Meet the Maker: Eva Dragoeva of UNDERDOCK

Tell us a little about your business – what is it you make?

My label UNDERDOCK® is a fashion label for adventurous women who love coastal style. As part of the label I create clothing and earrings from existing clothes, fabric remnants and deadstock materials. Having lived by the sea for nearly 18 years – I draw inspiration from it. There is so much that I take from it and translate into the label – textures, forms, silhouettes and the general feel of life by the sea.

How did you get started in your creative field?

When I was a teenager I decided that I wanted to be a fashion designer. I always created ideas on paper but did not know how to execute them in practice or whether my ideas were even possible to make. They were rather avant-garde. As a result – I went to university to study fashion design and since then I have done some extra courses on particular components of fashion design – including circular design fundamentals. This is something that now really excites me. I used to create clothes in a way that was not very sustainable but it was very imaginative.

Since starting UNDERDOCK® – I have made it my mission to make both conscious decisions when it comes to design, while also creating clothes and jewellery that people love wearing. The key is finding the right balance between imaginative and wearable fashion.

Talk us through your creative process…

It really depends as each collection is different. For my first collection for UNDERDOCK® I mostly worked on my mannequin. I bought a lot of second hand shirts and started cutting into them and reimagining clothing components in a different way. Could the collar become something else, could the button stand be used as a fastening elsewhere?

I also created a collection of pockets. This idea came to me when I thought about something my partner used to do. He’d reuse old canvases by repainting them white and then painting on top. Clothing is much the same. It can be used as a blank canvas and details can be added. So I drew around 50 pocket designs with geometric shapes that reminded me of coastal rock structures and chose a few to showcase how clothes can be transformed through the addition of small details.

These days I am more and more fascinated by the idea of clothes being made with the intention of disassembly and reassembling and this is something I am currently working on – I look forward to sharing it soon!

What sort of space do you work in?

I have my own sewing space and a sewing room, which acts more as a storage space for clothes and materials right now. My active sewing space has my second hand industrial sewing machine Alice. I just love that machine. It also has some handy measuring and button dressing tools and my mannequins. It is right next to a green garden space, so I do sometimes get distracted by birds and squirrels running out there. But the natural light, especially as days get longer, is great there.

What are the values behind your business?

UNDERDOCK® is about embracing adventure, individuality and imagination. Upcycled clothes are one of a kind pieces, the versatile earrings can be paired with various outfits by the wearer because of their classic designs. 

And of course sustainability is one of the main reasons I do what I do in the way I do it. And I am not using the terms ‘sustainability’ lightly. UNDERDOCK® clothing that is made from existing materials such as men’s shirts and trousers, does not require new fabric resources. Original seams are kept where possible, which means less energy is used to create a redesigned UNDERDOCK® garment. The brand doesn’t use animal products, threads used are made from recycled plastic, I have started using organic cotton where possible and packaging is plastic-free. 

Where do you find creative inspiration? Please feel free to include people/artists you are inspired by.

Creatively – a beach walk always gives me many ideas but inspiration can really strike anywhere. I like geometric forms, so urban architecture and origami forms are also things I find particularly inspiring. And when it comes to organic textures – I love abstract biological forms – from the shape of seaweed to microorganisms. When I was an aspiring designer my favourite designer was John Galliano – I love his creative genius. These days I find a lot of inspiration from UK based brand Elvis & Kresse. They make bags and accessories from fire hoses. They have turned their true passion for resolving the problem of materials waste through design into reality and have made it into a huge success. Their work inspires me to do better because I can see what’s possible.

Are there themes that run through your work?

For UNDERDOCK® striped materials are a regular feature. I simply love nautical stripes and they work well with the brand. I used to create more asymmetric shapes but these days I rely on symmetry more. I enjoy using contrasting panels and making clothes that have small details that make them memorable but not over-the-top. 

What do you love most about making?

I love the possibility it opens for creative ideas to come to life. I also love that sometimes what I initially intended to do doesn’t work out but something better is created as a result. The design process is my favourite thing and it wouldn’t be possible without the making stage.

Which piece of work are you most proud of?

I am most proud of pieces I’ve seen people just fall in love with. I’ve seen it at markets and on social media. A lot of the time when I’m selling in person I’d get people to try what they like and I have a mirror handy. When their face lights up when they see themselves wearing the UNDERDOCK® piece of their choice  – it really makes my day! 

Describe your work in three words…

Creative nautical adventures

Eva Dragoeva is a fashion designer based in Portsmouth. From an early age she has had creative influences through her mother and grandmother’s personal styles and love for making.

Eva graduated fashion design from the University of Portsmouth in 2011 and since then she has worked in higher education and as a fashion design freelancer. In 2017 she created her sustainable fashion label UNDERDOCK®. The label is inspired by coastal lifestyle and nautical forms and reflects her love of the sea.

Eva makes women’s clothes with a nautical twist that are made from existing clothes, remnants and deadtock fabrics.

Eva’s work has been recently featured in her local media, BBC Radio Solent and ‘Hampshire Life’ magazine and she has participated in collaborative events including the Created in Portsmouth Arts Trail, New Theatre Royal’s ‘Fun Palaces’ and The Inspirational Women of Portsmouth Awards fashion shows.

Eva is committed to learning more and incorporating circular fashion practices in her present and future work. She loves experimentation and champions creativity.

Click here to contact Eva

Click here to visit the Eva Dragoeva website and shop