Mirjana Josifoska and her hats - A.Samardjiev

Mirjana Josifoska and her hats - A.Samardjiev

A young student, designer and entrepreneur from North Macedonia decided to make her dreams come true by developing hats produced by reusing waste materials. The idea is enjoying great success

27/03/2024 -  Aleksandar Samardjiev Tetovo

A 25-year-old girl takes the leftovers from different textile factories in Tetovo to create women's clothes and hats, thus helping to re-imagine the role of landfills in North Macedonia, a country where the process of waste recycling is still under-developed. What is garbage for someone, for Mirjana Josifoska is a job and a way to help protect the natural environment in the city, which is known for scattered waste and polluted air.

Mirjana says that she is the only producer of hats in the country. Her innovative ideas and her eco-business enterprise have been earning her cash prizes and awards for several years. Mirjana is currently nearing the end of her university education in fashion design, and has also completed a one-year academy.

“Most of the textile waste comes in smaller quantities, and to produce one hat you only need 30 cm of material. Our models are sustainable and ethically produced in Tetovo, and are handmade in three sizes - available for every head”, said Mirjana Josifoska. “From the remains of the production of the hats, we produce hair clips with a ‘zero-waste’ tailoring technique, which in the end leaves no waste at all”.

Even as a child she loved to draw, and that is how she developed her talent. As a teenager, Mirjana wanted to have clothes that were not available in the city, so she asked her parents to buy her a sewing machine. She researched sewing techniques on the Internet and started making her own clothes.

“I realised that it is very difficult to sew, especially clothes, but I didn't give up. My grandmother, who worked in a textile factory, helped me. I also started taking courses in fashion and clothing design, I did various experiments”, adds Mirjana. “It was already time for university and I decided on fashion design, where I learnt about sustainability – that is, the reuse of remnants of textile materials in order to reduce the amount of waste and make a new product”.

After participating in a student workshop titled “Sustainable story”, she decided to start working only with hats. The students received leftovers from factories and needed to make a product to be presented at a show. Mirjana created a clothing collection called "Memory of a City" inspired by Tetovo, its problems with pollution and the emigration of young people. Hats were part of the collection.

“While making hats, I was interested in the production process and I realised that there is no such production in our country. I did some research and so I set my sights on making hats. I found it very interesting: it's different from designing clothes and you can differentiate yourself from others”, Mirjana shares.

As young student in 2022, she took a big step forward: she took a grant from the government measures for self-employment and started creating and selling hats. At the end of the same year, with her innovative and ecological idea, she took part in the accelerator programme “Up Lift Balkan” for young business-people and won a grant for 4,000 Euros. Mirjana also received similar support from the University of Southeast Europe, where she was awarded for accelerating the development of green businesses led by women.

In October 2023, Mirjana won the regional Balkan competition "Green Ideas from the Balkans" in the green business category, while in December 2023 she was included in a new accelerator programme organised by the US government administration and the University of Arizona.

“The programme is named ‘GIST Innovates the Balkans’: 12 start-ups – including mine – were engaged, first with training in Kosovo, then nine weeks of online work with mentors from the USA. In the end, six of us were invited to a big event in the USA (Venture devils demo day) where we presented our ideas”, says Mirjana. “Besides the monetary award, the experience I got from the American way of working is of even greater value. I learnt a lot about a different and successful model of business development”.

Her ideas continue to receive support from other programmes. She is now applying to one in Germany in the field of circular economy. Among the 20 nominated businesses, only hers and another one from Serbia are from the Balkan countries. Now she expects to finish the process of evaluation by the jury and voting on the Internet, and the main prize brings as much as 25,000 Euros.

As Mirjana tells us, 9000 tons of textile waste are created in textile factories every year in North Macedonia, so there is plenty of material. She gets her inspiration from women like Sofia Loren, Anita Ekberg and others.

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