By Lejla Hanusa
Novi Pazar, Serbia, Sitting in her bright white fashion studio, dressed all in black from skinny jeans, a long-sleeved shirt and fluffy coat to matching short black boots, Amina Hasanbegovic looks chic, yet welcoming.
At the age of 32 she is one of the most famous high fashion designers in Serbia and throughout the region.
Her affinity for fashion was seen in her early childhood.
“My parents always told me that when I was a little girl I would sew dresses for my Barbie and other dolls, but little by little I started sewing my own clothes,” the charming designer said, smiling.
Hasanbegovic graduated with a degree in IT and fashion design from the International University of Novi Pazar, her hometown.
After gaining five years of experience working with local jeans companies, she started her own business, a brave move in one of the poorest regions of the country whose economy has been struggling to recover ever since the breakup of former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
“I wanted to create my own brand, to develop my taste, my style, and to see what is suitable for me,” Hasanbegovic said.
She has been designing and creating dresses and wedding gowns by hand for more than six years.
“High fashion in this city is something that nobody before me tried… I did not have anyone to teach me and tell me where I can buy fabrics, or where to display them,” said Hasanbegovic while explaining her early hardships.
“The biggest support I got in this job was from my husband, and still is. He has been with me from the very beginning,” she said with a big a smile on her face, emphasizing a highly unusual partnership in what is traditionally a very patriarchal country, where women are often expected to back up their husbands’ businesses.
“There were many hardships such as sleepless nights, being away from home, a lot of work to do, but we wanted to be alone in this and financially independent,” she said.
However, “the most beautiful thing about this job is that I do something that I love, because when you do something that you love it does not feel like a job anymore.”
With long black shiny hair and always ready to smile, Hasanbegovic emanates positivity.
Her assistant Katarina Drmanic described Hasanbegovic as “an honest person, professional in her job, hearty and friendly.”
Hasanbegovic treats all her customers with equal attention, no matter if they are newcomers in her studio or some of Serbia’s celebrities who order clothes from her on a regular basis and gradually become friends.
“I have a good partnership with everybody; first, everything starts as a job, but after non-stop communication, you create new friendships,” she said.
Hasanbegovic said she has always tried not to let her designs be influenced by any other creators, but at an early stage of her work it was not easy, and some similarities were drawn.
“People used to relate my work to that of fashion designer Zuhair Murad, then Ellie Saab and one time, Vera Wang.”
At the time she appreciated these comparisons, but to her, the mark of success is “when a designer bases their style off of their own character, a style that no one else has.”
“I chose [Hasanbegovic] to create my prom dress because her designs are so outstanding in comparison to others,” said Dalila Ramovic, a customer.
Hasanbegovic said it fills her with pride when someone immediately recognizes one of her dresses. She has already opened shops in Belgrade, Nis, Sarajevo and is planning to expand her business throughout former Yugoslavia and beyond.
“Soon I will open one in Milan, Italy,” she said.
And “one of the biggest and most famous online shops in America is interested in working with me and selling my designs… all around the world.”