Once again, the Independent Handbag Designer Awards (IHDA) saw a lineup of up-and-coming “It bag” designers from all over the world. And this year’s BELLA Audience Fan Favorite bag, the Blue Dahlia, belongs to not one, but two of them: Marija and Ivana Curic, identical twins and the creators behind Curic&Curic.
Leaving their hometown in Croatia for a post-graduation gap year 14 years ago, the sisters had high hopes for their future. Little did they know, this decision would one day lead to owning a NYC-based fashion brand. Eager to learn from the infamous New York fashion world, the two graduates dove into internships in fashion and PR.
“Back in 2006, fashion in Croatia was not major,” explains Marija. “We saw an opportunity to learn from the best in NYC. It is tough being a foreigner and starting from zero. It was just the two of us.”
The identical twins grew up knowing they were destined to work together—but not before going their separate ways first. After studying law together in Croatia and moving to New York, Ivana continued to pursue a master’s degree in law, while Marija enrolled in a graduate design program.
It was during her early years as a law student that Marija started to create her own bags handmade of recycled materials. Her love for art and painting followed shortly thereafter. Many years after moving to the U.S., the sisters decided to break into the design business, combining their knowledge and skills. Ivana’s business-oriented, realistic perspective grounds Marija’s artsy, dreamy mindset, making for a perfect business dynamic.
Their label, Curic&Curic, offers unique eco-friendly designs, aiming to save the environment by using scraps of fabric and turning them into one-of-a-kind pieces. Customers can send in used vintage denim or leather, and select custom, hand-painted designs for a revamped item.
Sustainability stands at the forefront of Marija and Ivana’s brand, which was founded in 2017. After learning that the fashion industry is a big contributor to world pollution, the pair knew they had to make a change.
“Our parents taught us to never waste anything,” says Marija. “We think the future of fashion lies in eco-friendly designs, and hopefully our customers recognize our efforts to stop unnecessary waste.”
As a next step, the twin designers plan to add vegan leather to their materials.
Much like the rest of the Curic&Curic collection, the Blue Dahlia was created with the same core mission in mind. The winning bag is completely handmade from repurposed pairs of old jeans—three different denim washes, braided separately and sewn together over a cardboard-based lining and eco-friendly glue. Besides using fabric waste, the bag was created without the use of electricity, making it a truly sustainable masterpiece.
The infinity-braided, 3D denim look is an ode to fashion icon and painter, Frida Kahlo. “She is my forever inspiration,” says Marija, “not only her paintings, but her whole style—including her braids.”
While Marija and Ivana complement each other perfectly in their creations, they do not necessarily have the same taste in fashion. Marija loves bohemian-inspired designs with bold colors and eye-popping accessories. Ivana on the other hand, likes to keep her wardrobe minimalistic and classic. Their winning combination is a line of timeless and chic yet colorful statement pieces, best paired with basic staples like a white T-shirt.
For the Curic sisters, winning the IHDA is a dream come true; after entering the contest in 2016 with no luck, seeing the Blue Dahlia make it to the final round in 2020 was a surreal experience, they say.
Going forward, the twin duo is focused on merging two passions: creating sustainable fashion while inspiring women of all ages to feel beautiful and unafraid to stand out in a crowd. In the name of female empowerment, Curic&Curic’s ultimate goal is to create an eco-friendly handbag line. The Blue Dahlia is just the beginning.
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