How Chopova Lowena Created the Grungy, Mix-Match, Schoolcore Skirts That Celebrities Love

You've spotted their eye-catching designs everywhere. Now, get to know the duo behind the brand with a famous fanbase that includes Dua Lipa and Madonna.

MADE IT: Chopova Lowena
Photo: Chopova Lowena/ Instagram @dualipa/ InStyle

It's not exactly news that the schoolcore trend is still going strong. Everywhere you look, fashion lovers seem to be channeling outfits you’d likely find on a boarding school campus, breaking out their platform loafers, crisp button-downs, and, of course, all things plaid.

Yet, while school days of the '90s would have you shopping for gear in the junior section of J.C. Penney, the grown-up alternatives have designer labels. Among the most covetable is Chopova Lowena, which produces grungy, colorblocked pleated skirts that have an impressive celebrity fanbase, including the likes of Dua Lipa, Willow Smith, Charli XCX, Maggie Rogers, and even Madonna.

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Charli XCX wearing a Chopova Lowena skirt.

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Chopova Lowena was founded by BFF duo, Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena back in 2017, following the pair’s graduation from Central Saint Martins Fashion MA program.

“We met in the Central Saint Martins BA in 2011 and became close friends bonding over a mutual love for traditional clothing and craft,” the designers tell InStyle over email. “Following our BA, we went on to do the Central Saint Martins Fashion MA as a duo.”

Flash forward to 2022 and the designers have several collections under their belt, with products ranging from tops to dresses, swimwear, and, of course, those sought-after skirts.

“We have always loved skirts,” the duo says of their most popular piece to date. “We were always obsessed with finding a new exciting skirt when we were younger and when we were doing the MA we focused on skirts a lot. The carabiner skirt came about through a lot of development and diving into our heritage and sportswear.”

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Laura Lowena and Emma Chopova.

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Each of the label’s unique designs is heavily influenced by Chopova’s Bulgarian background (she lived in Sofia, Bulgaria until the age of seven, when she moved to New Jersey) and Lowena’s English roots. They describe their aesthetic as a “juxtaposition of folkloric and sportswear references” with an emphasis on upcycling of vintage and deadstock textiles.

“Our aesthetic comes from who we are, everything from our heritages, our experiences of growing up to our love of obscure sports,” the founders explain, adding that “sustainability, upcycling, utilizing recycled fiber and organic fibers fabrics” are the core values of our brand. “We aim to give new life to vintage traditional textiles but also a new context, make craft modern and showcase its beauty.”

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Chopova Lowena's Spring 2023 fashion show.

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To set their product apart from the rest, Chopova and Lowena incorporate metal hardware contrasted with various textiles, including folkloric aprons and tapestries, wool, taffeta, and cotton. Their embroidered skirts are hand-mended by Chopova’s mom “to preserve all the beautiful pieces of cloth” and then stitched together to ensure every little piece serves a purpose. Their Fall 2022 collection includes knitted pieces inspired by traditional knitted socks and blankets, while plenty of quirky graphics, mixed prints, puff sleeves, and embellishments appeared on the brand's Spring 2023 runway.

As for how to style these eclectic pieces, the internet is riddled with inspiration. For example, Dua Lipa rocked the brand’s signature pleat in pink, black, and blue, and paired the mini with a white puff-sleeve button-up blouse. Madonna had a slightly different take, wearing the label’s butterfly print skirt from their SS22 collection with a white belt, fishnet tights, red leather gloves, and a sheer lace bodysuit.

No matter how fans style their clothes, Chopova and Lowena hope the pieces help wearers feel “a little more like themselves” and find the fun in fashion through their work.

“Our favorite part is seeing everyone in the clothes through social media. It’s so amazing to see every individual take on making a piece of clothing their own!”

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