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by Sandra Biscarini
Behind the scenes is Refiela Shoraj, born in Albania who grew up in Florence, she has transformed fashion with a very personal expression of freedom. Refiela is a beautiful twenty-three year old with a Tuscan accent. At the age of nine, while waiting to cross the road, she was hit by a truck which crushed her leg, leaving her in a coma and then in a wheelchair, and, in the end, lame. She told me what had happened when I, slightly embarrassed, addressed the question, knowing that she had already been asked the same one a million times.
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The Refiela I met is a beautiful, poised young woman with an extraordinary elegance in front of the camera. She doesn’t just wear beautiful clothes; she reinterprets the style making it her own. In May, she’ll be returning to her hometown of Vlora in Albania for the Albanian Award for Excellence, in recognition of the top 100 Albanians who have distinguished themselves throughout the world.
«Fighting for something is what I do every second of my existence». A battle cry at the beginning of your journey into the glittering world of fashion?
«The blog was born from the need to create a space in which to recount my experiences, the passion I have for fashion and to overcome the constant sense of inadequacy that I felt for years as the ‘disabled Albanian girl’. The ‘Invalid Mode’ is and continues to be, a journey where I understand that the cesspool from which I emerged could actually enrich my life».
Thirty thousand followers following your advice when it comes to make up, style and aesthetics. Dozens of collaborations as a fashion designer for the best-known designers and international brands. The tale of a caterpillar becoming a beautiful butterfly?
«Learning to love is the prerequisite for loving others. Learning to love means facing life with the right amount of light heartedness and serenity, redeeming oneself from prejudice and hypocrisy. The same goes for fashion which is basically a huge act of love. Fashion is inspiration and creativity, passion and style, uniqueness and sophistication».
Do you think having a passion can lead to work?
«Today fashion has become, to all intents and purposes, my work. It’s an exciting job but also a tiring one due to the constant need to research up and coming trends, and having the guts to take a chance on new ideas. Fashion provides a hotbed of opportunities that can expand horizons and narrow differences. Personally, I love to experiment by throwing together looks that are similar to my personal taste and the way I see life. Fashion is never about approval, but an expression of distinctiveness».
Then there’s a business and the ability to combine an artistic vocation and demand…
«The challenge is to merge creative expression and usability. Fashion should be for everyone. Above all, it cannot be limited to a circuit of the same people, however virtuous. We need to make way for the young and their extraordinary means of expression».
With a balance of aspirations and rationality, your youth hasn’t stopped you from keeping your feet firmly on the ground. After graduating from the Academy of Luxury, you have established a successful business as a visual merchandiser, you’re close to graduating in economics of finance, and as well as all this you’ve also found time to manage the family boutiques in Tirana.
«They’re all connected. I’m convinced that it’s indispensable to use the right tools for today’s fashion to convey the world of couture and design. The contemporary world is multitasking. It’s a fusion of experiences and professionalism. Fashion represents excellence and as such must be nurtured and, of course, promoted».
What’s your next challenge?
«I’m about to launch my own brand. It’s called ‘Nume’, (the God of reason which is the essence of people). It’s a ‘total look’ for men and women with a rock feel to it – made up of shoes, accessories as well as handbags, clothing and styling. It will be a collection that reflects my true essence, my experience, and above all my strength and determination».
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