While many students are still figuring out what they want to pursue after college, junior communications major Natasha Kraljevski has a thoughtfully crafted plan laid out.
“(Fashion) is just one of those things that I can do anywhere at anytime,” Kraljevski said. “I don’t want to say I’m used to it because everything I try to design and try to draw, I try to make different from the last piece. It’s something you never want to get too comfortable with but it’s the only thing I really stuck with and really loved my whole life.”
Kraljevski said her communications major complements her fashion aspirations. She said she focuses the majority of her research papers on fashion.
“I love my major, I love communications studies and I love that I can apply it to another field that I love,” Kraljevski said.
Like many college students, Kraljevski eagerly jumps for opportunities to advance her budding career in fashion.
“You have to be versatile and you have to be 100 percent dedicated,” Kraljevski said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. It never happens overnight. It may seem like it happens overnight but it never does. And so if you love it enough and work hard at it enough, then maybe you’ll get some funding and maybe you’ll get recognized in a magazine. But it’s going to take a lifetime for most people.”
When pursuing her passion to enter into the cutthroat fashion industry, perseverance is key. But there was no denying her knack for fashion from an early age.
You can’t shake it
Kraljevski first learned to sew and crochet at 4 years old from her grandmother and babysitter in her hometown of Burbank, Calif. By the time she was 10 years old, Kraljevski said she would also sew dresses with her sisters.
To this day, Kraljevski said she is most comfortable sewing with a vintage Singer sewing machine.
Kraljevski also took art classes as a child.
“(The art instructors) asked my mom to have me moved up to the advanced kids section, which was really cool and I was super excited about it because I really loved it,” Kraljevski said. “But my mom pulled me from it because she took that as ‘I don’t want my daughter to be a starving artist.’”
Kraljevski said her mother still supported her artistic hobbies but wanted her to primarily focus on school.
It wasn’t until high school that Kraljevski’s mother acknowledged her daughter's passion for fashion.
Kraljevski said she would stay up late sewing skirts and dresses. In a U.S. history class during her junior year, she made several miniature 1920s-themed dresses that illustrated how women’s fashion evolved along with the social politics for women during that time.
“After I made that project,” Kraljevski said, “my mom (thought), ‘Well, I cant shake it from her, apparently. I mean, she's making all of her projects art and fashion related.’”
Shortly after, Kraljevski landed her first internship with Lucca Couture, a startup fashion company from Los Angeles.
"Learning how much work and how fast-paced the fashion industry is, not a lot of girls can do,” Kraljevski said. “If you don’t love it, it’ll wear you down. It will break you. And that was what drew me to it even more and made me decide I really love fashion design. I really like all of the effort that goes into making one little perfect piece.”
Although she was accepted into L.A.’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Kraljevski’s mother preferred she still attend a four-year institution.
Savvy portfolio building
Kraljevski believed SJSU was the right school for her . She originally sought after San Diego State, however after attending SJSU’s freshman orientation, Kraljevski wanted to stay at SJSU.
“I think people really underestimate San Jose,” Kraljevski said. “It’s a unique culture here. Its not just, ‘Oh, San Jose, they’re close to San Francisco.' San Jose is its own being. People don’t really recognize how fun it is, how interesting everyone is here.”
Kraljevski said after seeing a downtown homeless man’s grocery-bag turban, she wanted to incorporate that into her look for this year’s Trashion Fashion show.
“There are just so many characters here you can use as inspiration,” Kraljevski said.
While at SJSU, Kraljevski has also broadened her design skills by creating costumes for theater and dance performances on campus.
“I would say a trademark of Natasha’s design sensibility is that she is thoughtful in her approach and she really thinks about what the design needs to be for her person,” said theatre arts professor Cassandra Carpenter.
Kraljevski is currently taking Carpenter’s advanced costume design class, and Carpenter said Kraljevski’s research only lends to her costume planning.
Aside from expanding her passion and even taking a year of French classes, Kraljevski also went to Beijing through a faculty-led, one-month program that emphasized culture and communications, which reinforced her passion for fashion design and opened her to Chinese street fashion.
Andrew Wood, communications professor and faculty leader of the Beijing trip, was impressed with Kraljevski’s knowledge of fashion and considers her a dangerous bargainer.
