By Sarah Jay
Oct 19, 2016
Leaning against the door of a state restaurant, I’m anticipating someone named Rita. I don’t understand abundant concerning her: I do understand she’s young, in her 20s, which she’s one in all the primary fashion bloggers to return out of the new freelance state.
I study every person passing by within the February sunshine; however it’s troublesome to choose her out. Everybody I see in Kosovo’s capital of Pristina is young — around seventieth of the country’s population is beneath thirty five. And everybody is well-dressed.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF RITA SARAQI.
Rita Saraqi is a component of a growing movement of young Kosovo’s UN agency are attempting to cement the country’s new identity on-line — one that is young , vibrant, safe. Through her diary, she aims to prove that several negative perceptions of state left over from the 1998-99 war — notions that several individuals round the world still believe to be true (before I left London for state, I detected constant piece of recommendation over again: "Be careful.").
It’s been seventeen years since state was latched in conflict with Serbian forces, and eight years since it claimed its independence, however to outsiders, state remains a land ripped apart by group action, gangland, and also the ill-famed world organization bombing. And whereas Kosovo's sovereignty has been recognized by quite one hundred countries, as well as the us, it still lacks acknowledgement and support from some major world powers (it has, as an example, been denied membership to the United Nations).
But within telegraphic signal e’ Nat, Kosovo’s name clashes with reality: the idyllic restaurant has books on the walls, little bunches of flowers on every table, and its customers (mostly Albanians, UN agency square measure another time a majority in Kosovo), share spoken communication over macchiatos.
When Saraqi arrives, she’s wearing a dishevelled, stripy sweater and choker. She sips on tea and lends some thought to her place among the country's current bloggers. She’s twenty two and though her fashion diary, Fishnets and Rainbows has solely been running for 2 years, she says it absolutely was Kosovo's initial.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF RITA SARAQI.
Since she launched it, she’s collaborated with native and international brands; she’s fronted campaigns for Mango and Benetton. A career highlight, she notes, was attending Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin, wherever she was interviewed by 2 TV stations: “It gave Maine a chance to inform individuals concerning my country,” she says.
“As a blogger, I transmit a message — I tell individuals concerning state and what we have a tendency to square measure into,” Saraqi, UN agency was born and raised within the country, continues. “Most individuals understand wherever state is; they fathom our history, however they assume it’s not safe here. It’s smart for these individuals to urge to grasp Maine — I will tell them however friendly it's. I will modification their perceptions.”
But Saraqi isn't the typical Kosovo. With a Macedonian mother comes a Macedonian passport, permitting her to flee the disabling visa restrictions that build it troublesome for Kosovo’s voters to go to countries within the EU and Russia, among others. “If I didn’t have a Macedonian passport, I wouldn’t be ready to do what I do," she says. "If I couldn’t travel, I wouldn’t be ready to meet individuals, and networking may be a massive a part of my job."
PHOTO: COURTESY OF BLERANDA CITAKU.
Blogger Bleranda Citaku, of fashion web site Blers World, isn't therefore lucky. “I’ve lost plenty of collaborations attributable to the visa scenario," she says. "I lost metropolis Fashion Week." 21-year-old Citaku, UN agency blogs whereas finding out accounting at Pristina University, says typically her visa application is rejected, and typically she doesn’t have enough time to apply; the appliance method will take up to 2 months. These restrictions, however, don’t appear to possess wedged her success — she has over fifty,000 Instagram followers, compared to Saraqi's sixteen,000.
While operating with international fashion brands, Citaku has older primary different people’s cognitive content of her home country: There are 2 instances with brands — one Canadian, one Moroccan — wherever employees failed to understand state even existed. If individuals had detected of it, she says their minds in real time drifted to its unrest within the late '90s.
“If somebody is aware of concerning our country, they need to speak concerning the war,” she says. “But in Pristina [the capital], that feeling of the war, it’s reasonably gone. There square measure plenty of dangerous things here, just like the undeniable fact that we have a tendency to don’t have visas. However there square measure such a lot of tykes, and that I assume the new generation is basically trendy. There square measure smart vibes, in general.”
PHOTO: COURTESY OF BLERANDA CITAKU.
Because visa restrictions forestall such a lot of individuals from traveling outside the Balkan region, blogs and social media became one in all the sole ways that for tykes in state to inform the globe concerning their country. Fashion bloggers, specifically, square measure fighting to regenerate the country’s image abroad; whereas international media options state as a dead finish, undermined by high state, violent anti-government protests, and mass migration, Saraqi and Citaku unveil a distinct facet of Europe’s newest country. On their Instagram accounts, they set street vogue shots against an area background, giving their international followers a glance into way of life in Pristina — one that is stuffed with, like several different major cities, parks, nightlife, and insect markets, and isn't systematically full of conflict.
With no established bloggers within the country to seem to for inspiration, though, Rita and Bleranda square measure exploring chartless territory. However they are not simply tasked with educating state, its firms, and its individuals concerning however this world works — they are tasked with victimization their platforms to sway obsolete international opinions of Kosovo: that the country is not any longer grey and war-worn. Even a lot of crucial than ever-changing outward perception is what they are doing internally: serving to establish AN identity through vogue in a very place that's presently operating to make its own cultural existence through inventive expression. It's that power that reminds the individuals of state that the country has such potential to be a method hub, a creative influencer, and as Saraqi says optimistically, “a happy place."