My latest, a story about Zagreb's coolest neighborhood for The New York Times

Local Voices Croatia: Darko Dominik, Prostor

People often ask me what to do and see in Zagreb. I typically urge everyone who comes to visit to pop into Prostor, one of the coolest stores in Croatia’s capital, for a look around. Find out why as I chat with Darko Dominik, the owner and founder of Prostor.

Tell us a little about Prostor.

Prostor (which in Croatian means ‘space’) is a store that offers a range of carefully selected products made by independent Croatian designers and artists. It’s also a gathering place for the art-loving community.

The idea is to spark innovation and awareness of the contemporary lifestyle movement. Our purpose is to support and promote up-and-coming artists and designers who are passionately dedicated to their work.

The inspiration came from almost everything. I grew up playing in a punk-rock band. We were involved in Croatia’s alternative music scene through the 1990’s, which was not too big. I was inspired by art, design and underground culture in general. When I came back from living and working in the States in 2003, I realized there was an obvious need for spaces like Prostor, places that promote independent culture.

What was the latest show you had at Prostor?

A recent highlight was the promotion of our new collaboration with semi-custom bike builder Goran Šarić who works under the name of Re:Cycles. We presented the first unique single-speed bike made exclusively for Prostor. He is an extremely multitalented artisan and I am very excited to have him as part of Prostor’s selection, since I am a huge cycling fan too.

How do you choose designers and products that you carry in your store?

From day one, the selection of products and artists was my personal subjective choice. I have a certain kind of sensibility and am always looking for a similar one in products and designers that surround me.

Today the criteria are slightly higher so I can say I am paying more attention to business ethics. That’s because there is quite a boom of DYI authors in Croatia lately and some of them don’t know much about how things should be done. It also happens that some of these authors are supported by media who very often just strive for new content and not for quality.

Give us a few up-and-coming local names in fashion that we should be on the lookout for.

There are a lot of talented young people in Croatia but the big problem is that they don’t have the financial strength to produce something serious. In general, the current economic situation is affecting everyone. I can mention a few talented names though, like Adela Kliškić & Nikola Barbir, Maja Miletić, Jasmina Bolanča

I know you always have several cool plans up your sleeve. So, what’s next?

There are always new plans. Prostor just recently opened its second store at Croatia’s new five-star property, Hotel Lone in Rovinj, Istria. Croatia’s first design hotel, Lone is designed by Croatia’s contemporary architects, designers and artists. The fact that big corporations are starting to recognize quality and commercial potential from Croatian design is excellent and I just hope that others will follow.

Would you share your three secret spots in Zagreb?

I don’t have much free time for myself. Whatever time I do get I use for cycling, and weekend trips to the top of Sljeme hill or to Hrelić flea market.

I can mention a nice small atmospheric cafe-bar called Kolaž, which is situated on Ambruševa street, and Pauza restaurant on Preradovićeva street . They’re hard to find if you don’t know about them, but they’re worth looking for.

What do you think is the best time to visit Zagreb?

I think June. Then we usually have very nice weather, not so many tourists and many interesting events. Cest is d Best street festival, IN MUSIC festival, Eurokaz theatre festival are just a few of those.

Can you describe a typical Zagreb moment?

People sitting in crowded cafe-bars drinking espresso in the middle of a working day.

To escape the city for a day, where do you like to go?

I like to go to Samobor with my bike, for famous Samoborske Kremšnite cake. Samobor is a beautiful historical town situated in the northwest, some 20km from Zagreb, very close to the Slovenian border. I strongly recommend it.

What’s your favorite spot along the Adriatic, your own special beach hideaway?

Last summer I was cycling from Rovinj in Istria all the way to Makarska south of Split. En route, I also did some biking on the islands of Cres, Lošinj and Brač. There are so many beautiful hidden beaches. Lubenice on the island of Cres is a stunning place with the most amazing sunset. Kamp Skriveni on the island of Lastovo in the south is another magical spot.

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