Growing up in a country which is unknown for design, in a family where no one was interested in fashion, she managed to start up a fashion label at the age of 26 and become a well-known designer both inside and outside of Croatia.
Aleksandra with her new collection Spring/Summer 2016
With the honour of opening the 20th Zagreb Fashion Week, this 34-year-old fashion designer proved once again that she is the most popular designer among Croatian women. The Zagreb Fair Centre, a complex of exhibition pavilions, was packed with numerous celebrities, mostly women, who came to see the new collection for Spring Summer 2016. The new range radiates romanticism with floral patterns, lace and small bows which add femininity distinctive to LeiLou silhouette.
As well as attending Zagreb Fashion week every season, Aleksandra’s elegant and feminine dresses and gowns are regularly featured in editorials of Croatian fashion magazines such as Story, Cosmopolitan and Elle and worn by Croatian and international celebrities, singers and actresses all over the world. But it’s not just in Croatia where she is applauded. She presented her clothes in many countries including Great Britain, Turkey, Germany and United States. The label was landed in 2007 after a successful trip to Chicago and a fashion show at the luxe hotel Drake. Until then she was just Aleksandra Dojcinovic but for the people of the United States, her Croatian surname was really hard to pronounce, so LeiLou by Alex was born. Without degree in design, mainly self-taught, she mastered dressmaking, but what makes her special is the fact that her dresses are multifunctional, you can wear them at least three ways and most of them as a skirt. Even though she uses fine materials she has managed to make her dresses affordable to every working woman by combining them with less expensive materials.
All of Aleksandras’s dresses have a unique story and they are named after the women in her life, her clients and friends.
Because of the close relationship she has with her clients she was happy to work from her small, quiet atelier for many years until 2012 when she decided it’s time for her first shop in the very centre of the Croatian capital Zagreb. However, the biggest move happened in September 2013 when she expanded her business across the border and opened an international shop in a prestigious district of Stuttgart, Killesberg.
In June 2014, Aleksandra opened her third shop in a town on the Dalmatian coast called Split, and since then her business has grown massively and today LeiLou is officially the best-selling Croatian fashion brand selling in 12 different countries.
But where did it all begin?
“Fashion was my biggest interest from an early age, my mum can confirm that. And I was a big dreamer. I remember we were learning a song in the choir that says ‘you will know that you are grown up when you stop dreaming.’ I told my mum that day that I don’t want to go to choir anymore because they are teaching us stupid things, I will never stop dreaming. During the Art classes at the elementary school, other children were drawing their pets or friends but I was drawing dresses. Those were my first designer steps I think.
Somehow, I knew from the beginning that I will make dresses when I grow up and I was never dreaming about things that girls usually are dream of, like becoming teachers.Things got serious in my teenage years. I was attending Textile Technology High School and for my school project we were supposed to make a shirt so I made one but my teacher was not happy and the shirt didn’t look like the way she imagined it so I got an F.
That didn’t discourage me so I decided to put that shirt on the same night when I went out with my friends and I sold it! And not just that, the girl who bought it thought that this shirt was from a new Calvin Klein collection she saw somewhere when she was travelling abroad. The same night I even managed to sell the skirt I was wearing to her friend. So even though the teacher wasn’t happy about it those girls gave me an A+. I suppose that at that moment I realised that I could make a good business of it. I kept making things during high school and I was selling them to my friends and their mothers. I have to say that even though, neither of my parents were interested in fashion they were really supportive all the way. By the age of 18 I had so many orders that I employed my own tailor to help me with sewing. At 21 I founded my own company and I was designing costumes and uniforms for different companies, sporting events, presentations, events and promotions because back then event business was blooming so I could live very well from that. So I love to say that I’ve been in this business since my childhood.”
Q: Who or what inspires you?
A: Successful women are my biggest inspiration and by that I don’t mean just businesswomen. For example, one of my inspirations are my friends who successfully balance between their families and jobs, but my other inspiration can also be some random positive and cheerful girl that enters my shop to get a new LeiLou dress. On the other hand, I got inspiration on my trips where I can see so many different street styles and trends. I’m not immune to trends, but I’m trying to dose them, in business and private life.
Q: What do you think, can the Croatian fashion scene compete with World’s fashion scene?
A: In terms of talent it certainly can, but talent on its own is not enough and it will take many more years before Croatian design becomes competitive on world’s market.
On the other hand, the situation in the Croatian fashion today is much better than before, and it’s better organised. Fashion week has helped a lot. It opened a window to the world to those who love to design.
Q: Whose design you love to wear the most?
A: My own (laughing). I have many favourite designers like Kenzo and Christopher Kane
and Gianvito Rossi for shoes, but I created LeiLou on my personal vision of how the fashion should look . Fortunately, my desires coincided with those of our clients and that is why our story is so successful and lasting. I’m happy because dresses that come out of our workshop defy trends. They are simple in cut but striking in design and made for every woman, with or without curves.
Q: How would you describe your personal style?
A: Because I’m a very simple person, I would say the same for my style. I don’t change my style much. I wear only what makes me feel good. I choose my daily clothes when I get up in the morning, depending on my current mood. I often wear dresses of all lengths and cuts. I don’t wear jeans, never! It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just I don’t like them on me. Also, I love platforms but I can’t really wear them because I’m almost 190cm tall which makes it hard.
Q: What are your plans for future?
A: There are lots of plans, but neither of them are too big. I have a great team of associates with whom I can synchronise desire and opportunities and make some realistic goals that we can try to achieve together. We managed to place our brand in the Istanbul market very well and now we need to maintain continuity and try to progress further. In this business it is important to never fall behind the others, especially not behind famous designers because today our clients know what is trendy and we have to be ready to offer them that in our own way but we also need to remember that this is a small country so we need to adapt everything to that as well. I’m happy. We are achieving this and in the future I’m planning to improve that even more.