“I would never want to bargain with her,” Wood said. “China is a land where haggling is a millennia-old pursuit and part of life. She impressed a lot of people with her bargaining.”
Woods said Kraljevski even taught him a few tricks to bargaining. According to Woods, Kraljevski advised him to have a sense of what you’re really willing to pay and to do research on the value of what you’re buying or selling.
Kraljevski said the only two things she’s competitive about are fashion and monopoly.
“When I’m shopping — when I’m sample-sale shopping or something — I have to shop with somebody so they can keep me in check,” Kraljevski said.
She said she wants to take advantage of her opportunities while at SJSU to improve and diversify her understanding and skills in fashion design.
“A lot of people misunderstand fashion as, ‘Oh yeah, that’s just pretty stuff, that’s all fashion is, just taking pictures of pretty things and just twirling around in pretty things. There’s not that much work.’ but its actually a lot of work behind making those pretty things, which a lot of people don’t see.”
However, Kraljevski prides herself on working hard to make something beautiful and understanding the industry thoroughly.
According to Trashion Fashion model Spencer Reich, who strutted down the Trashion Fashion runway in Kraljevski’s piece, Kraljevski stands out from other aspiring designers because she’s putting in the work to eventually make a career in fashion design.
Embracing body and fashion
Kraljevski said designing clothing and accessories is a creative outlet for her.
“When I feel like I’m too out of it or when I’m getting too overwhelmed with classes and work or stuff like that, it sort of puts me in a funk,” Kraljevski said. “But once I get started again, it goes, it snowballs and I can’t stop and I can stay up all night. That’s one of the things that I do, is just stay up all night working on drawings or sewing something that I really love.”
Kraljevski’s said inspiration for designing fashion can come from a variety of looks. For instance, aside from fashion magazines, someone’s clothing can inspire Kraljevski. In those moments, she photographs them sneakily with her iPhone.
She said one look can eventually turn into many ideas for Kraljevski, and thus begins the sketching process on the backs of scratch pieces of paper and syllabi.
Kraljevski’s own sense of style is playful and varies from day to day depending on her mood.
“Sometimes I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I want to be a diva,’ and throw on my feather vest, my chiffon maxi skirt and my five-inch platforms and strut my stuff outside with my black lipstick and think I’m the s—,” she said. “And then sometimes I just don’t care, and it sucks for anyone who looks at me but it’s like, ‘deal with it because I’m feeling grudge today.’”
Unlike the super skinny models that are posed on nearly every fashion cover, Kraljevski embraces women’s bodies, regardless of size. Being the oldest of four sisters, she admires and appreciates new high-fashion designers such as Zac Posen, who creates clothing for all body types.
“It does affect everybody’s everyday perception of people,” Kraljevski said. “There are photographers who won't talk to people or work with people who don’t fit a certain standard and the editors and the photographers play a huge role (in) what people see and what they perceive as (beautiful). We don’t want a society full of unhappy women. We want a society of beautiful women who love themselves and love their bodies and look great.”
In return, Kraljevski designs clothing to accentuate a certain part of a woman’s body. For instance, Kraljevski originally wanted to make her Trashion Fashion piece androgynous, but she said she would be a doing a disservice to her model’s body if she didn’t highlight her curves.
“You can help people be the best they can be of whatever they want to be,” Kraljevski said.
As she continues to build her portfolio at SJSU and eventually go on to graduate school, Kraljevski ultimately wants to have a multifaceted apparel company with accessories and couture and ready-to-wear looks.
“I want a bunch of things that I can control over making beautiful (and) having my aesthetic,” Kraljevski said. “Not even my name, I don’t even want my name on it, just my aesthetic on it.”
However, you won't find her making crazy couture as seen on pop sensations Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj.
“I’ve never really been that kind of girl,” Kraljevski said. “I want it to be wearable, ultimately. I want it to be wearable art.”
She said she wants to maintain her body-conscious approach when designing her original looks.
“All of the rules — like don’t wear black and brown together, don’t wear white after Labor Day — they’re all made to be broken, which is cool because it makes me feel like a little rebel,” Kraljevski said. “You’re able to push all boundaries and really make something that can make you feel a certain way. You can evoke how you’re feeling and be whatever you want or have someone be whatever they want.”