British/Serbian illustrator Ajsa Zdravkovic, meets LCD for a chilled afternoon in her own apartment in Dubai. Eccentric character, she has a peculiar and unique fashion style that mixes streetwear with crazy patterns and colours. Being around her, we realised how her sense of creativity goes beyond a drawing on a piece of paper, but must expand into every direction. This way to create and her bubbly attitude goes hand in hand with our world of colours and illustrations, so we had a chat about her work and life experiences that will draw a smile on your mind.
Hi Ajsa! You have mixed European roots with an Arabic name (it’s pronounced Aisha), also we know that you speak 4 languages and have lived in many places. This feels like a big baggage of culture already. Can you tell us your story?
Yeah I get that a lot, really a lot. I was born and raised for 10 years in northern England and then moved to Switzerland for 15 years. My parents are British and Serbian so I suppose you could say that those are my two mother tongue languages although my serbian is shaky. In the U.K. at such a young age you don’t get the chance to learn languages so I feel blessed to have had the chance to go to Geneva in 2000 and be pushed into the french public school system where I learnt French and Italian. It was the biggest culture shock at such a young age but it was definitely worth the trek.
What do you love about being a creative and how did you get into it?
The minute I got home from the hospital as a newborn, my dad sat me down on his lap and played the piano. He’s a musician and he transferred that passion onto me. My family both on the British and Serbian side is composed of painters, designers, architects and musicians so I would be surrounded by the arts on a daily basis. I would see the other family members going to their day jobs in sales, banking, etc, and hear them complain about it. I would never hear the artists complain though, and I would eaves drop on their late-night conversations about other creatives in their respective industries. It got me hooked. I loved hearing those stories. What I love about being a creative is that it’s liberating. There are some things that can’t be expressed through words but can be expressed through an illustration, or a piano piece. Being creative gives you the freedom of choice. Every human being is a creative but they have to give themselves the time to discover that.
What about your obsession for Nijab ladies?
It’s definitely not an obsession but I have this innate curiosity that drives me to draw them and interpret their lifestyle in my own way. I imagine what their life looks like on the inside and I also think about their values and traditions. As women, we often don’t get to see the inner lives of the other women we are surrounded with and that just builds our curiosity. I’m the type of person who loves to mix things together, so mixing western culture with eastern culture is definitely something that excites me because it rings a bell with everyone in Dubai.
Being based in Dubai now, do you think the city is a good place to be for creatives? Has it influenced you?
I’ve been here for three years now and I can definitely say that Dubai has come a long way in terms of acceptance and tolerance. Since the beginning of this year, I feel there is more creative liberty when it comes to the commercial side of things. It was much tougher three years ago to get opinions on the table. There’s also more openness to ideas.
Every wall and object in here is covered by notes, poems and drawings. It seems like you can’t stop yourself from expressing your thoughts?
I think it’s beautiful to be aware of your thoughts and consciously not stop them. It’s when you get overwhelmed by them that things start getting tricky. It took me a long time to figure out how to express them, and, yes, it’s definitely through writing them on everything around me that I get them out there. I like to be very public about my thoughts and I’m not ashamed of them at all.
When it comes to fashion, how would you describe your style?
I enjoy watching the latest runways, exploring up-and-coming designers from schools around the world and tend to get inspired by that for some of the work I do, but I definitely wouldn’t call myself a fashionable person. I’m not the one to follow the latest trends and apply them to myself at all. If I see a nice jeans jacket, I’ll buy it and paint on it, write on it, stick things on it. I’ll make it better for myself.
What trends do you follow at the minute? Any specific @accounts?
I’m really not into trends because they are just way too fast for me. I’m slow, really slow. However, I’m enjoying the people out there who have no issues with being who they are and don’t take themselves too seriously. I’m thinking in particular of girls like @artbabygirl who is a great mixed media artist and @barbienox who is a young plus-size model, @penelopegazin who is not only an artist but also the co-founder of an amazing store called Witchsy and, last but not least, @heyparkerday who is an LA based artist and does the wackiest photoshoots ever. They are splendid. As for the boys, @decadunce, who is a member of the gender-queer fashion collective called Art School Collective London and @bradleysharpe who is in fashion at Central St. Martins. All of these people are bringing something new to the table and whatever they seem to share makes me smile.
It’s clear that your rounded figure doesn’t stop you from wearing anything you want, any advice for all many the girls out there?
Be vulnerable. Be bold in your vulnerability. If there’s one thing you definitely don’t want to do, it’s shake off that constant little voice in your head that tells you that you’re not good enough, tall enough, pretty enough, and whatnot. It’s there for a reason. So listen to it and play along with it.
Where is your favourite spot for shopping in Dubai?
I’m a big Dragonmart, Kabayl Discount Store in Deira and Satwa Tailor fanatic. There are so many things that are to be discovered in those places, it’s insane. I’m a big fan of stores where you never know what you’re going to find and everything is different on the rack. I tend to spot a good print from a distance. I’ve got that print eagle eye. I’ll pick something up and know exactly what I want to do with it.
What makes you happy in an average day?
I’m a sucker for human beings, so I can confidently say that what makes me happy is being around people. I’m constantly surrounded by amazing, loving people who have tons of stories to tell. In Dubai, there’s a great need for friends. When those friends become family, that’s when it all kicks off.
Last but not least, which LCD piece you love most?
(we can hint to the kimono…)
I love the kimono. The cut is clean and the print is refreshing and it’s the type of thing you can throw on over anything and it fits. Typically what I do with all my clothes, throw them on and hope for the best.