Be it politics, music, or fashion: Lithuania is quite the dark horse in many fields you might think of. Functioning as the buffer between Western Europe and Russia is not an easy task, yet in the past few decades Lithuania has managed to blossom. The country raised a vibrant cultural scene, where interesting and often surprising – to the world as well as to Lithuanians themselves – things happen regularly, if you know where to go.
For a very long time, Lithuania was trapped and isolated from the rest of the world. The long history of repression resulted in the country forming its own distinct style and original voice, and, believe me, it has a say.
In terms of fashion, although the industry is still taking shape, Lithuania already has a lot to offer. Since 1999, a local fashion festival called Mados Infekcija (Fashion Infection) takes place annually in its capital, Vilnius. As Lithuania’s answer to Fashion Week of sorts, despite attracting the country’s creme de la creme and hipsters dressed head-to-toe in fast fashion, this festival purposefully ignores any and all trends but one: breaking the rules.
The participating designers compete to see who can come up with the most extraordinary and radical idea, failing more often than succeeding. Mados Infekcija is completely at odds with the everyday style of a random Lithuanian, who would easily choose comfort over fashion every time. You’ll rarely spot a girl wending her way in stilettos on the streets of Vilnius, and if you do, she’s either a tourist from Eastern Europe or a Lithuanian Russian (not a completely different thing, to be honest). Still, the peaceful coexistence of such an extravagant festival, which gathers young creatives not only from Lithuania and the other Baltic countries, but from elsewhere in Europe as well, and the low-key urban fashion of the locals is what makes Vilnius the vibrant fashion city it is.
With the quintessential Lithuanian personality frequently described as being reserved and similar to other Northern Europeans, the fashion style of Lithuanians is minimalistic and calm. We are talking a Wednesday Addams “I’ll stop wearing black when they invent a darker colour” sort of thing here.
In this huge variety of ‘black of all shades’, there are young Lithuanian fashion brands that shine the brightest… even when their light is black.
If you ever wondered what Lithuanian style is like, Wake Up and Go would be the most accurate depiction. As described by the brand itself, it is more than clothes, it is the “philosophy, where daily life is as it is – casual, not very colourful, but surprising every now and then.”
What they are trying to do and, frankly, succeeding in, is creating a sort of uniform for the busy urban hipster, who doesn’t need to put much effort into what to wear, because it is already taken care of.
Each Atsikeli ir varai item, whether it is a sweatshirt, dress, shirt or pair of shoes, is made in Lithuania from local materials that are easy to wear, easy to clean, and easy to match.
The mastermind of the brand, Aušra Šeduikytė, and her team, don’t have to go far to find inspiration, as in Lithuania it is everywhere: the local weather (gloomy with occasional beams of sunlight), the Soviet heritage, folklore, urban legends, the countryside, and nature.
Born in 2012, the brand grew up so much that it has been balancing on the edge of becoming a meme: “atsikeli ir…” (“wake up and…”) – add anything you like and you’ll find it. In fact, the brand creators are the ones who started it. They came up with a sweatshirt that says “atsikeli ir brangu” (“wake up and it’s expensive”), flirting not only with their name but also with the general economic situation in the country.
It is hard to think of a more folksy brand than Egyboy. The label has blended into local culture so smoothly that its take on a Vogue t-shirt has become a statement piece, a rite of passage if you will, in Vilnius’ urban scene.
Egyboy’s satire and dark humour, typified by the punk homage to celebrities like Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour, has made him so unique and recognisable, that once you see a work of his, you’ll never mix it up with anything else. The joke is on Egyboy though, because it has grown so popular it is almost tacky to come to a party wearing one of his designs. Each time you attend a trendy event, you can be sure that every other person of any sizes and gender will be wearing that Vogue tee.
Other than being a fashion designer, Egyboy is an artist, so when wandering around Vilnius you will see his Boys don’t Cry posters. His works are being displayed and sold throughout Western Europe and are just as expressive.
The most recent creation of his is quite plain, just like the majority of Egyboy designs: a white t-shirt with Feelnius (Vilnius pun intended) written across it. The idea is simple, but it speaks for itself. Let’s just hope it won’t catch the Vogue craziness.
Surprise surprise, yet another minimal design. This streetwear brand started off with caps and jumpers with a simple “Laba diena” (stylized as “labàdienà” meaning “good afternoon” or “good day”) incorporated into them. Currently, the label’s new collection is expanding. Inspired by pagan mythology mixed with urban aesthetics, labàdienà now sees more prints and colours, as well as outerwear, shirts, and dresses having been added to the range.
But don’t worry, despite this new, wider diversity, the items that labàdienà creates are as composed and distinctive as ever.
Vilnius might be famous for its rich, colourful history and baroque architecture, but all the party people from Lithuania and abroad know it for Opium: the most popular club where the craziest techno parties take place, bringing out the rebel in everyone who passes through the security check. This dark, basement-like venue in one of the classic shabby buildings in the city centre is where the Nosleep clothing brand was born.
Their minimalistic unisex aesthetics come as no surprise. Yet, this is more than just a clothing brand. Pretty much like Starbucks in the best of times, Nosleep, together with Opium, sells culture.
Created to celebrate nightlife and freedom, this low-key streetwear brand was founded by two partners in crime. Unlike the brand, the main designer tends to avoid publicity and watches the nightlife happen with help from his clothes from aside.
Both creators are in their 30s, meaning they grew up in a very important time for Lithuania. They witnessed the fall of the Soviet Union and the changes that followed. Nosleep represents modern Lithuania and a new generation of Lithuanians: reserved in the daytime, yet hedonistic when the sun goes down.
Coming in small batches with occasional additional collections, usually coinciding with an Opium-related event, Nosleep gives you the sense of belonging and uniqueness. And don’t let the minimalistic look of it fool you – the concept is powerful and progressive and encourages you to live life to the fullest, showing that the most interesting things happen when the darkness falls.
This clothing brand stands out from the genderless streetwear lines and the general fashion style of the majority of the Lithuanians. Ana Savicka, the creator of Undress, set her mind on one thing, and one thing only: the dress. The reasoning behind this is that a dress in itself is a very self-sufficient and independent piece of clothing.
Every garment by Undress is personal, not only because it is tailored for the person wearing it, but even more so because it tells a story.
A journalist originally, Ana, to her own surprise, eventually found her safety outlet in making dresses, and it seems to suit her perfectly. The approach Ana has chosen is another remarkable thing about her: she couldn’t give less fucks about trends, relying on timelessness and locality instead. The latter is also what unites her with the rest of the young contemporary designers from Lithuania. Creating all her dresses locally, she takes part in every step of the creative process.
The playful name says it all: these ladies specialise in knitwear. Still, it is about more than just knitwear. With the world going crazy about sustainability, The Knotty Ones care about the planet – one sweater at a time.
Considering the weather conditions in Lithuania, where summer stops by for a week or two, if we are lucky, high quality knitwear is a daily essential. The story of the brand is as old as time. Made by Lithuanian craftswomen, the ‘knotty’ brand was born from the personal need for a good, durable, and ageless knitted jumper. Fast forward three years (the label was founded in 2014), and they have a whole range of knitwear, from cardigans to accessories, as well as introducing textile pieces like skirts, tees, and dresses – all ethical, of course.
As the three best friends behind the label state, they make clothes for the women who would “rather invest into one quality piece that will last for years, and care about the impact their purchases have on other women and our planet”, and try to show that being ethical is cool.