Marijana Mijacevic loves simple things. So while the Bosnian apparel designer spends her days conceiving everything from hats to socks as the senior director of design for OOBE, in her free time, she fashions a line of unpretentious home goods.
In this case, plain doesn’t mean homely. The linen pillows, aprons, and dishtowels she showcased at the Indie Craft Parade this fall developed a following among customers searching for simple and functional upscale items to adorn their homes.
Since Marijana designs apparel for a living, home goods seemed an optimal fit for her hobby. “I always liked home goods, and they are different than apparel, which has to cater to an individual person—it has to fit,” she explains. “Home goods give me more freedom.” So she put together a small line under the brand name Kuća, which means “home” in her native Bosnian language.
This was her second turn at the Indie Craft Parade, which hosts artisans across the country each September. “That first year at Indie was nerve-wracking figuring out how much to make,” recalls Marijana. “When I make stuff, I’m excited about it, and when I pack everything up [to take to the show], I think ‘who’s going to buy all this?’”
This year, she made fewer items, concentrating on her best-selling pillows and taking orders for table linens and duvet covers. For the 2017 show, she had crafted a line of tote bags out of Tyvek. “The material is not natural, but it’s lightweight and you can shape it like paper,” she notes. This year, she took that concept a step further with waxed food-storage bags.
The inspiration came when she wanted a bag to fit a baguette, and couldn’t find one big enough. Based on waxed sheets used to wrap produce, she designed a baguette bag out of cotton and waxed the material so it would preserve food. That led to a line of waxed spice bags that were so well-received that this year she added sandwich bags. The surprising thing about these bags is you can shape them, close them up, and seal them using only the heat of your hands. “And they still match that natural look to my aesthetic,” Marijana says.
Lovely in their simplicity, Marijana’s products strike a balance between the natural and modern worlds. Crafted from beige linen, her aprons bear a trio of hand-painted indigo stripes, and her pillows display a variety of designs. She gets creative with painted patterns, dipping an ear of corn in indigo paint and rolling it down one side of a throw pillow, or using a vintage European stamp to repeat a more complex design.
“I like to start with good quality fabric and good color and not overcomplicate it,” Marijana Mijacevic declares. “It’s important to me how things are made.”
While some people avoid linen for the ironing nightmare it is, Marijana and her customers love it. “Natural materials always attracted me, and linen was my favorite material to work with.
What people don’t like—the wrinkling—I do,” says the designer. Though she gravitates to neutral colors, this year she added dusty rose, indigo, and charcoal hues, all hand-dyed in her kitchen.
As a child, Marijana always enjoyed making, starting with doll’s clothes. “I like putting things together, regardless of what it is. I was always making things to give as gifts or for myself, and never thought about doing it on a bigger scale.” Even when she buys a gift, the designer doesn’t wrap it—she makes a bag for it.
Her homeland of Bosnia was one single country when she went to university to study textile technology (including both garment manufacturing and design), but it was two when she graduated. As she was finishing her studies, war broke out, so she lived in Germany for a couple of years, and then immigrated to Canada. “There was nothing to go back to,” she laments.
Her circuitous journey took her to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she worked for Hanes, and finally to Greenville,
in the steps of a former colleague who landed a job with OOBE.
That was 12 years ago.
Marijana sells her products online, but with a full-time job, she limits the number of orders she accepts. She’s considering placing some of her wares in local boutiques, and a collaboration with Greenville artist Keiko Kamata (who is currently experimenting with printed wallpaper) and Teresa Roche from Art & Light Gallery is in the works. “Teresa is using fabric and wallpaper in her paintings, so we have a similar aesthetic,” Marijana says. They are hoping to eventually combine their work in a pop-up shop in the Village of West Greenville, where Roche’s gallery is located. “Teresa has a good eye for connecting things. Keiko also has that refined taste, so our things fit naturally together.”
You might think $95 is a lot to pay for an apron, but consider the amount of time and the quality of the workmanship that goes into it, and you’ll appreciate the price tag. First there’s the linen itself, which is not inexpensive. When Marijana receives the fabric, she first washes, dries, and irons it before cutting out the patterns on a table set up in the living room of her Greenville town house. Articles are assembled in her sewing room upstairs.
The deftness is in the details. “I like to start with good quality fabric and good color and not overcomplicate it,” she declares. “It’s important to me how things are made. I can’t just put it together.” That’s what stands out about Mijacevic’s workmanship. Her dishtowels have perfectly mitered corners and she sews vintage tape across the back of one corner for hanging; her aprons and pillows boast tidy French seams.
Overall, there’s a lightness and a rich texture to Marijana’s creations that immediately draw your eye and invite you to touch them. Defined by simple lines, her work is remarkably beautiful—pure and simple.
You can see Marijana’s products and place orders via her website: kucahome.com