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Todor Tumbalev: “I am not a designer. I’m a public figure that makes clothes”

This post is also available in Bulgarian.

It’s a hot August day in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. I’m headed to Todor Tumbalev‘s store – he is a Bulgarian fashion designer I know from the fashion design courses we both attended. He gives me a warm welcome and from the beginning, I’m more than sure that an interesting conversation will follow. Enjoy!

Your brand’s motto is “Modern spirit in classic shapes” and I can see that from each piece of yours. What’s your opinion on fashion trends? 

I am all for conscious fashion. I’ve been a fan of the blazer for years and I wear it on all sorts of occasions. It will never go out of style. Trends are all around us and the items I create are, more or less, influenced by them to some extent. They are important but I never take them too seriously.

Todor and the fashion sketches of his second collection.
Do you remember the first time you put on a suit?

I have a few memories. The first one was when I bought a blazer for my prom. I hadn’t worn one before. It was a little bit longer than the classic one with a looser fit. I styled it with jeans and a purple shirt and it turned out to be quite an outfit! I wore it a lot afterward as well – I’m happy I didn’t toss it at the back of my wardrobe.

My second memory is related to a friend of mine from Viena who knew a person working at Zegna. I already had a few suits and I knew I liked them. Her friend, however, let me try on an expensive one and as I put it on I felt like a completely different person. I said to myself, “Wow!” (laughs).

Sometimes I only need the blazer to feel this way.

Is the blazer the main character of your brand?

Yes. My ideal combination is a suit with a T-shirt. This has been a part of my personal style for years. Today, many people are aware of this style, including in Bulgaria. 4 or 5 years ago this was just getting into fashion. But for me, it has always been a thing. That’s why I aim to make my suits a little bit different, with a twist that makes people say, “See, this is a suit by Todor Tumbalev”.

You also have the option to make custom suits. Do you think tailors are back in fashion?

I think that in the west part of Europe and the USA it has never really been out of fashion. However, in Bulgaria, it’s definitely been forgotten in the past years due to certain reasons – lack of money, professionals, etc. On the other hand, recently there has been a returning trend, especially in Sofia. There are quite a few brands that offer tailor-made clothes.

The Bulgarian man is slowly adapting to this.

“Apart from wanting the suit to look good on him, he also thinks of the process as an ego-booster.”

Few people realize the custom-made blazer is an item of clothing that will make you look even better and will also stand the test of time. I have a large selection of fabrics in all sorts of colors. I always try to find the right balance between a client’s idea and my own concept.

Imagine that your brand existed during the 20th century. What clothes would you make back then?

I would still focus on suits because they’re fundamental to fashion. Their popularity may not always be that massive, but still! I have never seen myself as a designer.

How do you see yourself? 

As a person making clothes. I want them to be interesting, recognizable. I see myself as a social creature. Communication is among my strongest qualities and I find it so enjoyable. I see myself mainly as a public figure that makes interesting clothes.

What do you think about vanity? Which sex is more vain – do men admit it?

Depends on the location we are talking about. In London, where I’ve lived for 8 years, men are quite vain when it comes to clothes. In Bulgaria, however, the face of today’s Bai Ganio [a fictional character considered an exemplary image of an anti-hero] wearing jeans with a T-shirt with a famous brand name stamped on it. This isn’t a vain person for me – he is more of a narrow man. Vanity, on the other hand, is something specific. In a moderate amount, it’s actually a good thing. I’m vain, too. Sometimes I change an outfit a few times during the day. But you shouldn’t let vanity invade you totally.

I think the Bulgarian man isn’t as vain as the ladies here. Although in Western Europe things are 50/50. And women there are less vain than women here, in Bulgaria.

Do you have a favorite country? 

I really love Italy! I’m not really a fan of the UK, yet I love London. I have a thing for France as well – I cannot wait to visit it one day!

How did your careers as a model and background actor affect you? 

I’ve been an extra longer than a model. It was a cool experience, especially in the beginning. This is usually a part-time job for most people, so you may meet ones from different backgrounds and professions – models, singers, etc. A great part of our time we spent talking to each other, not filming. That’s how I found new friends and it really bettered me as a person.

Do you have a fashion icon whose style inspires you?

David Beckham, Mariano Di Vaio, Vincent Cassel, Sergio Ramos, Rowan Row. What unites them is their class.

What about a favorite designer?

I am really impressed by what Virgil Abloah did with OFF White the last years. He made the brand as famous as the big fashion houses that have been around for a long time. I’ve been inspired by Karl Lagerfeld, Tommy Hilfiger, Tom Ford, and so on.

Fashion for you is a…

way to express myself.

What keeps you going every day?

The desire to achieve my goals and to have a meaningful life so that in the end I can say to myself, “Well done, Todor!”. I want to live a life during which nothing managed to stop me.

And I have nothing else to add, apart from saying “Well done, Todor!”.

You can take a look at Todor’s online shop here. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

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