Zoran: The Serbian Fashion Designer You Should Know

Rich Francis

The fashion designer Zoran Ladicorbic was born in Serbia, where he lived for more than twenty years before moving to New York. The Big Apple would come to embrace him with open arms, apotheosizing his work into one of the most timeless staples of global high-fashion. Zoran remains an enigmatic figure, continuously challenging critics with his alluring simplicity and distance from the fashionista mainstream.

Courtesy Arthur Elgort, from “Zoran: The Wizard of Ease” Vogue, March 1983, page 354

There are no prestigious beginnings to look to in the case of Zoran Ladicorbic, no worldly fashion schools attended, no glorious family names to call forth as possible inspirations. Nor was Zoran by any means a child prodigy in the fashion world, creating couture straight from the crib. We must instead look behind the shadowy wall of the Iron Curtain, to the tumultuous land of the Former Yugoslavia, where Zoran was born and studied architecture before embarking on his high-fashion pilgrimage across the planet.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, such an appraisal of Zoran’s youth can tell us little of the fashion designer of today. Many critics however, have noted the obvious similarities between the architectural schools of Soviet Realism dominating Eastern Europe throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and the bold simplicity of Zoran’s fashion designs. There were also a multitude of other contemporary influences that helped shape the psyche of the burgeoning Belgrade artist – the continental thrust towards Futurism, the international Space Race and its booming technological mechanisation and the dawn of the Information Age with its clearly defined categories and stark divisions.

Courtesy Arthur Elgort, from “Zoran: The Wizard of Ease” Vogue, March 1983, page 358-9

Zoran’s first set of garments were created in the middle of the 1970s in New York, bearing all the hallmarks of the simplistic, elegant style that was to define his work over the next four decades. Even the title of the range—‘Five Easy Pieces’—oozed a casual, laid-back attitude, while the pieces themselves were monochrome, clean-cut, comfortable garments in black and ivory.
Of course, it’s worth remembering that Zoran’s fashion debut coincided neatly with the disco boom of the 1970s, which may go dome way to explaining the fierce loyalty that seems to inform the attitude of his fan base. In a sense, Zoran’s fashion has always been a sort of anti-fashion; repudiating the necessity to wrestle with contemporary styles and looking instead to a certain timelessness in simplicity. That’s probably also why his ranges have shown little variation over the years, shifting mutely between neutral colour schemes of musky ivory and jet black, never giving in to the demands of Velcro, billowy frills, clips, zips or even buttons.
Indeed, Zoran’s strict code of ‘less is more’ designing has hardly changed over the years. Today, he continues to micro-manage his sales so that only a handful of outlets in each city are selling his garments at any one time, fanning the flames of buyer desire by turning his pieces into something akin to couture gold dust that only the most determined of shoppers can discover.

There’s reason to believe that Zoran is not only suited to residing perpetually on the fringes of the high-fashion mainstream, but he actually feels comfortable there. Over the years, his relationship with high-profile patrons has been mixed to say the least. Despite selling his entire 1976 collection to high-profile names such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, he also went on to snub the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, who reportedly requested wholesale prices on her order. We’re lead to believe that Zoran’s admonishment came swift to the megastar and his feelings on the matter surfaced once more in a later interview with the New York Times, when he remarked, ‘how can somebody who makes a lot of money ask that?’
Today, Zoran’s beguiling character is bundled up with a certain mythology created by the various snippets of truth and personality revealed by his sporadic interviews with the likes of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Supposedly, his politics are resolutely right wing, his drinking proudly over-the-top and his accent still touched by that distinctive Yugoslavian drawl. However, there’s arguably no fashion designer in the world more suited or deserving of a mythical reputation than Zoran, with his seductively simple, majestic, and ethereal couture touch.

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