design process comes about, including who she’s designing for. I remember her saying,

My designs are really distinct. Nearly all of my clothes appeal to powerful, confident individuals, who want to make a statement. We’re talking about daring women and men, who already have strong, personal styles

Andra wasn’t overselling her MaRaMi brand either. All her clothes have a strong ethnic influence, seen in textures, symbols and cuts. It’s not easy to wear and it’s definitely not for trend followers. Instead, her collections are a fusion of ancestral Maramures (Transylvanian) silhouettes and techniques with modern trends and fabrics.

She realized this would be her fashion language in her second year at university in Strasbourg, after gaining a scholarship for L’École Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs. Her assignment took her back to her roots and the result was a folk-inspired line of clothes that took you back to old Maramures. From that point on, nearly every storyboard and mood board she worked on included similar elements.

This month, Andra Cliţan’s latest collection IDentity can be seen in London, at the Romanian Cultural Institute. Until March 17, two-piece suits, embroidered dresses and blazers, oversized knitted jackets will bring Londoners face to face with a rich cultural heritage, sentimental and unique. But what else can you expect from such a visionary designer who’s always admired the work of Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, YSL, Hussein Chalayan and Azzedine Alaia?

Here are some of the pieces I absolutely love:

identity andra clitan

See what I’m talking about? One of a kind! Plus, the designer is using 10% of each MA RA MI piece sold to build a Crafts center that will support the old Romanian techniques used to make beautiful garments.

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