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ANA BABIĆ - DO WHAT YOU LOVE, LIVE WHAT YOU DO.
Every year there are more and more domestic “street fashion“ brands in the streets of Belgrade. As time goes by some become more, and some less recognizable, while Škrabac has been very special, unusual and thus recognizable from the very beginning.
Ana’s drawings are vivid representations of wisdom, proverbs, sayings and anecdotes, anything that sounds fun in any given moment. Anything can be used for inspiration. The very idea to transfer drawings from paper to clothing and decorative objects was born, as Ana says, spontaneously, instigated by the wish of her friends to take their drawings “for a walk” on their t-shirts.
One of the things the brand Škrabac is especially proud of is exclusive cooperation with local productions and suppliers, which means that it’s all really MADE WITH LOVE IN SERBIA.
We have put a seemingly easy task before Ana, just like with Marko a week before. They were to choose five locations in Belgrade special to them, locations that speak about the alternative spirit of the city. Unlike our previous guide, Ana was not born in Belgrade, but her love for this city was palpable in every moment of our conversation. She admitted that she was not sure until the very last moment which five corners she would like to share with us. Though Belgrade is a city where everybody knows everybody, which is a generally accepted truth for its inhabitants, possibilities it offers are limitless. New places appear every day. And we still ache for the old, cult places from the past. That’s why it seems that the number of hidden corners, aa well as topics of conversation, is inexhaustible.
Ana’s first choice, and our starting place from which we shall continue through town in our MINI, is the bar-restaurant Telma.
In the city’s very center, still hidden from sight, there is the bar-restaurant Telma together with the caffé Nixon. Besides sharing the same gate, and a bit of the courtyard, it is more than obvious that these two establishments also share the atmosphere and the people who visit them. Though we were officially sitting in Telma, there was no clearly defined division line between the two places, and it seems it was done on purpose. Pleasant garden, with even more pleasant atmosphere. You lose the impression of downtown and city heat. And the patrons? Some lost in thought and conversations, others staring into the remains of their working day. Everybody in his or her own world, existing together in peace. To those who know Belgrade well, but also to the Belgradians, this picture is really unexpected.
Sipping our coffee, we finally managed to put Ana in the “hot seat“ and started with our questions.
II: How do you see the concept of alternative in Belgrade?
AB: (sighing) You know what, Belgrade is a big city, where a lot of things happen every day. Accordingly, there are places and people in Belgrade who represent the real alternative scene of a metropolis, but also there are those trying hard, more or less, but in a wrong way for sure, to be alternative. That is some “fake“ alternative and you can see it more and more around. Or maybe better words are “mainstream“ alternative. A paradox.
Just like every other modern city, Belgrade has both.
That is why it’s getting harder and harder to declare certain places to be alternative. They are often established with such intention, but since the market dictates its own rules, they soon transform into something else. Into a bigger cash machine. (smiling)
II: I suppose it’s not by accident that this place is our starting spot?
AB: Specifically, I really like to spend time here, whether by day or by night. So, this was automatically the first place I wanted to share with you.
My favorite time in Telma is Monday evening.
II: Indeed? Monday? Isn’t it that one evening when everybody stays home “crying“ over the start of the working week?
AB: The most diverse profiles of people visit here. Those undeclared, since declarations are not important to them. There, let’s say that it is an alternative to today’s society. And Monday is the day when you have jazz evenings here, and then, besides the mandatory jazz music, there are no rules. On stage, musicians come and go, different in their music style, different in age. (smiling) They join each other playing. In the audience you can meet practically everyone, whether you know them “from downtown” or through work. You must simply expect the unexpected.
I can easily say that this is the melting pot of different generations of Belgrade’s cultural scene.
II: Age is not important, but spirit is?
AB: When I think about the alternative Belgrade, honestly, I get annoyed a bit. Forcing the saying: “to be alternative means to be different” lost all sense long ago. For instance, they asked me once for whom is Škrabac intended? And I didn’t know how to explain that Škrabac is simply for ALL who have a good sense of humor.
So now, when I rethink, exactly because we didn’t create it with the idea that it was a brand intended for “urban people”, maybe it’s even more alternative than others. I am surely happy because of the fact that my design is worn by everyone and that I am still not declared in any possible way. (smiling)
To be alternative in Belgrade today, at least to me, definitively means to be FAITHFUL TO YOURSELF. That’s where the beauty is, actually. To know exactly what you want to achieve and where you want to get. Whether it’s a matter of business, in my case design, or a matter of life in general. You surely must be ready to make a compromise or two, but at the end of the day… BE YOUR OWN.
Time flies In nice atmosphere, with great people, so we had to leave behind the garden of Telma (and of the Nixon Caffé), quite sure we’d be back again, maybe even the next Monday evening.
In front of the gate, our MINI had found itself MINI company, so we were even more positive you might meet real MINI cars aficionados here.
Ah, will that Monday come already?
We pressed on, planning to leave the downtown area in order to avoid the rush at the end of the working day. We went towards the Fairgrounds and Ada. Ana had chosen Dogma as our next destination.
II: Ana, why are we here?
AB: I’ve been living in Belgrade for the last 12 years. I moved several times and I lived in quite different places and surroundings, so I must notice that every municipality in Belgrade has a completely different style. Just like Belgradians. The ones from Zemun are not the same as the once from Dorćol, or New Belgrade. Sounds like a part from a joke, but still, even if you feel that your “hood” dictates the style of living, I have been sitting in a park in all of those neighborhoods and drinking beer with the crew, whether I was living in Dorćol or Karaburma. People are different in their styles and affinities, but in spirit they are all ultimately - Belgradians.
