Belgrade streetwear brand Dechko Tzar is harnessing Serbia’s new-found business optimism and greater access to international markets to create significant uplift in interest and sales at home and abroad.
The entry of PayPal into Serbian market has also added to the environment of opportunity, enabling international shoppers access to home grown products such as Dechko Tzar’s range of fashionable clothing and colourful accessories.
“We would like to be a familiar fashion brand at home, as well as being more successful outside of Serbia. To achieve this we needed to get serious in terms of production, distribution and promotion, which can still be quite a challenge in Serbia.”
While conditions have greatly improved, it was not always this way. Creative minds in Serbia have often had cause to navigate potholes on the road to recognition of their worth and to achieve business success.
“The unemployment rate in Serbia is still really devastating so a lot of people start their own business as a way out,’ said Nikola. “The entrepreneur culture, if we can call it that, is still on a beginners level but all of us try hard, and we are really positive about the business we have built so far.”
“We were very young andquite green back then,’ said Nikola. “But what we had in place of business experience was passion, energy and enthusiasm. That drove us forward and enabled us to overcome issues that could have held us back in the early days.
“The market is completely different now. But we have remained true to our original concept: to create something that is unique and quality.”
The idea for Dechko Tzar was born when the Belgrade brothers were called on to produce a small series of t-shirts for some musician friends.
“The small range featured the band’s logo and a sign Dechko Tzar, which translates as Rude Boy, or Kid Tsar, which was the name of one of their songs. People liked it – the tees sold out – and so our story began.”
Initially Dechko Tzar products were only available to those who knew people behind the brand. But off the back of that success, the creative powerhouse of Nenad and Nikola recognised an opportunity that was theirs to seize.
“Back then there were no skate shops that sold cool foreign brands, and no street wear or t-shirt culture in Serbia,’ said Nikola. “If you wanted to buy something cool, you had to get it from somewhere abroad and they were very expensive for us. We just didn’t think that was right.
“That placed us in a strong position fuelled our original idea: to produce freelance outstanding design solutions, which was something that didn’t exist in Serbia at that time.”
Belgrade designers team up for Dechko Tzar success
As the business took off, some things needed to change. Initially handling all the design work, Nikola and Nenad soon reaslised that they could do with a little help. They also wanted to share their opportunity with like-minded friends.
“The creative world in Belgrade is a small but strong scene of people with some really original ideas,’ said Nikola. “There are a lot of really outstanding designers and illustrators from different generations and we like to work with and support many of them.”
Making up this tight-knit team of Serbian graphic and fashion designer collaborators are Igor Crnatovic, Tamara and Vesna Pesic, Marko Purać, Janko Pocuca, Tuna Fish Studio, Coba & Associates, Nova Iskra, Mikser Haus, Lorum Ipsum, Bratislav Milenkovic, Metaklinika, Design Buro, Popular Bruketa & Zinic, Slavimir Stojanovic and Biskoteka.
Quality, well-designed products with brand credibility
Now expanded to make use of Belgrade’s best creative resources, the designers focussed their efforts on building brand credibility by producing limited editions products with an accent on quality and design, using outstanding printing solutions and original packaging.
“Good design is at the heart of our business. We only produce limited series of superior well-designed products in small quantities to maintain quality, exclusivity and an aspirational feel to Dechko Tzar.
“We believe this is the way to build a cool brand, something that people will want to have and will make them feel special. We do not want to make anything that we are not 100% sure will be a good thing. It needs to be something that we would wear or would like to see our friends wearing.
“We need to retain that level of integrity. I can say that I am pleased with what we have done so far and I am happy about the direction we are taking.
“For now, though, we would be happy that, if you own a Dechko Tzar shirt, then that is thought of as your special shirt. The shirt.”
Credibility, exclusivity and quality synonymous with Dechko Tzar brand
This effective strategy, plus improved production and distribution, helped to establish the credibility, exclusivity and quality that have become synonymous with the Dechko Tzar brand.
It is not just t-shirts that are produced by Dechko Tzar. Since setting up in business, the core team has developed to pull from the best designers and artists in Serbia to produce an extended range with the same trademark style.
As well as the familiar quirky t-shirts and hoodies, there are now Dechko Tzar wallets, socks, knitted beanies, tea towels, mugs, posters and a jigsaw puzzle with a nicely detailed illustration of Belgrade buildings.
“In the future we would like to make some new stuff people would use on daily basis, in their homes, offices or cars,’ said Nikola.
“But t-shirts will always be our core product, because everything started with that. Apart from that we would like to include some new products in collaboration with other companies from Serbia that try to make well designed products.”
Whatever the product, exclusive artwork, based around pop art-style block colour images and retro graphics, such as a popular stag design that proved to be a winter favourite, will remain a constant.
“Inspiration for our designs can come from anywhere,’ said Nikola. “We like to present our ideas from a positive angle, with humour. Where it adds to the impact of the design, we can even be a bit sarcastic.
“Sometimes, though, it can be quite unintentional. We don’t have always something specific to say, but we might have what seems like a random idea and it just works. It feels right. It feels good to wear that idea on your t-shirt. Thankfully, a lot of people seem to feel the same way. It still gives us a real buzz to see someone wearing one of our tees.”
The expanded product range was a natural development of the brand’s success as well as being integral to the team’s plans for Dechko Tzar.
Since 2013, the brand has been commissioned to produce a limited range of official Dechko Tzar branded Belgrade souvenirs that are head and shoulders about the usual tourist tat.
“Belgrade Window, a well-recognised shop in Belgrade’s main square, where you can buy official Belgrade and Serbian souvenirs, were interested in stocking our best selling products that featured some image or name linked to Belgrade or Serbia, not just Dechko Tzar.
“We decided to make something contemporary. Something we, as Belgrade born people, would be happy to wear.
“Belgrade doesn’t have any remarkable visual symbols such as London’s black taxis or police uniforms, New York’s yellow cabs, or Tram 28 in Lisbon. That made it hard at first but we came up with an interesting image of the Belgrade skyline that everybody liked.
“The Belgrade t-shirts also help to spread the word about Dechko Tzar, which is always good.”
As well as being sold in stores across Belgrade and Novi Sad, the current autumn-winter 2014/15 range is available online, including international shipping.
The Dechko Tzar spring summer 2015 collection will be launched in coming months.