Roksanda Ilincic

A Serbian beauty; tall, slender, and pale-skinned; Roksanda Ilincic wouldn’t immediately appear to have a profession as a designer. She’s striking enough to be a designer’s muse, someone deserving of gracing the front covers of magazines dressed in Chanel and Givenchy. Yet she’s extremely talented when it comes to putting pen to paper and needle to fabric. Her merging of couture techniques with modern dressmaking creates something timeless and classic, perfectly suited to her image and presence. Only two years after graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2000, she launched her label, something that got her noticed by respected publications such as Bazaar and Elle almost instantly and worn by Lady Gaga and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Her SS12 collection was presented at the Institute of Directors, unlike the predictable venues for London Fashion Week such as Somerset House, complementing her opulent and contradicting designs. The colors and textures she uses mirror her own aesthetic, the tailoring inspired by history and class confronted by bright modern colors. A feature evident from the collection was the rawness behind the tailoring such as subtle ruffles across sleeves, or skirts gathered in to the waist, similar to the gathering of a paper bag. This rawness then leads on to luxury as this gathering of material gives an appearance of an affluent use of fabric.
Ilincic’s gathered fabric and flowing cuts exude extravagance, even stiffer fabrics balanced with brightly colored silk. This is perhaps key to her designs, where one sees elegant tailoring and fabric juxtaposed by bright block colors, bringing together class and modernity. However, her collection wasn’t simply restricted to block colors and flowing dresses; stripes and vintage-inspired floral prints appeared against open backs, palazzo trousers, and silks. This simply extended the capacity of her work, making it three-dimensional—something that can’t simply be portrayed in a photograph but must be seen in all its beauty in person. That is perhaps what best describes Roksanda, one must experience both designer and designs to truly understand its allure.

You’re incredibly inspiring as a person, and I’m sure people look to you for inspiration, but who would you say is your muse? My mother, because she is an amazing woman who has inspired me throughout my whole life—she also happens to be incredibly stylish.

Do you have a favorite item of clothing or accessory? Yes, it’s a lapis lazuli ring that my husband gave me for our anniversary. It’s beautiful… An amazing art deco interpretation of the Manhattan skyline.

Your SS12 was modern yet classic at the same time. What inspired you with the designs? It is a meeting of ’60s French couture with the nonchalance of ’90s grunge. There is a slouchy element to the evening styles and an almost languid simplicity in the color-blocked day dresses.

How do you keep your couture-inspired pieces modern? There is always something unexpected about them: an unusual fabric, a modern finish, a fresh way of styling them. They are constructed in a way which is responsive to current ways of dressing too, with fit as a paramount concern. The clothes are unrestricted, comfortable, and easy to work into your occasion.

That sounds beautiful. Did you know since childhood that this was what you wanted to do? And what made you move to London? Yes, I think I had always really wanted to do this; I was always passionate. I moved over here to study my Master’s at Central Saint Martins.

Did studying at Central Saint Martins largely influence you? Yes, I think that it must have. Louise Wilson was an incredible inspiration and the whole atmosphere was very creative. I found my own styles though, which is what makes Saint Martins so special: it encourages designers to find their own voice.

Where would you say is the most inspiring place in London for you?
London is filled with many inspiring places; that is the real attraction of the city, I suppose. I work in East London, overlooking the canal, which is quite beautiful. There are constant changes to the area, which essentially keeps it exciting and creative.

What’s your creative process when designing clothes? I love drawing, so that is the beginning of many styles. For others, I begin on the stand, draping fabric to create the desired shape. The fabrics are an essential part of the design phase as they are intrinsic in creating the piece.

What material do you most enjoy working with? Silk. It is such a versatile fabric. I work with silks in many different forms, weights and textures: gazaars, duchesse satins, twills—to name a few.

How do you feel you contribute to fashion? I hope that I add a little bit of color and excitement, along with designs that women enjoy wearing and ones that flatter them.

And where do you see yourself in the future? To continue designing, creating, and enjoying life.

TEXT BY Katia Ganfield
MAKEUP BY Lauren Parsons @ Premier Hair & Make up
HAIR Yumi Nakada-Dingle using Aveda

Thanks to Viajante Bar, Patriot Square, London E2