#GramGen is a series profiling the most radical characters in youth culture, who continue to shape trend behavior and spark controversy through their avant fashion sense and candid social media personalities.
Meet Jovana Matic, aka @joviilaiin. Based in Switzerland with Serbian and Bosnian origins, this 22-year-old streetwear enthusiast works full-time for a chemical company while taking on fashion-related projects as a side gig. Moreover, Jovana's role as a fashion influencer is not unknown to her 25k followers; with her shaved head and penchant for unisex clothing, she challenges the idea of gender norms in fashion with her fervent interest in men's clothing.
We caught up with Jovana to get her opinion on mainstream fashion's current obsession with Eastern European aesthetics, why she loves dressing in "bad boy" clothing and what upsets her the most about people in the industry.
How old are you?
I’m 22 years old.
Where are you from and where do you live currently?
I'm of Bosnian and Serbian descent, but I was born and raised in Basel, Switzerland.
What is your occupation?
I studied economics and now I'm working as an operational excellence coordinator for a chemical company. It’s an office job and super strategic. I love the people I’m surrounded by and the different tasks. I'm sure you don't have a clue about what this position actually is (laughs), but I don't want to go too deep into this. In my free time I’m working as a Creative Director and I do modeling sometimes.
Loads of people also call me an "influencer." It’s nice to hear that people get inspired by me. Some of the brands I work with are super international: adidas, Paul Smith, Moncler and many others. Most of the jobs are freelance and I love the freedom to choose who you want to work with for every job. It makes it super interesting and you can learn a lot of new things. At the moment I’m traveling almost every weekend to other cities for different jobs. It’s crazy!
How long have you been collecting streetwear?
I've been into fashion for almost three years now, not that long as others I guess.
What are your favorite brands at the moment?
I do not really have favorite brands, as this changes super often. One I really like at the moment is Gosha Rubchinskiy, simply because the brand provides quality garments which are not even that expensive compared to other brands. Also, everything about the strategy and concept is dope AF, from the aesthetics to the models. I need to be captivated by the way something is presented, that's how I can start to like a brand.
How would you describe your style?
I was never interested in women's fashion. The best clothes are the comfortable ones: baggy and oversized, that's me! Anything that is skinny makes me feel like a sausage. I'm just not used to it.
Nowadays the genres do not assume a role anymore, which is cool. Boys dress like girls, girls dress like boys. There is nothing wrong about it as long as you feel comfortable with it. Me and my brother always share clothes, so it's a win-win situation I would say (laughs). I love hoodies and track pants...the "bad boy" look (laughs).
How much do you spend on clothes a month?
When I first got interested in fashion I spent a lot of money for expensive designer pieces. With time, I realized that fashion is more than just big and expensive brands. I always had my own style and mixed brands in my own way.
I rarely shop now, and if I do, it's nothing compared to how I used to buy. Brands send me a lot of free clothes so I don't have to spend so much money anymore. My style turned super simple.
What’s the most you’ve ever spent on a piece of clothing?
I think it was around €1,800 for an Acne coat...isn’t that crazy?!
How do you afford everything you buy?
I studied super hard in school. Instead of going out clubbing with friends, I spent time with my books at home. When I finished studying I earned my first paycheck and could afford such expensive things. Switzerland has a great school system so I’m super happy about how everything turned out. I have an amazing job and I’m my own boss. That’s how I wanted it to be!
Do you prefer quality over quantity or quantity over quality?
Quality over quantity. Vivienne Westwood once said, “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody’s buying far too many clothes.”
How do you feel about the recent interest in Eastern European fashion designers within the industry today? (Gosha, Vetements, Balenciaga, etc.)
My parents were born in socialist-era Yugoslavia. There's a massive history about this part of the world with which I grew up in. During the Balkan conflicts, the Orthodox people from Serbia and Bosnia got a lot of support from the Russians. My dad had to learn Russian in school and English wasn’t important at all. It's really impressive for me to see how this “Post-Soviet” trend is blowing up.
Whenever I’m in Serbia or Bosnia, I see those cool kids with the track pants in their socks, shaved head, hoodies – it’s so typical! I totally see myself as a part of it. It’s something that isn’t just fashion for me; it’s a part of the world that nobody ever understood, except for the people who grew up with it.
The Slavic languages and the Cyrillic alphabet are super weird for strangers, but for me it’s just normal. I think that most people do not even know what is written on the Gosha sweaters they bought. Following those trends really gives me a feeling of being home and feeling accepted. We all know about the big fashion metropolises, but our part of the world is totally different, you cannot even imagine! The life over there is so simple and people are happy with what they have, even if it’s nothing.
The Eastern countries never played a big role in the fashion world, but now a few designers and stylists made it, such as Gosha Rubchinskiy, Demna Gvasalia and Lotta Volkova. It's not just a trend, it’s a statement. We are here, and we will do great things!
Do you get a lot of private messages on your social media platforms? How do you respond to the haters and weirdos?
Actually, yes. I really try to answer most of the people. Sometimes I’m super bad at answering, but I really try to make time for the people who are interested in my life and what I do. It’s all about making connections nowadays. You never know who can open a new door in your life and I really like to share my visions and experiences.
To be honest, it is super rare that someone leaves a bad comment on a pic or that I receive a bad message, but if it happens, I mostly ignore it.
Do you think that people in the streetwear community treat you differently because you are a girl?
Not really. I never had the feeling that I missed out on something. It doesn’t matter if you are a girl or a boy...if you are into it, you are into it.
Are there any women in the industry who you look up to?
I never had any idols in my life except for my mum. When I was a little girl, I always cared about how I dressed and tried out many different things. My mum is definitely a part of this whole story and I always look up to her and the way she dresses. She has a great sense of style.
My friends also inspire me a lot. We all share our experiences and latest fashion trends together. It’s cool to have this network and it’s also important to progress.
What do you see yourself doing in a few years? What career ambitions do you have?
I do not want to think about the future to be honest. Life never takes the direction you want it to. There are so many factors which can change your ambitions immediately and I really like my life the way it is right now and I appreciate all the opportunities I get.
But who knows what will happen tomorrow, in three months or a few years. Maybe I will be a housewife, taking care of my kids and not caring about fashion at all anymore. I’m living for the moment, that’s all you have to know about me.
What do you love and hate the most about fashion right now?
Sometimes I get really scared about how fast peoples' personalities change in this industry. As soon as they reach a certain number of followers or have 2-3 proper jobs they think they’re not from this planet. We are all the same, whether you work in music, fashion, sports, etc.
You have to stay grounded and focus on yourself. It makes me super sad sometimes, but all I can say is to never forget who you are and how you were at the beginning. Never change for someone just to get “famous” or to get a “hype.” Just be you!
But there are many things that I love about fashion. It’s a daily inspiration, something I could talk about for ages. There are so many different visions and stories, so many creative young people who collaborate with each other and the network established throughout the world makes the whole fashion industry so interesting and special. There is always something new going on and it's never boring. The best thing about it is that we are ALL are a part of it.
Need some more sneaker inspiration for your Instagram feed? Then you should probably follow @selmakacisebbagh.