Open CALL for fashion designers

OPEN CALL for fashion designers

As a part of ECHO Academies Project, a Creative Europe project coordinated by Inter Alia and coordinated for Bulgaria by Open Space foundation, ECHO Academy in Smolyan town is looking for fashion designers who are motivated to contribute with new artistic perspectives on the topic of Fashion Heritage. The project aims to nurture talents, build capacities, create networks, allow synergies and expand the visibility of artistic works on a cross-national and international level.

The Academy in Bulgaria is looking for 10 individuals who will develop artworks and create proposals for their development as pilot projects. Participants of the Academy will be inspired by the reuse and reinterpretation of the beatiness of Bulgarian folklore costumes of Rhodopes region. Project ideas will be presented and linked to artworks that will be created by the participants during the Academy. Artworks will be visual elements such as sketches of design collections of clothes, shoes, jewelry and/or accessories. The artworks will be developed with the help and facilitation of artistic supervisors, academic researchers, and production partners through the Academy. The artworks will be presented in an exhibition in the town of Smolyan, and in an online art-shop.

The Academy will be held between 5 – 26 October 2023 in a hybrid form:

  • 5-18 October online and
  • 20-26 October in person in Smolyan town, Bulgaria.

It starts with a two-week online preparation phase, and after the participants will be in Smolyan town where they can soak up the culture, create their visual elements and finalise their pilot project ideas. The final project presentations will be archived in a digital format on the project website and on-line art shop. At the end of Academy, there will be an Award Ceremony, where a judging committee will decide upon three winners that will be working on their pilot projects afterwards at their home country in collaboration with Open Space foundation and a local micro-organisation based on the place of residency of each winner (chosen in advance by the artists).

At first, all three winners will be given the amount of €1000 each to develop and implement their pilot projects on equal terms. After their completion, and based on specific set criteria, a judging committee will decide on the final ranking of the winners, and will award additional prizes. The three associated micro-organisations (selected by the winners) will also receive the amount of € 1000 each for the needs of the project implementation. The project implementation phase ends in 2024 Autumn with an Open Event in the place of residency of the winners.

ECHO ACADEMIES’ grounding 

ECHO Academies, based on the experience of implementing “ECHO: European Cultural Heritage Onstage”, “ECHO II: Traditions in Transition” and “ECHO III: For Memory’s Sake”, addresses issues of visibility, networking, employability and opportunities to enter the art market for new European talents. For that purpose, it uses heritage as an inspirational tool, building on the values of the European and global perceptions of heritage.

Having an EU and non-EU Balkan Region exchange focus and character, ECHO Academies aims to:

– Cultivate and nurture young and emerging European talents from the fields of arts and the CCS in order to enhance resilience through monothematic, small-scale creative academies in the fields of comics (in Greece), fashion design (in Bulgaria), music (in North Macedonia), photography and architecture (in Hungary) by exploring different expressions of European heritage.

– Offer training opportunities and build capacities for artists and CCS professionals in order to improve employability through Capacity Building Activities (CBAs) that offer new tools and skills.

– Create networks between artists and CCS professionals with the art market by facilitating networking and synergy-building that will help artists generate jobs and growth, and

– Promote artists and their work on the international level in order to increase opportunities and outreach by supporting them in terms of resources in the implementation of pilot projects for selected Academies’ artists in order to generate jobs and growth, and by performing targeted communication and dissemination of the artists, their artworks, and projects internationally.

In Bulgaria, the 10 selected creatives will be exposed to the folklore costume from Rhodopes region. The Rhodopes folk costume is saturated with beautiful and symbolic elements that reflect the wealth and spiritual essence of the local population. Traditional costumes are distinguished by their bright color palette and unique ornaments that reflect nature, the animal world and the beliefs of the people. Carefully selected fabrics and unique embroideries create impressive visual effects that will no doubt inspire you for your creative challenges. We look forward to seeing how we will integrate the important elements into your global collections, preserving the spirit and beauty of Rhodopes folklore. The Academy will be enhanced by visits to particular places and spaces in Rhodopes redion, lectures and presentations by experts.

ECHO Academies is co-funded by the European Union under the Creative Europe Programme, and National Fund of Culture of Bulgaria and will run until December 2024. ECHO Academies is implemented by an experienced consortium led by Inter Alia, a civic non-profit organization based in Athens that is active in the cultural and creative sector, joined by Sfera International, North Macedonia’s association working in education, using several methods and about the protection of the environment, cultural and natural heritage; Open Space Foundation based in Sofia with the aim to support and promote cultural dialogue and relationships and focuses on engaging artists into projects with social causes; Pro Progressione, a Budapest-based artistic hub specialising in international cultural collaborations; and CUMEDIAE, a Brussels-based international non-profit agency providing consultancy services for Europe’s Cultural and Creative Industries.

Eligibility and supported projects

Who is eligible?

