Roksanda Illincic on building a global fashion brand loved by Michelle Obama

The designer of her eponymous label Roksanda Illincic talks to IMAGE Magazine editor Rosaleen McMeel about design DNA, business building and dressing Michelle Obama.

Roksanda Illincic on a recent visit to Brown Thomas, Dublin

 

What has been your greatest business success to date?
“Managing to open the store on Mount Street, which is one of the most luxurious destinations in London alongside great neighbors like Balenciaga, Céline, and Oscar de la Renta, etc. That was four years ago, I was quite a small brand and to be able to make that huge leap and jump and to position my brand alongside those that were much more established was definitely one of my milestones. Another success apart from building the business is seeing all the variety of incredible women wearing my designs, I’m one of those women who really takes pleasure in seeing women enjoying my designs because they are there to be worn and to be enjoyed and when I say this I don’t just mean celebrities, but also other inspirational women that I am privileged to know them. That definitely feels like a measure of success.”

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Your brand is synonymous with business women looking for both style and function. Do you design with them in mind?
“Not necessarily, I think that I’m probably talking to many women. There are definitely business women – that independent woman who is dressing for herself and also you know is free to go and buy what she wants and as many times as she wants, but I would say that my customer is kind of more versatile. I have people that are connected with art, quite a strong community of them buying my dresses and then I have younger people who would navigate towards the lighter or more fashion forward pieces so I think that it’s a good mix.”

Do you ever regret having your own name as the brand?
“No, not at all. I think that this brand is such an integral part of me, who I am, what I believe in and I often think that I communicate to my clients through my clothing and many of whom I don’t get to meet, but I still felt like we have some sort of connection, so no I think it’s just appropriate to have my name.

Does it worry you in terms of the brand outliving you?
“I’m not thinking about it right now. I mean I would be happy if the label stays and it lives much longer and it’s doing the same – with the same DNA and same principles, sheltering women and helping them than I would be happy.”

Colour seems to be such a big part of your DNA, was this a conscious decision from the start?
“Yes, it was a very conscious decision and I think that’s something that made me different to everyone else. It made me unique and stand out and get noticed. It’s quite hard, I must say, because when you’re using colours each season you’re trying to say certain things with them and it’s challenging to constantly reinvent it. But it’s definitely part of the design process that I enjoy the most, selecting the colours.”

How has your style changed over the years?
“My DNA and approach to design is more or less the same, but I think what has changed a lot is the offering. I started with only twelve dresses and they were all occasion wear and now many years on of course, I’m offering so much more. I like to think I have something for the majority of moments in a women’s life seven days a week. There’s separates, trousers, outerwear, tailoring, cocktail dresses, day dresses, evening dresses there is so much including the bags, jewellery, even the childrenswear.”

Do you have any personal or professional motto?
“Believe in yourself. I’m always my own harshest critic but it’s a kind of self determination to believe in yourself. You will come across many obstacles and it’s important that you’re not discouraged by them, and have a strong vision you follow regardless of the issues you’re having. That would be my advice to anybody who’s starting out, not just in fashion, but any brand – believe in yourself and have conviction.”

What do you think is the most challenging thing about working in the fashion industry today?
“Designers have to do so many things in such a short space of time. We are expected to design, run the business, be on top of the social media and be the ambassadors of our brand. I personally find time to be my biggest luxury because everything is possible and everything is achievable, but that lack of time, due partly to the digital age and the pace at which information is communicated to all parts of the world means customers want to buy things as they see them, which ultimately quickens the pace designers must work.”

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Your clothes have had many red carpet moments, do any stand out particularly?
It’s always such a joy to see people like Cate Blancett and Penelope Cruise feeling so confident, happy and self-assured in my dresses. Michelle Obama wore my designs also. I actually had the pleasure of meeting her; she was hosting a special reception in the white house to which I was invited. That was such a highlight of my year.”

To read about Roksanda’s travel style and getaway tips check out the July/August of IMAGE Magazine. On sale now.

Roksanda Illincic is available from Brown Thomas.

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