If you’ve spent any time on the internet these past few months, surely you’re familiar with the iconic strawberry dress that became the internet’s obsession during the summer quarantimes. Between Instagram and TikTok, this dress exploded in popularity, spurring fan art, songs, and the beginning of the now beloved cottagecore aesthetic. This beautiful gown is just one of many from New York City designer Lirika Matoshi. From gold stars to pink tulle bows or even her latest Disney Princess collection, these fun and feminine gowns are absolutely swoonworthy. As stunning as these pieces are though, there’s so much more to Matoshi’s work. In fact, it’s the story behind these dresses that is the real dream come true.
Lirika found her start in fashion through her sister, Teuta Matoshi, who is also a fashion designer. After moving to New York City at age 20, Lirika created her own line. What started as simple handcrafted necklaces on Etsy turned into glamorous accessories and dresses. With no formal fashion school training, Lirika learned firsthand about technique and sourcing through Teuta.
Both Lirika and Teuta have been featured in several major publications like Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, and many more. However, as detailed on Teuta’s website, the journey to get here has not been easy.
Teuta and Lirika grew up in Kosovo, a small nation in the Balkans, as two of nine children. Their mother was a stay-at-home mom while their father was a teacher. During this time, Kosovo was impoverished and war-torn. Yet despite these unthinkable circumstances, Teuta found passion and light. She began to teach herself how to create pieces from old scraps of fabrics. She did this throughout her early school days, garnering compliments from friends and siblings alike. Even at such a young age, Teuta “always had the dream in mind to one day open her own boutique selling her handmade designs.”
It wasn’t until after high school when Teuta began to pursue a degree in fashion design at one of Kosovo’s first fashion design schools. She was lucky enough to study under David Priol, a Paris-based professor who helped her develop her own aesthetic and creative practice, eventually leading to her founding her very own line as a student.
However, as Teuta went on to grow and build her business, she faced many obstacles. Living through the Kosovo War in the ’90s, there was little opportunity for growth or production. It was hard to find the materials and fabrics she needed and resulted in Teuta needing to travel to source what she needed while simultaneously training staff.
In true solidarity, Teuta and Lirika’s sister Sanija helped Teuta network with people throughout Kosovo to ensure she could accomplish her dream. The best part? Teuta achieved all of this as the mother of three children. Talk about strength and perseverance.
Even with all these hardships, Teuta is always mindful of her roots. So much so that now her brand “supports local women in her Pristina [Kosovo] community through and through.” Teuta recognized the high unemployment rates among women in her community and made it her mission to hire as many as possible, including single mothers who lost their husbands during the war.
As for Lirika, she told New York Times in August that she had expected the sales of her dresses to drop because of the pandemic, but because of the strawberry dress craze, sales have increased 1,000 percent since January. She describes the dress as being recollections of her youth; a reminder of “better times.” Perhaps that’s why so many are eager to purchase the dress in the middle of a global pandemic.
Through the power of social media, both Teuta and Lirika have taken the world by storm through their elegantly feminine designs and inspiring stories. If there’s any lesson we can learn from these two sisters, it’s that there is so much strength in their beautiful dresses and of course, beauty in their strength.