Žuži Jelinek

Jul 17, 1920 - Jan 23, 2016(95)

The "tailor" who cut the iron curtain with tailor's scissors

A successful fashion designer whose cuts were coveted by women in Yugoslavia and the world.

Although many remember Žuža as an author and infallible interpreter of male-female relationships, we remember her as, perhaps not the first, but certainly the most courageous and inspiring – Croatian entrepreneur.

Paragraph image 1918

There was no end to Žuža's successes. Her creations were worn by famous models like Suzy Parker, she sewed for Nina Ricci and Coco Chanel, and she also designed for the first lady of Yugoslavia, Jovanka Broz.

But Žuži swam against the current in her youth because her beginning was very difficult.

She was born in Budapest in the 1920s, as the youngest daughter in the Croatian-Jewish family of Isidora and Ruža Ferber. Both her parents were deaf and mute. They met in Budapest because there was the only school for people with disabilities there.

After returning to Zagreb, the family lived in poor conditions. Žuža's father assembled brushes and sold them door to door to earn a living, and her mother took care of four children. Although Žuža's aunt married richly, she did not help the family. She was ashamed of her poor brother and even refused to welcome the family into her living room, allowing them only secret visits in the kitchen. That's why Žuži swore at the age of 12 that she would succeed no matter what, and that she would never be poor or hungry again.

This is why she decided to become a seamstress. After finishing school, she sewed in her aunt's salon in Budapest, but soon moved to Paris in search of work. There she started working for the designer Nina Ricci. Although she was very hardworking and talented, she did not earn much. She lived in a shabby apartment and ate only omelette and bread for lunch every day. From that time comes her saying: "Paris is beautiful only when you have money!" In fact, without money, nowhere is nice." As her apartment did not even have heating, she was always the first and the last one at work.

In the early 1940s, she returned to Zagreb and realized her childhood dream - she finally opened her sewing salon in the center of the city. With the money she earned from selling her first dress, she bought her mother a new fur coat. It seemed that the sun had finally shone on Žuža's life.

But soon the black cloud of Nazism arrived. Žuža's brothers were sent to concentration camps where they were brutally killed. She almost lost her parents, but managed to save them at the last minute by making a deal with a local official - he will provide papers for her parents if she "visits" him in his hotel room. Open and honest Žuža once said: - I saved my parents' life with sex. I don't regret anything and I don't care what other people think about it. –

After the capitulation of Italy, she joined the partisans, and after the liberation, she reopened her salon in Zagreb. She worked hard and long - every day from 5 in the morning until 11 in the evening because her "dress" was very popular among Zagreb's "friars".

Due to the innovative and modern design and quality of her clothes, Žuža's fashion shows traveled all over the world. She held fashion shows in the USA, Japan, China, Israel, Brazil...

In addition to her work, Žuža was also known for saying "no" to Tito. He didn't like the fact that Žuža was selling clothes around under his own name. Therefore, he offered her to run the Macedonian factory "Teteks" and to present her design as a product of the state. Žuži replied that she was an artist and wanted to sign her own designs. So she almost ended up in prison, but she sensed the danger in time and fled the country.

She continued to achieve success abroad. During his fifth visit to the USA, Žuži even received an article in the New York Times. "A blonde-haired, blue-eyed designer from Zagreb (Yugoslavia) recently came to New York to interest buyers in a spring fashion collection for career women; Came, showed - and sold!", the journalists wrote.

Žuža still had a lot of ups and downs. After divorcing her husband, she had to move to Geneva and start all over again in a new country. But the nimble Žuži climbed the fashion ladder once again. At the end of another challenge that life had prepared for her, she finally opened two of her own fashion salons in Zagreb and Geneva. During the 70s and 80s, she was very successful and respected, even sewing for the Broz family.

In her later years, she was known for writing and publishing a dozen books and hundreds of columns about her life, career and sex, in which she discussed taboo topics with unprecedented openness.

She delighted many with her sharp love advice, and with her witty catchphrase "Love to everyone, pin to no one!", she encouraged women to achieve financial security and independence.

The charismatic Žuži was the most famous Croatian entrepreneur, designer and "schneider" of the 20th century. Her employees remember her as a careful and honest employer, while Croatian history remembers her as a resourceful and dexterous entrepreneur, a woman who paved the way to success for other women in many ways, especially with her advice.

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