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Hand knitwear designer-Dana Buf

Everything begins from a thread

Starting with one of the well hidden stories from the series which impatiently come to light, today we will talk about a craft that we barely hear of in Romania, not to mention about practicing it and even more earn money out of it. Rolling memories would be the perfect romanian expression for this story as we step inside the workshop of Dana Buf(knitwear designer): we unfolded every thread, emotion and thought in order to embroider some written lines that we never read before and to create a story that we would like to share with you today.
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The workshop is hidden somewhere in Cluj, around 21st December 1989 street. A window away from the boulevard’s noise, we found the large workshop where Cluj’s fashion reaches standards which we couldn’t have imagined that were possible. The old building, the high wooden doors and the first sight of the workshop gives you the impression that time has stopped. Without even realizing, you find yourself touching the delicate fabrics and noticing how your fingers go slowly through each piece of clothing. Then you start to imagine how life would look like worn in wool: the best quality threads and cuts that make you feel special and even more than that: yourself.

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„When you see the clothing pieces on the hanger it gives you the impression that are not made for you. Come, try this one” The next minute you find your shoulders covered by a blouse and there you are looking in the mirror. Many of the products are not displayed and the workshop is full of pieces that only Dana knows where and how should be worked on. Sometimes it even takes weeks for some pieces to be finished.

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The woman that makes things happen
How is a knitted garment brought to light? Sometimes it starts with a sketch, other times because of a photograph featured in a fashion magazine or even from an idea. For example, we had orders from Italy for which we haven’t even had the measures and all we had was an old knitted pattern and some instructions. It happened to be about hundreds of years old pieces from which we had to get inspired and create new ones.

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„Sometimes it could have taken even a week until we would have discovered how to recreate a pattern, how to get the exact same pattern and shape even though we worked non-stop in a team of 20 to 30 persons at once for the same product.” Dana tells us and looks around, takes a blouse in her hands and shows us then continues the story: „Anywhere I looked around it was something to be done and in those times the workshop it was a place full of products: some needed to be ironed, some needed other pieces to be sewed and so on. For example: this jacket (and she shows us a lightweight splendid jacket) needed the label to be sewed at exactly 45 degrees so we worked entire nights only for making this detail possible.”

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How has everything started
Dana’s knitting love story started when she was 13. In those days she watched her aunt knitting delicate pieces. Back then she used to imagine how it would be like for her to create all sorts of purses and hats, alike the clothing pieces that she could observe. Being passionate about fashion from an early age, she used to cut her mother’s shoes, she started to learn from her aunt the art of embroidery „I used to tell her: „Can you knit a blouse for me?” and her answer was: „if you know how to start it, I will finish it for you”.
Then I made a sketch, started counting the holes and the next day my aunt would have finished that particular blouse. She used to work stupendously, at such a high standard that I have never encountered again.”

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Dana got closer to the world of fashion while being a student (even though she followed math studies) and she combined both the need to have clothes that she liked, (due to the times when the access to fashion was limited), and to earn pocket money. So she started to cut jeans in order to add embroidery to them, then she created sleeveless blouses as she didn’t have time to finish them. Everything was combined in a practical sense and due to the need to have clothes adjusted to her taste.
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Dana is needed for collaborations with the biggest fashion houses
„After I graduated from university studying fashion design sounded tempting, but it happened that I got a job in Italy. At first knitting became there a hobby. I worked 12-13 hours a day and when I every time I went back in my room I started to knit for hours so I would relax. I used to look in magazines and write on them how I would create that particular piece. 7 years have passed by like this until I decided it was time to come back home and start my own business together with 3 employees who helped me create the knitting.”

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Helped by an associate, Dana succeeded in 4 years to work for the biggest international fashion houses. The promptitude for finishing the product and the quality of it made a difference. Having selected the clients, Dana worked 2 years before the actual launching of the collections and she continues to do this because her products appear on the market way later after they were created, leaving to the clients the privilege to wear clothes that haven’t appeared yet in the grand collections.

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„I haven’t chose design, it chose me. Even though it was tempting to study fashion design, I don’t own a design degree. For me things evolved naturally, I learned from practicing and from the need to make things happen as quick as possible. I made mistakes, I learned and I moved on. After each collection I finished, I used to tell myself that I would stop, and finally when I felt liberated, I would start over again. 8 years I worked for others.”

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In her workshop you can find organic fibers from all over the world: cashmeer, alpaca….because for Dana is important to see the products, to touch them, to do things the way she feels is right. Her creations are adresed to people who want to feel special and who know (or want to learn) how to wear these works of art. „My product is not a piece that you can throw in the washing machine. They are creations that require special care as well as having an atitude that reveals their real value. It is a matter of balance: the product makes you more valuable, as well as you make the product valuable.”

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Stepping aside from the workshop along with its image we are happy that we have at last a feminine presence among the craftsmen. A woman in her true sense: strong and bold, creative and feminine, Dana promises to add a new colour to the Romanian fashion. And she succeeds to do so with the power of a woman who knows that fashion is much more than the shallowness of the body and that you can wear something and still be attractive even if you choose to cover your neck.

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Story by: Alexandra Crăciun