Roksanda in Conversation

Known for her exceptional use of colour and flattering, feminine shapes Roksanda Ilincic has seriously hit the fashion radar with A-list actresses, high profile businesswomen and royalty endorsing her designs. In conversation with Fashion Editor Claudia Croft Roksanda Ilincic gives her Bath in Fashion audience an insight into her career thus far…

Roksanda with her interviewer Claudia Croft, image by Chris Daw 

Throughout the talk Roksanda lavishes credit on the well-renowned Central Saint Martins professor, the late Louise Wilson. After studying architecture and design at the Faculty of Applied Arts, University of Arts in Belgrade Roksanda set her sights on London. “All of these inspiring designers were coming out of St Martins; Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan and I kept reading about Louise Wilson and her MA course at St Martins. I thought this can’t be coincidence that all of these inspiring designers are coming from this course, I felt strongly that I had to meet Louise.”

Fortunately for Roksanda she did get an interview with Louise and gained a place on the prestigious MA course in 1999. “The course was very intense, I had to do a lot of work and I learnt so much in one-and-a-half-years. Louise encouraged me to challenge everything and to look deep within myself.” As a result her style took a complete U-turn and by the time she graduated Roksanda’s design DNA had begun to evolve. 

Louise, and her no-holds-barred personally, not only encouraged Roksanda as a young designer but also suggested that she work as model throughout her studies to ensure she could save for her launch collection. It was at this time I met and worked with Roksanda, even back then her unique dress sense and fondness for bold lip colour made her stand out amongst the other models. She was down-to-earth and approachable – positive traits that remain with her today.

JoJo Iles catches up with Roksanda after the talk, image by Chris Daw

Colour, fluidity, sculptural elements and an easy-to-wear elegance are all key to Roksanda’s designs and this is an aesthetic she has refined and built on over the last decade. “Sculpture is another of my passions as well as colour. While I like to make my designs sculptural I do it in a way where I don’t cage women in.”

Lulu Kennedy was the next influential person to recognise Roksanda’s growing talent and she selected her to showcase her collection under the Fashion East new talent initiative. “It was hard for all of us (fellow designers such as Jonathan Saunders and Richard Nicoll) in the beginning, but we all supported each other and called each other up when we needed to find a good pattern cutter or something.”

The platform Fashion East gave Roksanda enabled her to climb to the next step; exhibition space at London Fashion Week thanks to the Topshop sponsored New Gen award. A few seasons in and she gained further recognition from press and buyers with an on-schedule slot on the London Fashion Week catwalk. There was no stopping her now.

Claudia continued by asking how Roksanda liked to work on a collection, where does her inspiration come from? “I am inspired all the time by all sorts of things.”  She recounted a story of a recent trip to Australia where her fondness for the colour of the recycling bins got her snapping and instagramming much to the dismay of the Australian residents. Colour and texture provide endless possibilities for Roksanda and she is particularly fond of taking unlikely combinations and making them work.

Roksanda's A/W 15/16 collection shown at London Fashion Week Feb 2015

In terms of shape Roksanda works by sketching and draping on the stand. “I love to draw and I do this at the same time as working on a dummy.” And while she has an unfaltering eye for colour, texture and shape she admits; “I’m actually terrible at sewing, luckily I have a great seamstress.”

“Who is the Roksanda woman?” Asks Claudia. “The Roksanda woman is independent and strong and yet fragile and feminine. I get Mum and daughter shopping in my store”, Roksanda replies confidently. And it’s no wonder when you take a look at her Twitter page and see the likes of the Duchess of Cambridge, Cate Blanchett, Michelle Obama, Claire Danes and many other high profile women opting to wear Roksanda’s designs. “The dress is my key piece and wearing the right dress can elevate you.”

Cate Blanchett wearing Roksanda's designs

While Roksanda is highly creative and intuitive she understands that the business side needs to co-exist with the creative in order for a label to work. Her dream of opening her first store in Mayfair, London was made a reality last year thanks to the involvement of a business investor. She has also developed a childrenswear wear line - ‘Blossom by Roksanda’ as well as collaborating with Nickolas Kirkwood on footwear collections.

Roksanda's Mayfair Store

Despite the success and critical acclaim amongst some of the toughest journalists in the industry Roksanda remains grounded and calm. “I am my worst critic,” she says. And for those wanting to follow in her footsteps she advises: “Find your niche, your own DNA and combine with business sense and an understanding of who is your customer.”

Roksanda Illincic was in conversation with Claudia Croft at Bath in Fashion 2015.

By JoJo Iles