Talabaya Revisited: Mirka Talavašková Is the Woman Behind the Eclectic Contemporary Modest Wear Brand

She created Talabaya after her friend relocated to Saudi Arabia, and found an affinity with the traditional Arab abaya. Since then, the award-winning Czech, luxury designer has managed to establish her label in the region, which is now known amongst the fashion crowd, for her modern approach to modesty.

Just last year, AboutHer.com had a chat with Mirka Talavašková, the founder of the modest fashion label, to talk about her origins and inspirations. A year on, Mirka’s contemporary, yet true to tradition, modest designs have grown increasingly popular within the Arab region as world famous department store, Harvey Nichols, now stocks her label in their Riyadh branch where Talabaya sits amongst international luxury brands.

With a focus on luxurious and timeless fabrications, European details and cuts, Talabaya’s latest collection speaks to women all over the world who take a stylish stance on modesty. AboutHer.com caught up with the designer, once again, to talk about her journey so far including her challenges, the future and how she uses her creative juices to merge European style with Arab sensibilities in the most perfect way.

Last year, AboutHer.com sat down with you for a chat when you first launched at Pret-A-cover Buyers Lane in Dubai. Tell us a little about your Talabaya's journey since then.
I am very pleased to share with you what I consider a great success for Talabaya since its launch: we have concluded an agreement with the luxury department store Harvey Nichols in Riyadh where you can now buy Talabaya. We have also agreed on cooperation with the showroom Dreems in New York and with the agency JAANTE in Brussels, and our collections are offered also in a small prestigious boutique BeYou in Dubai.

We are now focusing on launching retail in Prague and London. Of course, we are open to other opportunities that keep popping up. I am now preparing a presentation of our collection in Paris at TRanoi as well as at Brussels Fashion Days this autumn. We are also launching out an e-shop this autumn. So overall, we hit the ground running last year and we have been running ever since.

Being from a completely different cultural background, what is it about the traditional abaya and modest fashion that inspires you to create for this particular market?
I had a client in Saudi Arabia who wore Talabaya there. Arab women admired her abaya while Europeans saw an elegant dress. I saw this as a great challenge, you know, to create a style crossing both cultures. Since I have always looked for inspiration in other cultures, this combination has brought me passion and satisfaction with my work.

My brand is therefore not targeting only the Middle East. It is a global brand, a global cross-cultural style. Every day I see how modest fashion is now trendy while its popularity rises not only in in the Middle East but also in the West. Talabaya’s aim is to connect cultures. Saudi Arabia is now transitioning slowly from a strictly conservative style of clothing towards something more creative, personalised. Western women on the other hand have been increasingly looking for less revealing, simpler modest fashion. Talabaya can do both – it’s kind of 2 in 1.

When you first launched in 2018, what is it about Talabaya that drew in your clientele?
Talabaya is different. It brings together European minimalism with the traditions of the Arab culture. Any woman in the world can wear Talabaya and look beautiful, be IN, irrespectively of her believes.

Tell us about your clientele, who is the Talabaya woman?
A typical Talabaya client is an intelligent, strong, creative, and entrepreneurial woman. She probably travels which is why she has a very characteristic style. My minimalist design is perfect for her: if she holds an important position at work, Talabaya fully respects strict professional dress code while being feminine at the same time. The magic is that she can combine Talabaya with other pieces in her closet. A variety of accessories allow her to create different styles for various occasions. This is the main philosophy behind Talabaya.

I am really excited from the faith that my clients have given me. Talabaya defines their style, and enables self-expression. I have just designed a wedding dress for one of my first clients; she has married a Saudi man. I think that there is no greater honour for a designer than to design a special wedding dress for such a unique and important life event.

You've come leaps and bounds within just a year and are stocking in some quite exciting cities around the world, including Harvey Nichols in Riyadh. How did that come about? Do you have a strong Saudi client base?
It just happened. Pret-a-Cover Buyers Lane, organised by the IFDC headed by Alia Khan, was a perfectly timed event. I believe that Talabaya gained interest with many buyers because we were different. To be perfectly honest, I am still amazed from the speed of progress. And I am thankful for all help, advice as well as opportunities that I have stumbled across.

But to answer your question: I am progressively building my clientele in the Middle East. We keep looking for new partners. And I am excited with any new, beautiful client.

Your design aesthetic is contemporary, yet minimal and maximally modest. When it comes to trends, how do you balance those whilst staying true and devoted to being a modest brand?
I have always loved modest fashion. Whenever I looked for inspiration in other cultures, I found less revealing styles where women stand out with their grace and intelligence. Female energy fascinates me: what everything we women can manage, sustain, and be beautiful at the same time.

How would you describe your latest collection and what were your inspirations behind it?
FW19 collection is just black and white. It is modern in its simplicity, full of contrasts in colours and materials.

Why did I opt for black and white? I really like this colour combination. But I also chose it because I saw this magical picture in Dubai: a married couple, the man in white and the woman in black; they were hugging on the background of sandy buildings and never ending blue skies. But practically speaking, I think that this collection with this combination will also speak to the western market because neatness and sophistication tend to be linked to these two colours.

In the past year, as your brand has developed and grown, what would you say have been your biggest challenges and how have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge for me was understanding the Middle East, its mentality, customs, traditions of local population.

Before Talabaya, when I was designing under my name, I was working only with bespoke clients. Creating Talabaya has forced me to think differently. I have to plan better, organise better – agreeing on production, sorting materials in advance, thinking about the market where the products go, what would fit there, what is the climate like, what local clients want and the need to bring this all in balance in just one collection.

Another necessity is working with social media. Before Talabaya, all clients were coming to me thanks to my reputation and through satisfied customers. I am learning so much and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

As a female entrepreneur and designer, what motivates and empowers you, and how do you feel Talabaya empowers the women that wear the label?
I create Talabaya thanks to my intuition, and through feedback from my customers. I try to understand the needs and customs in the respective region. Subsequently, I focus on emphasizing different assets while remaining within the cultural customs. 

Lastly, what do you see for the future of Talabaya as a brand, especially within the Arab region?
I wish to see satisfied customers, and sold out collections, of course. I would love to see a young girl wearing Talabaya with sneakers in a party, as well as her mother or grandmother wearing Talabaya in a conference or to the theatre. I would like create a new concept, unity, harmony and a functioning business that brings different cultures closer. I want to create the Talabaya style!

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