What problem do you think your clothes solve?
“I think they are very confronting clothes. They are protected as well as natural. When you look at it you have a feeling about it. It is emotional menswear.”
Despite changing gender identities, clothing is still very much gendered. Designer Roni Ilan, Israeli-born and London-based CSM grad, believes that in the near future, this state of affairs should change. Roni imagines clothing as a kind of membrane that protects us from the outside world and at the same time absolutely mirrors our reality.
From the very beginning of her creative career, Roni thought about the fact that the world of menswear is something unexplored and inapplicable for her. The same couldn’t be said about the men in her class who were well versed in the subtleties of men’s fashion and could design for themselves. For Roni, it was a challenge. In addition to the female approach to the topic, she was guided by the fact that men’s fashion offers the opportunity to understand some of the most difficult technical aspects of the profession. During Roni’s third year at CSM, she already assisted at Thom Browne in New York. Today, Roni uses sophisticated techniques to create all her collections. Over time, she became so involved in her studies that she began to wear her own creations. The clothes she creates for men perfectly match for women. And the opposite — the elements of women’s clothing can also find their place in the men’s wardrobe.
Roni, how did you define your brand in the beginning and how do you feel about it now?
I feel what I do in my work is to explore similar subjects from a few different angles, and let it evolve. It is now more commercial in the sense that you can buy the clothes in a shop. There are more collections to link together and films that relate to one another so I feel it is evolving and expanding on a few different levels.
Your last collections seem to express a new mood — more London spirit, less Israeli roots. Do you feel that?
To me my work is not a representation of Israel or London, but it is personal. Both of those places play a part in my life. Their influences on me will always be present in varying ways and those levels are a reflection of both my inner and outer worlds.
I find that people will interpret something as a reflection of their own recollections and where they are in that point in time. This is interesting to me, that the themes in my work could connect to others through their own experiences. So I feel the connection of my work to others is perhaps more from a universal personal experience point of view, if that makes sense.
Can we talk more about the inspiration behind the Roni Ilan AW18 collection?
I developed pictures from my wedding to Will (William Richard Green), four years after it had happened — around 600 photos. I found those images really inspiring. Especially what came up of how I felt at the time. How I thought life would be, and this whole idea of weddings in general.
I’m always interested in connections and the personal and familial connections we make. And something in those photos, an English wedding (while I’m Israeli) at the Barbican Conservatory — a specific blend of a few cultures and eras into one.
There was a sense of a ‘past idea of the future’ that developed from looking at these photos, and made me look further for that same sense in other places.
What was the defining piece of this collection?
I feel the wadded extended jacket. It is a shape I’ve developed since my graduate collection, and a kind of take on the tailored jacket. I like to see how it evolves from season to season. You could wear it in a few different ways, the pattern is quite complicated but seems very simple. Also the bodysuits — love them and want to wear them all the time.
In your collections you look at the concept of ‘home’ a lot. What does this mean to you?
Many things. As it does to anyone. The word home can have connotations to a certain space, culture or a relationship. Right now I’m at the studio and I feel at home.
Who buys Roni Ilan’s men dress?
A range of people that I can’t really typecast.. I feel that even though it is quite specific it appeals to a wide range of people; different genders, ages and nationalities.
Who would you like to see wearing your clothes?
Anyone who feels a connection to it really.
What inspires you most?
The more I focus on something, the more inspired I feel. I’m most inspired by my own work, thoughts, feelings that I put onto paper.
How does your BSc in Economics help you today?
Its influences are not very direct in my daily life. On some level it helps that I have an understanding of finance.
What comes first for you — the creative or business part?
For me — it’s the creative part. I don’t want to lose sight of why I’m doing it. Because if I wanted to do just business I would have stayed in finance and worked somewhere to make money. But obviously I’m not here just to make money. I want to say something, to create something meaningful. That’s what I wanna do. So it’s very very important for me to not really struct what I wanna say — every image that I create. There is a business part — because it has to be sustainable, it has to succeed and in that way to keep creating. But the essence is to keep creating.