Three years ago Roni Ilan was a Menswear BA graduate presenting her final collection at the notorious Central Saint Martins end of year show, her seven looks somewhere behind Charles Jeffrey and Ed Marler on the line-up, several places ahead of Matty Bovan.
While the former have both since been tapped by MAN and Fashion East respectively – and Bovan’s handwriting employed by Marc Jacobs for SS16 – Ilan’s own practice has shaped a different beast.
Selected as one of six to watch by Business of Fashion for said Isamu Noguchi inspired collection – a vision of minimalist grey, topped with metal headpieces – the designer’s trajectory has since seen her approach the industry on perhaps more unorthodox terms, rejecting an immediate plan to focus on motherhood. More recently tapped by Everything Everything to design stagewear, two weeks ago she hosted a SS17 presentation in Paris.
“I loved going to CSM,” she reflects in conversation with Clash today, “You are encouraged to follow your own path, have your own experience and develop your own aesthetic. There is something so liberating in seeing other people connect to their own creativity, and it influenced and still influences me a lot.”
Her fondness for the term ‘connect’ and its connotations are at the core of the Roni Ilan label: speaking to BoF’s Lisa Wang after the BA show she spoke both of her connection to Noguchi’s work and the interconnections of her garments; this season she has adopted the concept as the collection’s focal point.
“My work is an on-going process,” she asserts, referencing the merging of AW16 and SS17 in the latter’s accompanying video, below. “Using AW16 jackets in a different way made an instant connection between the two projects and also referenced some older projects. We connected the two jackets to one another rather than sculptures, and placed the models facing each other rather than outwards. It was a lot about looking at the same thing from a few different angles.”
Launched, inadvertently, in tandem with London’s Pride festival and Brexit – menswear in Paris ran 22nd-26th June, Ilan debuted on the 24th – the collection’s main point of inspiration, the idea of walls being both protective but likewise preventative, has taken on a new meaning in light of the resulting climate, something the designer reckons is a positive.
“I think always the way you interpret something is a reflection of yourself and where you are in that point in time,” she reasons, “I have been working on (the collection) for a while, and it was made with the concept of creating a universal idea of connections, however I understand that the time it was presented gives the work new meaning, and I’m happy it does.”
A product of multiculturalism (Roni is Israeli and studied in Amsterdam before moving to London), she has nothing but praise for a diverse society: “I feel having lived in a few countries blurs the boundaries of cultural differentiation, and perhaps makes my work more universal. I see a common bond between all people from all cultures, and I guess this echoes in what I design.”
Produced to a soundtrack of techno – she finds lyrics distracting while the rhythm helps her concentrate and the nostalgia opens up a feeling of freedom of expression – the new designs, pictured above, form a petite collection, made up for in the volume of the individual pieces.
“I used painter’s canvas, which is quite stiff,” she says, “It allowed the clothes to keep their structure and contributed to that feeling of being protected. We painted the clothes with a mix of primary colours to create a layered shade of black – the paint stiffened the clothes even more.” The cream knitwear meanwhile boasts similarly hard wearing qualities, made from a cotton/linen mix. Plus, she adds: “Knitwear lends itself naturally to the concept of connections.”
Rejecting traditional industry codes of timing and numbers, Roni Ilan concentrates on quality over quantity. She explains: “Showing collections during fashion week is a good way of having your work be seen. We make everything in the studio so we can really concentrate on each piece – to show one concept, it makes sense.”
What started, in her own words, pretty randomly (she gained a degree in finance before beginning her assault on menswear), now has all the makings of a strong label with a clear sense of self. As the designer concludes: “It is always good to question the reason behind what you do, and not follow others for no reason."
Words: Zoe Whitfield
Photography: Morgan O'Donovan
Film: James Wreford
Styling: Vincent Levy
Sound: William Richard Green
Make-up: Bunny Hazel