Roksanda Ilincic has dressed the likes of Melania Trump, Samantha Cameron and Michelle Obama; we caught up with the designer in Dubai
VIBRANT COLOUR, SHAPES that work on real women, a play on sleeves, a modest approach to fashion that has a feel of haute couture - that is how you could describe the style of Serbian, London living designer Roksanda Ilincic. And it is a formula that has made her the fashion designer of choice for many a first lady be it Samantha Cameron, Melania Trump or Michelle Obama. This designer launched her label in 2003 having graduated from London’s Central St Martins and today she is one of the go-to-designers for women of substance (Cate Blanchett and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge are other power women who wear Roksanda).
Fashion pundits often call her one of the pioneers of the “new power look”, a term for a more refined and relaxed take on 80’s power dressing that celebrates woman in the workplace. Though this is not a label the fashion designer herself likes to wear. “I really don’t see myself as a champion of power dressing,” the designer explained to City Times when we caught up with her last Wednesday at the Mall of the Emirates. And the term power dressing is not one she relates to. She adds, “I feel women today should wear what they like. In the 1980s and 1990s women had to conform in the workplace. It was a man’s world and women did not have the freedom to dress the way they wanted to.”
For Roksanda femininity is elegant yet has an element of fun. And that is probably what has made her a firm favourite with women in authority. She still remembers the first time that Michelle Obama wore her
The woman who buys my labels is the everyday woman, she is the celebrity that makes my fashion house.” Roksanda Ilincic
label when she met Chinese president Hu Jintao in 2011 in a navy blue embellished dress with a matching coat. “It was a moment I will not forget. I first saw it on the television.” Her label is now a part of every major fashion store, available globally, and in Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates, you will find her at both Etoile and Boutique 1.
While both Obama and Cameron may have been among the first women to help put Roksanda on the map, this region has also played a very important role in making her fashion house famous. “This region was an important supporter of my label from the beginning,” she says. Roksanda puts this down to the fact that women from the Middle East have a love of colour, craft, and luxury - something that is at the core of her fashion label. Which is why she has been to the city several times, and this time Roksanda is headlining the Mall of the Emirates’ annual five-day fashion event ‘World of Fashion’ that concludes today.
She says her love of colour and attention to details such as the sleeve comes from Serbia and she credits London, her adopted home, for giving her confidence to take a new direction in fashion. “I think when I started, there was a feeling that we need a change in fashion, and modest was the direction to go in.” And while many industry critics believe fashion’s new love of modest dressing has to do with commerce and the fact
that the Middle East is seen as having deep pockets, Roksanda says it is creativity which led to this macro trend. “The woman who buys my label is the everyday woman, she is the celebrity that makes my fashion house. And she is a woman with global style.”
The Roksanda Ilincic label is truly global not just because of her own roots, and her international appeal but also because this Serbian-London label has an Indian investor Eiesha Bharti Pasricha (daughter of Indian industrialist Sunil Mittal); she has a stake in the company and it was her financial commitment that helped Roksanda opened her first flagship store in London. “Times have changed, and today you no longer have to be from one of the big fashion cities. It is all about diversity,” says the designer.
Roksanda Ilincic spent last Wednesday at House of Bazaar, a special pop-up curated by Harper’s Bazaar Arabia for Mall of Emirates World of Fashion event
Samantha Cameron attends the Roksanda Ilincic show during London Fashion Week in 2015
Roksanda is one of Kate Middleton’s preferred designers