Through all those life stages, coming one after another, moving from one part of the city to the other, meeting new people, it is logical that I got to know new places as well.
Miners Pub is a place in Dorćol I fell in love with after the first “sitting“. As it often happens in this town, when you frequent some place long enough, you stop being a guest and become “friend of the joint”. I think it had happened to every real Belgradian at least once, had it not? So they organized my second exhibition in Miners Pub. And for me it will always remain a very emotional moment of my life.
II: Ana, (smiling) why are we here, then, and not in Miners Pub?
AB: I must admit that this is also the first visit here for me. The people “holding” Miners Pub have established this place some time ago, and for weeks I was aching to come here. When you invited me to be your MINI guide through the alternative Belgrade, I rejoiced in the opportunity to discover a new place together with you. The place which is going to be, because of the people building it, pure Belgrade’s alternative, I’m quite sure. (Laughing)
Without false embellishment, I admit that I like to drink beer. Belgrade finally has a new place where you can not only drink “craft“ beer, but also observe its production process. And the most interesting thing, here you can drink just BEER, exclusively. The whole concept is based on love for beer, its aroma and taste. Preventing you to enjoy any other beverage except beer is one of the things that make it alternative to the whole deluge of coffee shops and bar, which you can see in Belgrade wherever you go.
I don’t know how you feel here, but this is fabulous to me.
Since she had discovered in our conversation that our next destination was just around the corner, we were not in a great hurry, so we allowed ourselves to quickly enjoy in a glass of quality beer.
We recommend it to everyone for these hot days.
And immediately around the corner from Dogma, we find KPGT.
Caffé, bar, restaurant, club, theatre. I even know about the weddings and anniversary celebrations held there.
We went to KPGT exhilarated, but we didn’t know what was going on there.
II: Thrill is evident in this visit to KPGT. I am sure that its “stage” reminds many, just like me, of fine emotions, especially the ones connected to Belgrade’s “clubbing“ scene. Why is this place special to you?
AB: The topic of my diploma work was design of a space. Unfortunately, and later to my luck, all places recommended in my school were boring. Not one of them managed to spark creative energy in me, so I was desperate. Then, my professor of scenography recognized my misery and she brought me here.
II: You had an epiphany?
AB: (smiles) I’d rather say it was like “Alice in Wonderland“. Not one drawing of this place, most certainly not a technical one, existed. We had to measure and draw everything. It seemed there was no logic in it, as if nothing was where it should have been. But it all still stands.
Just in that first rush I got to know this space on so many levels that it’s astonishing. So many stories. So many anecdotes.
Ana’s eyes got misty at the moment we were stepping into KPGT, although smile never left her face. Honestly, the rest of us were excited as well. We’d all had memories connected to this place, frozen in space and time.
We heard the sounds of piano and voices of several actors from the rooms inside the premises – they had some kind of rehearsal and they were obviously having a lot of fun. KPGT is still alive.
Though everything had changed around it, this place remained intact. Just like we love to remember it. A pearl the alternative Belgrade way back when. And it survives, in its own way.
Instead of neglected and forgotten space, we encountered music and laughter. Much more than we were hoping for.
While we were getting into our MINI, Ana told us that she would now take us to some ice cream. Our next station was Crna Ovca (The Black Sheep). So there we were again in Kralja Petra St., shoemaker’s street from the past ages.
Just like any other city, Belgrade is a victim of trends. And the trend of little ice-cream shops with the most varying flavors took town by storm in recent years.
II: Why did you choose precisely this ice cream parlor, and what is so alternative and special to you here?
AB: (smiliing) I think that I have been eating their ice cream from their very opening. Furthermore, while I was living in Dorćol, I think I had ice cream here every day. Most difficult days for me were the ones when I was on some kind of diet. I can abstain from absolutely everything but ice cream. For me, that’s soul-food. (laughing)
Anyway, Crna Ovca was among the first ice cream parlors, I think there was only MoritzEis before them. But regardless of the fact who was there first, I found my favorite ice cream in Crna Ovca, and I eat it even today. And no, I won’t tell you what flavor it is, but I can let you taste it (laughing).
All in all, I don’t visit here just for the ice cream. I like the atmosphere. I like people who come here, but I also like the staff. I like light conversation while we sit on the parapet of the window and lick sweet ice. For me, they will always be alternative, since they “push“ their special story, reflected in the quality of the ice cream and palette of flavors which is, you’ll agree, insane. In spite of many years of competition growing all around, they remain their own. That is why they represent the alternative.
For the end of the day, Ana took us where she frequently finishes her working time. Under the motto “healthy body means healthy mind”.
Our last stop is the CrossFit club Prvi Tim (The First Team).
II: It is well known that they had brought CrossFit to Belgrade with a bang. Also, it is well known that the interior of the club is industrial, and at one time that was a bit shocking. But why is this place exactly one of your top 5 Belgrade’s alternative corners?
AB: Sport is very important in my life for a couple of years back. I feel stronger and healthier since I work out regularly. It’s true that you can practice sports anywhere, but the atmosphere created by people who exercise here is unbelievable. Sometimes I can hardly wait for the end of the day to come here and sweat out all my bad energy. Work out a little, socialize a little, and have a good laugh for sure.
Here, everything is “arranged“ in sync with people who had created this place. So it makes no sense to question the alternative side of Prvi Tim. It is certainly here, though in some stages this place even used to be “mainstream“. Still, those waves of popularity, to call them that, haven’t changed this place at all. They remained faithful to themselves, and that’s the trait I respect immensely.
Here we parted ways with Ana, who went on, even though she wanted to stay and work out, because business is business, and she’s living and breathing the business of her own.