R oksanda Ilincic is one of the most recognisable fashion personalities in London, where she has built a burgeoning business as one of the city’s foremost luxury designers. The reputation of her multiple-award-winning design house, ROKSANDA, extends across the globe, while its four annual ready-to-wear collections are all conceived in the designer’s busy East London studio.
The ROKSANDA brand is synonymous with modern elegance and red carpet dressing, and counts a host of influential and inspirational women among its followers, from Michelle Obama and the Duchess of Sussex to Jessica Chastain and Cate Blanchett. She sat down with Boris Cornelissen, Head of Contemporary Curated to discuss her creative journey.
“My work is very bold, very colourful, very graphic. It’s quite abstract but at the same time has this warmth, and I think artists that I identify with have the same kind of aesthetic.”
How did you first get interested in contemporary art?
When I was living in Belgrade, my mum loved art and design, so our house is filled with many beautiful pieces. Later during university I started properly studying art history, and that was when I discovered contemporary art. When I was back home I was exposed to more traditional art, so studying was really eye-opening for me and I fell in love with contemporary art.
How would you describe your own style, and which artists are you most closely related to aesthetically?
Every time before I start designing I navigate towards art almost by impulse, it’s something that really inspires me. My work is very bold, very colourful, very graphic. It’s quite abstract but at the same time has this warmth, and I think artists that I identify with have the same kind of aesthetic and engage in the same conversation with the viewer. So there are a lot of connections and you can feel it, if not necessarily see it, straight away.
Do you think of your own work as art, and in what ways do you think they are connected?
I don’t think fashion is art as such, since it is a very different discipline and it’s something that is made not only to be admired but also used. But I definitely approach designing as art and I approach texture, contrast and particularly colour—sculpting the sleeves and things like that—as an artistic practice. In reviews, journalists have noted the influence of art in my work and its impact in the image and creation of my brand. That is a huge compliment for me.
Can you tell us about the works your chose and what attracted you to them?
I’m a very intuitive person and my first instinct was to fall in love with what I saw. But in addition to that, I wanted to have a diversity of artists, which appeals to me because of their very different perspectives. I also wanted to have a mix of more established artists and younger artists at the beginning of their career. I think it’s important to have a combination because it reflects our culture and society and where we are as a nation at the moment.
Lastly, it was very important for me to have a strong selection of female artists, as I feel they have been under-represented in the past. When I was studying, the majority of the artists that we had to learn about were men—the work of female artists was often something I had to look for and discover on my own, hence why I’m happy to be in a position where I can highlight their works.
Your designs have been inspired by artists such as Josef & Anni Albers, Helen Frankenthaler, Ellsworth Kelly, Eva Rothschild and Hélio Oiticica. Where do you encounter their works, and what is it that inspires you?
Well, most of them I was quite familiar with through my studies back home, before I even had the opportunity to see such works in real life. I love museums, and if I am in London or travelling I always visit exhibitions. It’s something that started out just as a hobby, but luckily enough became an important part of my work. Living in London is wonderful for me because I have had the opportunity to meet many artists and establish personal relationships with them.
How has your taste in art changed over time?
Over time I consciously started to navigate more towards female artists, because they have a slightly different approach—a female perspective on life, that I feel I identify with. While my interest in specific artists has evolved, I have always loved abstract art, and this is something that has been consistent for me since my studies.
Have you ever dressed artists, or collaborated with them?
I just recently dressed Marina Abramović, another incredible woman from back home in Belgrade. She did a shoot for a magazine and she was wearing my designs so that was a huge honour. Apart from that I also collaborated with Eva Rothschild on a project for House of Voltaire to raise some money for different artists, and I did an event at Miami Art Basel with Ella Kruglyanskaya, so there have been a few collaborations that I have greatly enjoyed.