Many years ago, when the first unique artworks of Mara Topalović began heading out into the world from Preljina, Serbia gained its most valuable brand in the area of luxury corporate gifts. And the number of customers and companies wanting to give their business partners something exceptional has only grown since that time
Maruška scarves, shawls and ties have appeared at the most prestigious events worldwide, reaching the Olympic Games, tourism fairs and summits and congresses, but also the most powerful people, like Putin, Merkel, Lavrov, Michelle Obama et al.
Since 2008, your studio has been producing the most beautiful handmade silk scarves and ties that admired by the whole world. How did your love for art grow into a more than successful business?
At the juncture when I had to decide what I would do in life, I had only one guiding star, one idea: to be special in what I do. Thanks to that ultimate objective, I managed to uncover my talent and that led to the creation of unique products which, with a little loving care and attention, can last forever.
The enduring nature, timeless fashion and elegance of Maruška scarves and shawls make me, as a creator and artist, feel beautiful and special.
Years of investing hard work and effort have made me Serbia’s greatest painter on silk, and have made my products special, in such a way that they prompt delight and admiration. I’m afraid that the world has forgotten about and neglected hand-made products, despite them being worthy of special attention, because in them one can clearly see the love and dedication with which they’re made.
Not much was known about women’s entrepreneurship at the time when you launched your company. You carved out a path that’s been followed by many women who’ve subsequently entered the business world. Are you proud of that?
Yes, at the very start of my career we weren’t able to secure significant assistance from the state, while today the situation is different. Young women can devote themselves more to their business and utilise the help and support offered to them, which represents a great launchpad.
It was incomparably tougher more than two decades ago. A lot more effort and energy were required to create products worthy of attention and admiration than is the case now. Imagine if we’d had this kind of support back then! How far some of us would have reached!
Did you dream back then that your silk scarves, shawls and ties would come to be considered the most valuable Serbian brand in the area of luxury corporate gifts?
When you start creating, you’re not aware of how far you’re going in that creation, until the moment you realise that the product you’ve just created has become a symbol of prestige and luxury. That’s the moment you realise that the demands of your customers and your own full commitment render your brand and product purely exclusive. The serious demands of the eminent clients I’ve encountered in the several decades of my career awaken in me a sense of responsibility and a huge desire to create a product that will be unique and fully harmonised with the desires of the other party. And then the hand moves by itself, ideas bubble up and, as a result of this entire process, a miniature work of art that’s worthy of attention and admiration is created. Any style of fashion and any period of time is able to carry Maruška scarves and shawls.
How did your handcrafted works from little Preljina make it to the farthest flung parts of the world?
Many celebrities who visited our country received products of my studio as gifts. I know about many of them, but not about a good part of them, but one of the most beautiful feelings is to meet an ambassador of a foreign country who tells you that she’s had a Maruška scarf for several years. For me, cooperation with the embassies in our country is priceless, first and foremost with the ambassadors’ wives who recognise all the qualities of handmade scarves and shawls, but also ties.
It is always a special honour when members of the Government of the Republic of Serbia contact me to request that I make special gifts for the presidents of other countries and their spouses. I can’t fail to mention almost all the ministries and foreign embassies in our country that we’ve cooperated with and which gift our products with huge pleasure and great pride. Our clients also include numerous companies from the country and the region. What’s most important is that you always and at all times have satisfied clients, because they represent your best advertisement.
And while we’re on the subject of foreign officials, we can’t avoid asking you if it’s true that you’re one of the dearest guests of embassies that they’re happy to see? With whom do you collaborate and in which ways?
Thanks to organised gatherings and socialising with the spouses of ambassadors under the auspices of the International Women’s Club organisation, I succeeded in presenting my work in the best possible way. I would mention that the IWC’s activities have been reduced to a minimum due to the current pandemic situation, so I haven’t had opportunities to host ladies on the premises of my company for the past almost two years, as I did for many years previously.
What’s certain is that these wonderful gatherings in my studio will continue as soon as the opportunity arises, and that will be reciprocated in equal measure by these wonderful ladies.
The only thing that’s important in art is the sensibility of the artist, who doesn’t have to change anything in his work. However, different rules apply in business. How do you resolve business challenges?
Through many years of work and experience in this work, we’ve gone through various adjustments. We’ve monitored all changes and harmonised with them, starting from the very context and environment in which we operate, via associates, all the way to the personal changes that I’ve gone through and which have influenced my development path. Plans exist, but the course of their implementation is harmonised with current circumstances and the motivation of employees. Ambition is a key factor of success, and living in such an environment builds new generations of young and ambitious people. It’s precisely this wonderful characteristic that’s crucial to establishing and successfully operating companies!
In order to conquer unconquerable fortresses, you must be very ambitious, skilled and capable conquerors!
Do you have customers who’ve been with Studio Maruška from the start?
Our customer base continues to expand with every year. There are certainly customers who gave us their loyalty two decades ago and who, in cooperation with us, are successfully developing and advancing in the business world. They are all familiar with our standards of quality, from which we absolutely never deviate.
The comments of clients who say that their business partners are immensely grateful for their carefully selected gift are very dear to me – this represents a great sense of satisfaction for me, as owner of the Maruška brand.
Clients are the wind in our sails that motivates us to maintain and further improve the quality of our products and processes, while at the same time inspiring us to create new, special and completely different products.