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07 Oct 16

Through the Eyes of a Gen Y: Alternative Chic in Belgrade

Emma Krstic

Despite the many malls, high street stores and flea markets, shopping in Belgrade can be a frustrating task for those looking for unique items - but there are gems to be discovered.

Jane Doe is just one of three clothing shops wholly dedicated to vintage pieces. Photo: JaneDoe VintageShop.

Wandering around Dorcol recently, I came across something not often seen in Belgrade - tucked inconspicuously into one of the neighbourhood’s most charming blocks was a goldmine of vintage clothing.

The boutique – named Jane Doe (Kapetan Misina 17) – is a rarity in the Serbian capital, where despite the flea markets and quirky old-world shops, where hat-makers, broom-makers, bag-makers and even a perfumer still make a living, the vintage clothing scene doesn’t seem to have taken off.

In fact, Jane Doe is just one of three clothing shops wholly dedicated to vintage pieces that I’ve managed to find in Belgrade after an exhaustive search.

The two others are Smizla, a pint-sized boutique in Zemun with a very quirky and kitsch offering, and Ye Ye (shop 40, CumiCevo alley), in Belgrade’s hugely underrated and often overlooked Design District.

The number of vintage shops may be modest, but it’s just one aspect of the city’s more unique fashion side, which offers up an alternative to the modern malls that have dominated Belgrade’s retail scene since communism fell and privatisation was introduced in the 1990s.

While modern shopping plazas made a rapid rise (and will continue to, with another glitzy mall to be constructed as part of the controversial Emirati-funded Belgrade Waterfront project), the city’s more unique fashion scene has been growing at a much slower pace. But it is there.

The aforementioned Design District is a prime example. Here, hidden in the middle of the buildings between Kolarceva and Decanska streets, around 30 local designers have set up shop in what actually used to be a mall itself, turning the area into a treasure trove of unique, Belgrade-only boutiques with a very pop-up-shop vibe. Aside from the array of clothing, handmade makeup, jewellery and gifts can also be found here, showcasing the city’s nascent design scene.

Concept stores have also established themselves in recent years. One of the best would have to be Makadam (Kosancicev venac 20), situated on a picture-perfect corner in a quiet, leafy part of town, close to Princess Ljubica’s Residence.  

Its on-site café is meticulously designed, and the shop at its rear features pieces of clothing, home accessories and wine, all made in Serbia.

Also located in the area is the Gradstor Design Hub (Pop Lukina 1), which boasts an offering of items made by craftsmen and artists from around Serbia – and also features some international designers. It’s a sister to the original Gradstor (Brace Krsmanovic 4), located in the KC Grad cultural centre in Savamala, which features its own collection of handmade clothing, jewellery, bags, art books and gifts, with pieces by new designers being brought in each season.

And then of course there’s Supermarket, the one credited with really cementing the very concept of the concept store in Belgrade.

Having recently relocated to number 8 on Uzun Mirkova in Dorcol, Supermarket has also slightly downsized by ditching its restaurant and replacing it with a trendy coffee shop/bar area.

This is the Rolls Royce of concept stores, and among the hand-knitted scarves, statement jewellery and funky homeware you’ll find some far quirkier items, the most hipster of which are the vials of beard oil. I don’t recall seeing that in any malls around here.

This article was published in BIRN's bi-weekly newspaper Belgrade Insight. Here is where to find a copy.

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