Today I would like to introduce you to Almina, the owner of the NEKKA NEKKA brand. Apart from her job as a lecturer at the Faculty of Design here in Ljubljana, she puts all of her creative energy and brilliant ideas into carefully, beautifully made handmade items. NEKKA NEKKA aims to create timeless products while utilizing both modern technology and traditional craft. Her range of products includes items such as brooches, adorable little bags full of interesting details, and even some pieces of clothing. The motivation behind her work is to do something good with the stuff she makes; to produce items that are carrying a special positive message, to help the ones in need, and to preserve our fragile environment. Almina is surely another proof that there are no limitations when you follow your passion. I encourage you to dive into her interesting and detailed answers.
Hi Gita! My name is Almina Durakovic, and those who know me well would probably say that I'm very simple, easy and very complicated at the same time, somebody who works too much and has a great passion for design.
For the last 8 years I've been working at the Faculty of Design, first as an assistant and now as a senior lecturer. Even though I have a few degrees, BA in textile technology, BA in interior design and MA in fashion design, I never thought I'll be working at the Faculty with students, it's something that happened spontaneously. I have never been an A student with the best grades (I was just very curious), but when I got involved in some really interesting projects my ambitions got really strong. That's also when I learned and excelled the most. When working with my students I always try to make them rethink their decisions to be the best they can be at what they do with their personal work and not because of the grades, because in real life it's you and your work that counts, nobody really cares about straight As, but about the energy, innovation, experience and being proactive.
I love travelling to not overly-touristic destinations and I'm in love with Vietnam, with people, children, food, textiles, patterns and nature. I love to dance and hang around creative and positive people, I love music and all the secrets that life brings along. All in all, I'm just an ordinary girl.
I'm currently working intensively on costume design for a contemporary ballet show Triptih made by three well known and talented choreographers (Kjara Starič Wurst, Rosana Hribar and Lotem Regev). The show will be held at Cankarjev Dom on 9th of January. For most of the costumes I’m developing patterns, dyeing the textiles, distressing and sewing them by myself and therefore it takes much more time than it would if I had my sewing team :). But since I don't, it is a great learning process every time (full of errors :)) and this is what gives me excitement, great experience and I enjoy every part of it. The process of understanding the choreographer's story and interpretation of it through my work in design is something I love to experiment with. It's also exciting because I'm involved in the world I'm not usually a part of.
NEKKA NEKKA is a young brand with which I wanted to create a micro cosmos of the various products that were simple, handmade, beautiful and different from the mainstream. When I was growing up I didn't have that many material things and we needed to use the same things in different manners, reuse them (recycle, upcycle), give them new life, functionality, and make the most of what was given but at the same time create as little garbage and waste as possible.
My grandma Mina left me a heritage of strong connection to the handcraft, tradition and simplicity, with appreciation of the old knowledge, nature and life. And the name NEKKA NEKKA (neka neka) is actually what she usually used to say to her grandchildren and me when we broke something or had done something wrong. In such instances she used to say that it's all ok, that we should always keep going on and try out new things, even when we make mistakes; this is the spirit that I want to be associated with my brand. NEKKA NEKKA products are not only about their visual aspect, functionality, and the end user, but also about the process of how to make the product as simple as possible, to source and create it locally, and last but not least, to make products with zero or minimal waste. These are products that carry contemporary interpretation of the tradition, handcraft and great sense for details. I personally think we don't need a lot of things, but it's something inherently different when we buy things when you know who made them and what and who stands behind the whole brand, what kind of environmental impact it had when it was created and what personal story it carries. We are all individuals with our passions and values and we like to surround ourselves with people and things that exhibit the same or similar passions and values. We are all storytellers and we tell them by the way we live.
On an ordinary day I get up at around 5 in the morning and since I'm a morning person I can do a lot in that time of the day. Usually I check emails, answer to the most urgent ones, check the news, have a shower, breakfast and go to work to the Faculty of Design. The day at the Faculty varies depending on the schedule (if I'm in the class or not), but just recently I have taken the place of a Head of International office, so my days are really busy. I usually work from 8 to 10 hours at the Faculty. When I get home I have some rest, eat and then start working for NEKKA NEKKA; looking for inspiration, making patterns - just million things/ideas sometimes, and I try to prioritise the one I feel it's the best at the moment. After I finish with work around ten in the evening I have some time for myself and prepare for the next day, make plans and see what's next. On the weekends I do most of my work for NEKKA NEKKA and for this reason it sometimes seems like I never stop working, but I'm not complaining since I love what I do. For my work I use a lot of tools like different sewing machines, special iron, steamer, diverse cutters and rulers, rotary cutters and scissors, but next to all these tools my work involves a lot of hand stitching. I used to have a studio due to a large amount of material and due to all the tools I need for my work, but since I have only so little time to spend on my NEKKA NEKKA, I currently make all of my products at home (even though I'm looking for a new studio space just now).
Which materials do you use to create your products?
I use different materials, natural and manmade: high quality wool, organic silk, experimental materials, wood, plastic … It all varies on what kind of project I'm currently working on. The material needs to speak to me and from there on everything falls into place.
I think it brings emotions and warmth that we are all looking for and it has a special added value. Therefore I appreciate everyone that creates something with love at their home; regardless if it's cookies, honey, or a piece of furniture.
Do you sometimes find it hard to be your own boss?
Sometimes it's easier to switch off and to follow others, but these moments don't last for long. Sure, it's easier to be passive and "just" obey, but you only live once so it's on us if we want to make this life better, for ourselves and the others.
And yes, it's hard to be your own boss, because you are setting your own rules and you need to obey them if you want to be good at something. But sometimes you just don't feel like it and you are angry, asking questions like "why can't you calm down and be normal”, have a break, but after all having this drive and passion is a blessing.
How did you come to the point of selling your items?
It's funny because as a designer you are expected to sell your products/designs, since your profession should pay your bills, but NEKKA NEKKA was created purely because people were asking me where to buy my stuff. They liked the aesthetics of my products and my way of work, so I started giving away a few things as gifts. Of course I didn't believe that people would actually buy them, but they did and still do, which makes me very happy.
I know I should have a great answer for this one, but to be honest… The way life is today, so very unpredictable about what or where we will be. My dream is to take NEKKA NEKKA to the level where I'll be able to make diverse, beautiful products with meaning, produce new collections, accessorise, and be able to still keep some of this handcraft alive, and also to offer work to local handcrafters, to be able to help with my brand, and offer a better living.
Where can my Slovenian readers find your creations? Are your products also available for my foreign readers?
My products are available for people all around the globe who like special handmade items, made with passion and care about the nature and people around them. You can find some of my products in Babushka (a store in Ljubljana), and I'll put some of the items on my Etsy shop quite soon. For now, you can find me on my Facebook NEKKA NEKKA page and at nearART.
What makes you smile the most?
A good joke, nice music, nice, honest and humble people, friends, stories from childhood, just all - small things that matter.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Junk food, spending the weekend in pyjama, doing as little as possible :) (quite a challenge for me!).
In my eyes this is a story of a creative artist who beside her busy everyday life manages to find time and place for something that comes straight from her soul and is, therefore, absolutely adorable and unique. I've got my eyes on those woolly brooches, what about you?