Roksanda Ilincic's Passion For Chairs

Serbian fashion designer Roksanda Ilincic shares her love for beautifully designed chairs


Fashion designer Roksanda Ilincic. Picture / Supplied

Fashion’s colour-blocking queen Roksanda Ilincic has long held an affinity with design and architecture. It was her original subject of study at the University of Arts in her home city of Belgrade, Serbia, before she followed her first love, fashion, and headed to London’s Central Saint Martins.

She is renowned for creating glamorous dresses characterised by fluid drapery and bold shapes in contrasting shades  – Ilincic’s designs are as striking as they are easy to wear. So it’s no surprise she’s a devotee of modernism.

Today her appreciation of form and function is also channelled into a passion for chairs, which she collects, or simply admires from afar. Here she explains what she finds so captivating about the art of seating.

"I love to collect chairs. I view them as sculpture. The right chair can completely change the feeling of a space, in the same way an artwork can. My mum collected furniture and ceramics. Her taste is more classic than mine though. I prefer modernist and mid-century designers, she was drawn towards art deco. My parents’ house was filled with furniture and objects, but the first chair that I bought was a very simple plastic 60s one. I bought it for my bedroom when I was a teenager in Belgrade. I was excited by its bright orange colour, but sprayed it red after a while. I was into black with pops of colour at the time, so I had a painted wardrobe and this chair. It was a forerunner of what I’m doing now, but eventually colour took priority over black.

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"Fashion was always my first choice but it seemed more realistic to study architecture. I thought it would lead to a job so I could support myself and live independently in Serbia. I felt that fashion wouldn’t provide me with as many possibilities after graduation. But while I was studying I read about Central Saint Martins – and Professor Louise Wilson in particular. I realised that most designers I admired had taken her course and that’s what made me come to London to try my luck. It changed my life. 

"Soon after I arrived in London I went to a Sotheby’s auction where I came across a pair of very beautiful 1950s wooden rocking chairs. After I was lucky enough to buy them I discovered they were by a Slovenian designer called Niko Kralj – Slovenia was part of former Yugoslavia, where I was born. It was interesting that I made this journey to London and ended up buying something from home. They’re plywood with oval cut-outs, and they fold up like deck chairs. I still have them. I love them. 

"Eileen Gray is one of my favourite designers. I love the incredible modernity and practical nature of her work. Take for example her Transat chair; it works like a deck chair and was inspired by the steamer chairs found on ocean liners of the time. She designed it for her villa in 1927, but it could have been designed now – this applies to all the designers that I love.

Roksanda Fall 2017; Pre Fall 2017. Pictures / Supplied

"I feel there are similarities between Gray’s modernity, practicality and relevance, and my work. I love to experiment and push perceptions of femininity and beauty, but at the same time I keep my feet on the ground and appeal to women who need to live fast. Designers like Gray were doing this in their work – creating striking design that also functioned well. That’s why my dresses have that element of making you feel comfortable. I think about form and function; about the construction of the dress – how you move.

"In the past when I was passionately buying vintage pieces I would discover a lovely dress but it might come with a corset, or you couldn’t sit down properly, or it was made out of  polyester, which doesn’t allow your skin to breathe. After wearing those pieces, once I started designing myself, I wanted to make a difference. I believe I’ve proven that wearability can co-exist with creativity.

"I seek out chairs online as a way to unwind. I am obsessed with browsing, regardless of whether I have space, or want to buy anything. At the end of a busy day I’m often in bed on my phone looking at websites like 1stdibs and Pamono. I really covet pieces by the Brazilian modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi. It’s that combination of beautiful metal with leather. She also loved circular shapes, there’s an incredible lightness to her designs. They look like they’re floating, just like her house.

"Actually there is something about Brazil and its aesthetic that I am really drawn to, because I also love Oscar Niemeyer. I was lucky enough to go to Brasilia and experience the whole town almost by myself one Christmas when it was virtually deserted. It was amazing to see Niemeyer’s architecture, but also his furniture in all its glory, how he imagined the chairs and the purpose for which he conceived them. They took my breath away, particularly those beautiful lounge chairs with stainless steel bases. Sometimes you find them in hotel lobbies, looking like time hadn’t moved on from when he first put them there.

"Pierre Paulin is another hero. I love his Ribbon chair, but also his early leather and steel designs. I have a couple of his pieces, including the beautiful Butterfly chair.

"I don’t think that any particular chair has influenced my work directly, but there’s definitely a synergy with shape, colour and movement. Above all it’s about the feeling that my clothes and these chairs evoke by their very existence – a feeling of excitement, or happiness, from seeing these beautifully formed objects in colour."

– The Telegraph

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