In Muamed Malikovski’s family artists were stereotyped as associated with financial trouble and lacking a professional future. Muamed had a strong interest in art and design from childhood onwards but since he was also a good student in almost all other subjects in school, he chose law as a profession when the time came for university.
With hard work, Muamed had high marks at the law faculty, but just before graduation something happened. “Everyone around me, including my family, expected me to be someone that wasn’t me, someone that I’ve never met in my soul. I knew it – I didn’t belong to that world, and I decided to listen to my heart and follow my dreams,” says Muamed.
Living the dream
He decided to enrol in the Faculty of Fashion Design at Goce Delchev University in Stip, North Macedonia. The decision to study fashion design was not an easy choice but as soon as Muamed started his fashion studies, he started sketching illustrations to bring his innovative ideas for fashion to life. “It was challenging for me because I didn’t have any support from my family or friends. I was being told all the time: ‘You can’t do it’. ‘Come on, give it up, you won’t succeed’. ‘You should be a lawyer’,” says Muamed.
Starting a new brand and entering the fashion market is challenging and the future looked tough for Muamed. In 2020, just when he was thinking of giving up, Muamed heard about a Council of Europe co-funded project, run by the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC), that supports young Roma in creative and business endeavours. Thanks to ERIAC and its funding, Muamed finally got the opportunity to turn his passion into a business.
But this was just a start and Muamed was aiming for much greater success. He did not have a store, and opening one required considerable financial investment, which Muamed was not able to cover. Then the pandemic started. Along with the suffering and trouble it caused, it also opened up new ways of doing business. Another EU-funded project – Roma Digital Boost supported by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) – helped Muamed overcome this next challenge.
Roma Digital Boost trained Muamed on online sales, the creation of a brand and visual identity for his company, and management and promotion on social media channels. “The EU-funded Roma Digital Boost project helped me take my business to the next level, and start the journey to becoming a well-known brand,” says Muamed.
Now he has launched his first important fashion collection, inspired by traditional Roma costumes. His Aurora design won second place in the Miss Freedom of the World competition and another design was chosen as the best national costume at the Miss Summer 2021 competition in Albania. His vision for the future is to open a bigger fashion studio in North Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, and then expand to the international market. “Even if it seems impossible to others,” says Muamed, “let’s create stories together worth telling loudly and proudly.”
Although RCC’s Roma Integration project works mainly at the level of policy, the project continues to support programmes that work directly with Roma communities. The Roma Digital Boost – which the RCC supports both financially and with human resources – is one of these programmes and is particularly important because it helps to speed up the process of digitalisation within Roma communities.
“Without digital skills, there is no moving forward with the integration process in any field, including quality education, equal participation in the labour market, access to public and health services, and access to information. Highly motivated people like Malikovski are the best examples of how the Roma community can contribute to the ongoing transformations of our economies,” says Orhan Usein, Regional Cooperation Council Roma Integration Head of Office.
Meanwhile, Muamed says, “I encourage everyone, and in particular Roma young people, to listen to their hearts and follow their dreams. Never give up on what makes you happy in your life. And always be yourself!”
About the project
The Roma Integration project aims to reduce the socio-economic gap between the Roma and non-Roma population in the Western Balkans and Turkey, and to strengthen the institutional obligations of governments to incorporate and deliver specific Roma integration goals in mainstream policy developments. It is implemented by the Regional Cooperation Council, with the financial support of the European Union and the Open Society Foundations.
Photo credits: RCC
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