  • Applicants that are legal residents in the countries within the Creative Europe framework and non-EU countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia). The selection of the ten (10) participating artists will consist of 5 artists from the EU and 5 artists from the Western Balkan.
  • Applicants should have skills in fashion design.
  • Young and emerging creatives between 18 and 35.
  • Good English language communication skills, as the working language is English.

What we support

  • Project ideas with elements that reflect on reinterpretation and reimagination of elements of folklore costumes of Rhodopes region.
  • Project ideas that can be presented in different stakeholders (private customers, textile factories, theater institutions etc.).

What we offer: Participant opportunities and support

What we will provide:

  • Exposure through ECHO Academies’ dissemination and engagement activities, such as announcements, networking and events, social media, video and photo documentation, and general promotion of ECHO Academies’ work through its large partner network.
  • A cross-border and cross-disciplinary opportunity for exchange and artistic enrichment with fellow artists across Europe, including activities with partners and collaborators.
  • Professional development support and in-depth knowledge of ECHO Academies’ core topics, provided by experts and specialists and facilitation by academic researchers, and project partners.
  • The accommodation and travel expenses, and the per diem costs of the selected creatives are supported by the Project during their stay in Smolyan town.
  • Mentorship programme on project development from ideas to implementation, and consultations for marketability.
  • Three winning projects will received:
  • an award for the III place: 1000 EUR, for the II place: 2000 EUR and for the I-st place: 3000 EUR;
  • for project implementation – 1000 EUR for the creative individual and 1000 EUR for each local micro-organisation whom the winner will work with.

What we expect

What we ask from participants:

  • Participation: We expect that selected creatives will participate in the ECHO Academies’ events, including the Academy in Smolyan and the final event. Please note that attendance of Academy in Smolayn lasting for 21 days in total, 7 days out of this requires physical presence in Smolyan.
  • Attendance: The selected creatives are expected to attend and engage in online mentoring meetings, consultancy sessions, two online forum events, online progress reviews and contribute to the project’s reporting.
  • Engagement: Creatives must be committed to ECHO Academies’ objectives. As success depends on the activation and engagement of European audiences, creatives are encouraged to support ECHO Academies’ general communication by using their personal and professional communication channels and networks.
  • Commitment: A contract with the ECHO Academies Consortium, open to the creatives’ proposals, will define the terms and conditions for the intellectual property rights of digital artworks. In any case, any participants will be asked to grant all necessary rights for the dissemination of their work in any activities directly related to this Project.

Application timeline, key dates

Application Timeline:

  • August 8: Launch of Open Call
  • September 8: Application deadline – 25 September
  • 8-10 September: Selected artists are notified untill 27 September

Selection process of the 10 creatives:

  • A Selection Committee will review applications based on the applicants’ body of work and quality, relevance, concept suitability & feasibility, and the strength of motivation and commitment to the topic and to the objectives of the Project.
  • Finalists may be invited for interviews with ECHO Academies staff.
  • Notification of program acceptance and entry will occur in September 2023.

Key Dates for the 10 selected creatives:

  • October 5-18 2023: online Academy and October 20 – 26 2023: physically in Smolyan town (Bulgaria). Participants will create their sketches for the final exhibition in Smolyan town (opened on 25 October 2023) and pitch their pilot project ideas and submit a visual element created during the physical Academy in Smolyan town.
  • October 19 and 27 are arrival and departure days.

Optional Dates for the 10 selected creatives:

  • October, 2023: Capacity Building Activities – Participants of the Academy have the chance to attend the international online lectures.

Key Dates for the three winners of the Academy in Budapest

  • Winter 2023-2024: Online mentoring sessions for the three winners of the Academy.
  • November 2024 – April 2024: Three winning creatives will work on their pilot projects to implement them at their country of residency.
  • February 2024: First Forum Event – Good practices, panel with the three winners of the Academy and international speakers
  • November 2024: Second Forum Event – Feedback of the practises of the three winners used for the project implementation period that they gained in the First Forum Event.
  • November 2024: Open Event – Final Event in the country of the three winners and showcase of implemented pilot projects.

How to apply?

All applicants must submit the following documents in English via the online Application Form:

  • A project proposal (min. 1000 words), including
  • Personal Statement
  • Synopsis of the project idea and how it is connected to the folklore heritage
  • All applicants need to propose a micro-organisation with whom they will work together in the project implementation period (November 2023 – April 2024) if successful
  • Communication and distribution goals and desires
  • Anticipated material needs
  • Link to applicant’s website and/or submission of selected work samples
  • Curriculum vitae
  • All submissions must be sent digitally through the Application Form

Notification of Results  

The selected individuals will be informed of the outcome and may be asked to provide further relevant information. They will be requested to sign a document of commitment regarding the work with the team and their participation in the ECHO Academies Project activities. Unsuccessful applicants will be informed of the outcome of the process as well.

Contact & Further Information: Zaharinka Kutzeva,  

With a financial support of: