Roksanda Ilincic on Pina Bausch and the Power of Collaboration

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© Caroline Denervaud

For her A/W18 collection, the Serbia-born designer found inspiration in the work of performance artist Caroline Denervaud

From Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dalí to Vanessa Beecroft working with Helmut Lang in the early aughts, fashion designers and artists have had a longstanding and synergistic relationship. As Jean Cocteau, another collaborator of Schiaparelli’s, once said: “style is a simple way of saying complicated things,” a message that many designers today are taking in their stride. Once such name is Roksanda Ilincic, who burst onto the fashion scene in 2005, quickly establishing herself as a talent who was able to produce clothing that was as commercially viable as it was artistically led. Driven by colour theory and an obsession with shape and form, Ilincic’s work crosses the boundaries between the tropes of Modernism and contemporary womenswear.

For A/W18, Ilincic looked to Swiss performance artist Caroline Denervaud for inspiration. Denervaud, whose practice explores the physicality of her body through the medium of film, paint and canvas, produced pieces that were projected in Roksanda’s showspace, whilst some of the resulting drawings appeared on garments in the collection itself. Here, we speak with Ilincic on the power of collaboration, and how she is using her platform as an established designer to draw attention to emerging artistic talent. 

On why she was drawn to Caroline Denervaud’s work...
“The DNA of my work is all about colour. Then, at the same time, I am very influenced by art. It’s always what first captures my imagination before I start designing shapes for clothes. Caroline’s work came to me through my friend and as soon as I saw it I just thought there were so many similarities. Particularly with the points of reference and the way colour is used. It was like some sort of revelation, finding someone who I never met and who lives in a different country, but who has so many similarities to my own work! So, on my last visit to Paris I met up with Caroline and I think we immediately bonded in a very interesting way. And that’s where the idea to work together for A/W18 began.”

On the process of working together... 
“It was really, really instinctive! I mean, once you find a mind who thinks in a similar way it is very easy. I always say that this way of working is a two-way street. We both have to be happy with the process, and just as it is very important for what Caroline does to come across well, it is important for my collection to come across well, too. But it was wonderful, we just bounced off each other. I love coming up with stories that really make people think or make them feel a certain emotion, or put them in a certain type of mood – and I think that this collection did that. I think from the moment that people walked into the show space, it really set the tone. On all the walls there were projections of Caroline’s performances, showing the way in which she paints her canvases, with her body. Her paintings started to take this three-dimensional shape at the show with the pieces that intercepted the audience and the catwalk, too.”

On previous artist collaborations... 
“I actually love collaborating with others. I was very lucky to work with the incredible Eva Rothschild for a piece that was being sold at Studio Voltaire’s House of Voltaire. She was actually at the show this season! I’ve also worked with Ella Kruglyanskaya on another amazing project for Miami Basel. We collaborated on making the venue look a certain way; she got out of her world of painting and I got out of my world of clothing design and we did something completely different with ceramics and she made these amazing lanterns. I also work on my store with David Adjaye who is an architect. Obviously with David it’s a very lengthy process. But it’s the same spirit of appreciating each other and trusting each other. I am so lucky to be able to do these things and to meet people like this. It’s one of the best parts of my job.”

On who else she would like to work with...
“Pina Bausch! Definitely. She was one of my great inspirations. There was something about Caroline’s work that reminded me of Pina, too. I would also have liked to work with a Serbian artist called Ljubica Sokić – but she is no longer alive either. Rachel Whiteread is also an artist I really admire. The way that she uses textures and colour is incredible. I think the two of us collaborating could bring something quite extraordinary. Well, next season, you never know what is going to happen! But I would like to add, that as someone who has such platform to show work, it was a great moment to introduce an emerging artist like Caroline to the London fashion and art establishment. I have quite a few exciting artists and people in the art world who come to my shows and follow what I do, so it was a wonderful way of merging those two worlds, and mine and Caroline’s ideas, and presenting them together.”