Roksanda Ilincic Sets Up Shop in London


Roksanda Ilincic has reached a seminal moment in her fashion design trajectory: the opening of her first flagship store in a Grade II listed townhouse on Mount Street, Mayfair, one of London’s most sort after luxury addresses. To coincide with the opening, the British-based, Serbian-born designer is rebranding her label from her full name to simply “Roksanda.”

Since her elegant entrée onto the London Fashion Week schedule in 2005, Ilincic’s instinct for the female form and compositional and colour-conscious eye has won her a legion of discerning fans. In early 2011, for example, Michelle Obama wore a Roksanda Ilincic Fall 2010 collection piece on a state visit, bringing the designer into the fashion’s global consciousness.

Ilincic’s references reach far and wide: from her childhood surrounded by the romantic landscape of Serbia to the precision of theorist and abstract artist Josef Albers and Brutalist architecture, which she studied prior to attending London’s prized Central St.Martin’s womenswear Masters program. The designer’s strength lies in bringing together a grab bag of mixed elements—clean structure, luxurious fabrics, bold draping and shapes, strong colour and fluidity; soft meets stiff, fit meets flare, and feminine with a masculine twist.

Ilincic took some time to speak with us whilst putting the very finishing touches to the store, designed in collaboration with renowned interior design architect David Adjaye. 

DAVINA CATT: How are you feeling at this point in your fashion design career? It must be a time to reflect—why did you decide the time was right to open your flagship store now?

ROKSANDA ILINCIC: Yes, it feels like progression for the brand—taking the next step. It felt like the right time to reach out to retail; we are sold in 40 countries now, so the name is known globally. It does feel great to be able to tell the world the whole Roksanda Ilincic story—including the music, the store interiors, and so on. I am not very good at reflecting though. I am a complete perfectionist and always thinking to the next thing!

CATT: Was this the vision you’ve always had for your brand or did things fall into place slightly differently from how you initially imagined?

ILINCIC: Well, from the beginning, I’ve always wanted my offering to have broad appeal and work for a diverse range of women with different lifestyles. That’s remained the essence. However, I feel like I’ve gone through stages with the industry; when I first started showing it was during the time of the recession, the economical situation meant fashion was suffering. But now the fashion business is back and booming, and I think it just encourages me to constantly set myself bigger and bigger challenges and reach new goals.

CATT: What, for you, is the essence of the 21st century woman and how do you incorporate that into your design starting point?

ILINCIC: I would say the definite link between all the women who wear my designs is that they are strong, independent, and with their own opinions. It is also, for me, about capturing the essence of their lifestyles in today’s fast paced world, but capturing what women want before they even know it. Then it’s about taking the seeds of that lifestyle and elevating it in my designs to make the wearer feel better and sheltered in body and mind, to allow the wearer to keep dreaming around the label. [Then] tailoring that to a purpose, which is that the dresses are designed to be worn and to be comfortable and ultimately to hide body parts women want to hide.

CATT: In you S/S 2014 collection, there was a wonderful dichotomy between a stiffness and fluidity through your unusual use of bonded neoprene instead of silk gazar. Can you tell me more about your fabric process?

ILINCIC: My label is largely about fabrics; print is definitely not my point of difference! I am constantly looking to push boundaries with materials, bring in new weights, and work in fabrics unexpectedly. The bonded neoprene creates substantial shape; it has underneath a very light mesh that bonds together to create the fluid effect whilst the thickness holds the shape. Other materials I’ve worked with previously include lace covered in PVC and for, Fall 2014, I experimented with a modern take on embroidery made up of recycled, plastic-looking elements.

CATT: You’re a designer associated with femininity and your Fall 2014 collection brought in a new masculine twist and subversion. Can you tell me about how you feel you’ve developed as a designer since your beginnings?

ILINCIC: I think the main thing over time is that you gain confidence and are able to tell your story better and stronger. My roots are very closely tied to the DNA of the brand. Growing up in Serbia where women are unapologetically very feminine, I came to London and realised that I wanted to keep this feminine element but give it a twist and challenge ideas of classical beauty.

CATT: For Fall 2014, you site Mel Bochner’s work as an influence. How do you go about taking the work of conceptual artists and referencing them in your form and function pieces?

ILINCIC: Today fashion, art, and architecture are all so tightly connected; I think the way to approach referencing these art works is by capturing the essence. In the case of Mel Bochner references for this collection, I was looking at his earliest work— not the “Blah, blah, blah” painted word series. It was about taking his earlier color collages and using the works to incorporate into my color blocking clothes, each time working to take them in new directions and to keep updating them.

CATT: In a time when couture shows pair dresses with sneakers, how would you best sum up modern glamour today? How do you see the future of fashion?

ILINCIC: I do think there is a completely different notion to glamour today. I think modern glamour is more effortless, easy, and real. Moreover, I think it’s about constantly challenging classical ideas by bringing in unexpected and different elements; for example a long, elegant evening skirt paired with a simple t-shirt on the red carpet. I think this approach is the future. In a world where information can travel so quickly, it’s about becoming who we are and celebrating the diversity and beauty of it.