Fashion designer Roksanda Ilincic’s debut show back in September 2005 featured just 13 cocktail dresses. Now her client list includes Michelle Obama, the Duchess of Cambridge, Samantha Cameron, wife of the British prime minister, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga, Cate Blanchett, Keira Knightley and Ginnifer Goodwin. Born in Serbia, based in London, she studied at the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London and is rapidly becoming one of Britain’s best-known and most popular womenswear designers, a winner at 2012’s British Fashion Awards. Acknowledging the support that other women have teko modise fashion donovan given her in the past decade, this year Roksanda Ilincic is part of the Triumph Women in Making Collective, which offers innovators, inventors, creators, fabricators and producers the chance to win a £10,000 bursary fund and a year-long mentorship programme from a panel of successful businesswomen. The winner will be stocked at the Fenwick department store on London’s Bond Street and will also be eligible for a free Etsy store as well as 20 product listings.
So: What has led this designer at the top of her game to support other women who are attempting to climb the creative career ladder?
Fashion designer Roksanda Ilincic: "If you have a strong vision and lots of love for what you do, you will persuade others to believe in you too"
Being able to help other women is inspiring
Roksanda Ilincic: I got involved with Women in Making for its concept of supporting other women. When Triumph approached me I could see the concept was very strongly connected to young women who are setting up their own businesses. Being able to help other women is very inspiring for me; everything I do in my label is about what women want, so I found the project very exciting. When I started it was quite a different time; fashion college didn’t really tell you that much about business. You have this dream so you jump into this really big ocean of uncertainty, something you don’t know much about, so it’s really good that times are different, there is more research, more about working with your market and your customers. It’s very important to get the balance right. Without being creative you can’t get far, but without business sense you can’t survive.
Hester Lacey: What makes a Women in Making winner?
Ilincic: Above all I will be looking for somebody who has their own vision, their own voice, something different and unique – that’s the first thing. But I want them also to have some business sense, although when you start there is a lot to learn.
Lacey: What business strengths shine through from women?
Ilincic: Women are definitely strong in multitasking. By nature we can do several things at the same time – and do them well. And, speaking as a mother, being a mother makes you more focused and more determined to make decisions that are quick and good. Balancing your private life with your business life makes you focus.
Lacey: Why is it important for women in creative businesses to support each other?
Ilincic: Support from other women helps you reach your goal more quickly. I had that support and it was very important. At Central Saint Martins, my incredible tutor, Louise Wilson, taught me to find myself as a designer. The course strips you of who you think you are and helps you find your true aesthetic. Lulu Kennedy of the Fashion East collective was another mentor. Fashion East was a launching platform for my designs. Lulu’s work introduced me to the industry, where I was able to meet key people to develop my brand further and, of course I showed my early collections as part of Fashion East. Since then, Lulu has been an incredible support, and a true friend. And there have been many women along the way who’ve been very supportive and helpful, so now, when I’m able to help somebody with my advice, it makes me even more eager to do so.
Lacey: The fashion industry isn’t easy to break into – what’s your advice to young women at the start of their careers?
Ilincic: I always said I wouldn’t take any advice myself because everybody has a different experience, but the key thing is taking advice that’s relevant to what you do! Young women today have to be incredibly focused, determined and follow a straight line towards what they believe in. Not stopping is crucial. The more that you prepare, the better your chances of succeeding, but I believe if you have a strong vision and lots of love for what you do, you will persuade others to believe in you too. I never had formal business training; for me this has been something that you learn along the way – learning from each of your experiences and from the people you work with. I have been lucky enough to work with some fantastic industry specialists, and I have been able to slowly build a team that understands my vision; I still work with a lot of these people today. I think that above all, the people you work with need to inspire and challenge you to do your best and to reach your goals.”
Lacey: Which of your own achievements are most proud of?
Ilincic: The moment that the iconic Browns boutique [in London] bought my collection, and seeing it in the store, was a huge achievement for me – and a very exciting moment. Looking back, it feels like the time where my career reached a new level, from where we have been able to built to a point where the collections are now sold internationally in many of the leading retail stores. I’m also very proud that incredibly brave and independent women from very different backgrounds have decided to wear my designs. Every time I see an inspirational woman wearing my designs, it makes me feel happy: those women are responding to what I do in the way I hoped they would.