From socialism to Vogue: the Croatian shoe company stepping forward
If you’ve walked along a Croatian city street today, you’ve probably seen a Startas. Small and lightweight – and often sporting a quirky pattern – the plimsoll is taking over the streets one comfortable step at a time. They might be nearing ubiquity now, but a few decades ago, Borovo – the company behind Startas – were on the brink of collapse. Their remarkable story is the recent history of Croatia in miniature: founded in 1931 in Vukovar by a Czech entrepreneur, the company was nationalised in 1945 when the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia emerged from the ruins of WWII. The Borovo factory was an industrial beehive – 20,000 employees produced everything from laces to shoeboxes, churning out the footwear that they would themselves wear to work. In 1976, the factory started making Startas. Originally, the sneaker was designed for professional table tennis players – lightweight and flexible with the springiest of soles, it was a perfect athletic shoe. Robert Grgurev, the president of Startas USA, explains how the shoes came to be popular: “Over time, similarly to how Converse started as an athletic shoe and became a cultural icon in the US, Startas was latched onto by the younger generation, school kids and college students. Getting hold of those international brands in former Yugoslavia was impossible, so the Startas became the shoe that any kid wore.” Business boomed and employees multiplied: a whole town, Borovo Naselje, was born nearby, solely to house and sch
Zagreb shopping: 10 things to take home
￼￼Well designed, highly desirable and undeniably useful, here are just some of the cool Croatian products picked out from Zagreb’s growing number of design stores, including Love Ana, Croatian Design Superstore and Take Me Home. What are your favourite products? Have we missed anything out? Tell us what you think in the comments box below, tweet us at @timeoutcroatia or Facebook us here.
Where to shop in Dubrovnik
The Dubrovnik shopping arena is, thankfully, starting to be less dominated by the overpriced tourist shops that once dominated the city, and a few key stores are holding out against these tacky souvenir shops that line the main street of Stradun. Time Out discovers the best places to go shopping in Dubrovnik, from designer boutiques to open-air markets.
Zagreb shopping guide
In Zagreb, shopping has undergone a makeover. From being a staid and rather quaint shopping backwater, the Croatian capital can now justifiably claim to be a hub of contemporary design. But for all these recent developments, Zagreb has not lost its traditional charm. The Dolac market behind the main square is still everyone's first port of call for fresh fruit and vegetables, and second-hand record stores abound. Read on to find out where to go shopping in Zagreb.
Split shopping guide
Though no mecca for contemporary fashion, Croatia's second city is gradually embracing the design revolution that has already swept the capital. Split shopping encompasses anything from funky local design to revered Croatian and international designer brands. Around town, you'll also find independent outlets for locally produced preserves, and for fresh local produce, Split market opens from early doors alongside Diocletian's Palace. Our team of local experts show you where to go shopping in Split.
Recommended shops in Zagreb
Croatian Design Superstore
Arguably the most talked-about opening of spring 2015, this long-awaited design store is pretty much everything the title suggests: a showroom-style display of the best contemporary Croatian-designed products. Stock ranges from the inexpensive and portable, such as the owl-shaped wooden coasters by Gloopy, to more pricey and unwieldy items of furniture like Fluffy-Hairy by Numen/For Use: a sofa so unusual that it will redefine your entire flat. In between, there are plenty of T-shirts, children’s toys, domestic items and even designer olive oils. Pretty much everything here is imaginative, practical and well made, making it the perfect place for quirky but quality souvenirs.
The flagship store of local designers Martina Vrdoljak Ranilović and Nataša Mihaljčišin offers striking designs for women and custom ones for men. Their looks represent Croatia's evolution from looking to more comfortable. Their fashions combine relaxed functionality and elegance with evocative colour combinations. The I-GLE label enjoys cult status in Zagreb, where they have made clothes for several theatre productions, and have gained a foothold at designer stores in the UK and Hong Kong.
Selected by Italian 'Vanity Fair' in March 2011 as one of their top ten new design talents to watch, Roba was founded by Branka Šćepanović in 2007, quickly developing a reputation for elegant but sensual items fashioned from soft supple leather. Roba's garments artfully bridge the gap between high fashion and edgy, almost fetishy clubwear, the labels inside the collar carrying ambiguous messages such as 'This deluxe piece of clothing is a humble answer to the mysteries of mankind'. Roba’s superbly tailored and highly individual leather jackets start at around 3,000kn. Also feast your eyes on Roba's plisse leather tops, and stunning leather dresses. Bags and rucksacks by LongWayBack, and sunglasses by Sheriff&Cherry are in stock too.
Croatia is widely regarded as the original home of the necktie, and this smart store in the Oktogon arcade (just west of the main square) is a successful attempt to turn this heritage into contemporary style. Many know the story of how the necktie was born: while fighting alongside their Croat allies in the 17th century, the French were struck by the Croatian soldiers' scarves. The look became fashionable and the French named the accessory the cravat (the Français-isation of the word Hrvat, or Croat). Croata plays this story hard and has blossomed into Croatia's tie-selling leader with shops all over the country. This location is beautiful with marble and wooden inlay floors, dark wooden display cases and everything awash in manly brass. Besides silk ties – ranging in price from 249kn to 2,000kn, some with Croatian Glagolithic letters and patterns absorbed from local traditions – shelves are stocked with wallets, shoes by Lloyd of Germany, belts, tie clasps, briefcases, fountain pens, tuxedoes, and women's accessories like scarves, handbags, gloves and belts.
Recommended shops in Dubrovnik
Now visitors to Dubrovnik need no longer panic when invited to a VIP party at short notice. Maria describes itself as a concept store but fashion is the focus here. Strategically located at the Ploče Gate, it's one of the few places in Croatia where you can find a battery of major international names such as Givenchy, Stella McCartney and Rick Owens, all laid out in an ample space – with prices to match the quality and atmosphere on offer. Despite this, staff are approachable and in no way snobby. You'll find a long list of designers and styles laid out on the website.
If you've lost, forgotten or galloped through your holiday reads quicker than anticipated, this bookshop is a boon. Half the store is dedicated to English-language publications: from travel guides to bestsellers, classics to heavyweight volumes on politics, history, art and design. Also has an impressive stock of two dozen (pricy) English magazines (Q, Arena, Vogue), postcards, CDs and glossy photographic album histories of Dubrovnik.
The daily market, on a raised square a set of stairs up from Jelačić, has been the city's major trading place since 1926. Farmers from surrounding villages come to sell their home-made foodstuffs and some of the freshest fruit and vegetables you'll ever taste. In the covered market downstairs are butchers, fishmongers and old ladies selling the local speciality sir i vrhnje (cheese and cream). Flowers and lace are also widely available. Alongside, the renovated fish market, ribarnica, sells fresh produce every day but Monday.