‘Romani Design’ studio builds Romani cultural prestige in Budapest

Erika (L) and Helena (R) Varga, Roma sisters and co-founders of Romani Design, posing in their studio. Source: AP

Two Romani sisters have opened up a fashion studio ‘Romani Design’ in Hungary to challenge stereotypes against the community, who constitute the minority in the country.

Budapest: A fashion studio in Hungary is challenging the centuries-old stereotypes faced by the country’s Romani, also referred to as Roma, minority, and asserting a place at the table of high culture for the historically marginalized group.

Established by sisters Erika and Helena Varga in 2010, the ‘Romani Design’ fashion studio has the declared mission of using fashion and applied arts to build the socio-cultural prestige of the Roma community, and to reestablish Roma culture in a modern context.

“We were one of the first brands that actually gave the answer to how to rebuild (Roma) traditions in a contemporary, modern way,” said Erika Varga, co-founder of Romani Design.

The Roma are Hungary’s largest minority and represent as much as 10% of the population in the Central European country. Like their counterparts throughout Europe, Hungary’s Roma are often the subjects of social and economic exclusion and face discrimination, segregation, and poverty.

Present in Hungary since the 15th century, many of the Roma’s traditions are deeply ingrained in broader Hungarian culture. Yet many of their unique customs and occupations, including their language, Romani, have been slowly dying out after centuries of official and unofficial marginalization.

Six dresses by Romani Design are currently on display at an exhibition in the Museum of Applied Arts in Hungary’s capital, Budapest.

An advertising campaign by Wavemaker Global, done in collaboration with Romani Design.

The rotating exhibition, “In Circulation,” has artists choose items from the museum’s permanent collection and create their own works inspired by them. After being displayed, the new contemporary works become part of the museum’s collection — securing them for posterity to be reflected upon by coming generations.