How designer Maria Gulina fuels her creative passions at home

As part of photographer Jasmine Engel-Malone’s ongoing project, ‘Girls at Home’, her most recent creative collaboration is with designer and multi-disciplinary artist Maria Gulina. In this photo series, Engel-Malone is shining a light on women's spaces where they feel most comfortable, aiming to capture the beauty in creative freedom. Here, she follows Gulina, who has been working on her eponymous fashion brand since its inception in 2017. Hoping to branch into various forms of creative expression, Gulina is pictured here as she speaks to us about her passions, including widening the community of women in the streetwear scene.

How would you describe your creative practice?

I’m a London-based fashion designer. I started my namesake brand Maria Gulina in 2017. I mainly specialise in product design, photography, creative direction, and curation. I don’t like to put myself in a box as I’m always very hands-on and interested in every aspect of running the business.

What inspired you to start designing and what was the journey to doing this as a job?

Realising quite early on that clothing is a big part of my self-expression, I started to create things for myself. This developed into wanting to share my creations with the people around me and later on with a wider audience. I started off meeting and taking photos of people that I’d connected with online, which developed into more people finding out about the brand and it grew very organically from that.

What gap were you aiming to fill?

At the time when I started my business, there weren’t many brands that I connected with. I found myself filling a gap in streetwear that was aimed at females. The streetwear scene has always been dominated by men and this helped me create a big community with women in the industry.

How would you say your clothing brand is different from others?

The community aspect of my brand has always run deep. It’s been more important for me to create a space for people to feel like they belong and spread a message of ‘more love’, rather than the focus being on profits. Love and connection have always been the first reason why I do this.

What’s been your favourite project so far?

Everything I’ve ever released holds a special place, but if I had to choose, it would have to be the Harmonic Dreams collection. It was released during lockdown after a factory I had been working with since the launch of my business closed down and I lost all of my hard work. I had to re-develop everything from scratch for this collection. Even though this was one of the hardest times in my business, it turned out to be a very rewarding experience because of the amazing response from my audience. I called the collection Harmonic Dreams because I wanted to create some harmony in all the chaos that was happening around me.

What are the things that make you feel creatively inspired?

I take inspiration from every aspect of life and I definitely don’t take the conventional approach when designing my clothes. I’m mostly inspired by my own life experiences as well as the people I meet and my own feelings. I always say I want my clothes to make you feel like a hug.

What do you do if you’re in a creative rut?

For me, motivation comes from creating when I don’t feel like it. It all starts with feeling good mentally and physically. That begins with eating healthy, staying hydrated, moving my body, and spending time alone. I always try to work through stagnant stages, but sometimes you just need a reset. Spend some time off with people you love doing wholesome activities.

What does your day-to-day routine look like?

It depends on my schedule but most days I try to keep it as open as possible to allow my day to flow freely. I love spending my mornings cuddling my cats and I must have my morning coffee. Owning your own business, no day is the same so every day my routine is different. But the main things I try to do is go to the gym, on walks in nature, design, shoot and hang out with friends.

Do you have a productivity hack? 

Spend some time alone, write a to-do list, and stay off my phone. Those 3 usually do the trick.

When I’m not really feeling productive I’ll do those then try to cross off all the things that take me 5 minutes or less to complete. Ticking things off gives me the motivation to do more, so I then move on to doing some of the bigger tasks.

What do you do to celebrate your career successes?

I’m not big on celebrating because I never feel like I’ve achieved anything until months go by and then it just hits me one day. So, I just try to have a balance where I let myself take time off and spend time with people I love.

Where do you see your creativity taking you? 

The possibilities are endless and I’m constantly figuring out the next steps. As of now, I’m working on the next collection and I’m very excited to share that. But in the future, I’d like to explore other parts of design outside of fashion. I’m always open to new possibilities and whatever I dive into I will always have a creative drive that will never stop.

PhotographerJasmine Engel-Malone