Back to the origin of inspiration - EU・ジャパンフェスト日本委員会

Back to the origin of inspiration

Neli Mitewa|Fashion designer, curator, artistic director, IVAN ASEN 22 FOUNDATION

The conceptual fashion exhibition and film “+7 HOURS” were presented at BUNKA Fashion University

It was truly “a dream come true”: A conceptual fashion exhibition to come back to Japan from the other side of the world, from Bulgaria! After the long years of confinement and isolation during the pandemic, “+7 HOURS” finally returned to the origin of its inspiration: Japan, and was presented at the iconic BUNKA Fashion University in the year of its 100th anniversary!

A true collaboration of Japanese and Bulgarian fashion designers, students and artists, it actually started in Tokyo, back in January 2019, when we, the actress Irmena Chichikova, the designer and director of the fashion film Aleksandar Gerginov, the production designer Momchil Tasev and me as artistic director and curator of IVAN ASEN 22 conceptual designers’ platform from Sofia, Bulgaria, came to Japan with the idea to search for inspirations within the Japanese culture, to mix them with aspects of our own, and to shoot some film sequences of the future fashion film at crucial places in Tokyo.



We chose some characterized by tradition and history, but also by a contemporary spirit and urban life. We met our Japanese collaborators, the artists Ayako Kobayashi and Roy Mizuno, the composer Ohshi Uemoto, and had a meeting at BUNKA Fashion University where we proposed to the fashion professors that their students join our project and develop their individual designs, inspired by their own, as well as by phenomena of the Bulgarian culture. The initial starting point of each designer’s work was a picture of an authentic Japanese kimono, accompanied by the story of his owner.

The resulting exhibition was one of the key cultural events in the program of PLOVDIV 2019 – European Capital of Culture. Even during the years of the pandemic, the film was selected and shown at numerous festivals and won a large number of accolades. The entire project was awarded the “Big See Fashion Collaboration Award 2020” by Zavod BIG, Center for Creative Economy of Southeast Europe in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

So, after the pandemic restrictions have been released, me and actress Irmena Chichikova finally were able to make another research travel to Japan in January 2023 with the aim to re-open the conversations with our Japanese partners and to realize our plans to present the project at BUNKA Fashion University.

During our fruitful meeting with Ms.Tamiko Ueda from the BUNKA Gakuen Fashion Resource Center, we examined the possibilities for presenting our exhibition and fashion film “+7 HOURS” at an exhibition hall in the University and agreed to find possible dates for that in 2023. We were grateful about the incredible support on behalf of our Japanese partner and friend, Ms.Ayako Kobayashi, who assisted us during the entire communication with BUNKA with translation, coordination and planning.

Back to Bulgaria, we received the good news from BUNKA that they would offer us a great exhibition space placed in BUNKA Gakuen Fashion Resource Center and were extremely honored that the University would enable us to present our exhibition in the year of its 100th Anniversary in May 2023.

During the preparational phase, we made a selection of the designers’ garments and prepared promotional materials, being in constant communication with our Japanese partners, Ms. Kobayashi and Ms. Ueda. Shortly before our travel to Japan in May, another great Japanese collaborator of us, Ms. Mayumi Taniguchi, transmitted to us the good news that Mr. Yuu Yonai, a Japanese from the volunteer organization she leads, would like to join the setup of our exhibition in BUNKA and also be our making-of-photographer!

Directly after our arrival in Japan, on May 10th, we did the exhibition setup at BUNKA with the dedicated support of Yuu, Ayako, Ms. Ueda and her assistants. The designers’ garments were displayed on mannequins, and the fashion film was prepared to be projected on a wall in a special corner of the space.

+7HOURSxBUNKA_exhibition1 ©︎ Aleksandar Gerginov


On May 11, 2023, the official opening of “+7 HOURS X BUNKA” was attended by the President of the University, the director of the Fashion Resource Center, teachers, students, guests from the Bulgarian community. We were extremely delighted to meet one of our Japanese design collaborators, Miki Ogu, former BUNKA student and meanwhile a graduate working for a famous international fashion brand, who got to know his Bulgarian colleagues. During its duration till May 17th, the exhibition was attended by 200 visitors of BUNKA Gakuen University, Fashion College, Fashion Graduate University, international students, faculty members, external guests.

The feedback from the audience was enthusiastic, provoking discussions about the differences but also about the intertwining of both Japanese and Bulgarian culture.

It was an honor for IVAN ASEN 22 to donate to BUNKA the shoes created by designer Simeon Atanasov for the university archive.

+7HOURSxBUNKA_opening2 ©︎ BUNKA

Our future plans include forthcoming collaborations both on artistic and educational levels with BUNKA, as well as the deepening of our understanding of Japanese culture which continues to inspire us, and which enables this incredible mutual understanding. Coming back to Japan felt in a way like coming home – to a country which will never stop enriching our life with its mystic, magic, modernization of tradition!