Ar­chi­tect of the open plan dress

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

Rok­sanda Ilin­cic, the beau­ti­ful Ser­bian de­signer, usu­ally the pic­ture of calm, is slap­ping foun­da­tion on her arms and look­ing con­cerned. “I just got back from hol­i­day and I got a tan,” she says in her in­flected English as she tries to restore her skin to its usual blanched hue. It’s a sti­fling day in Au­gust, and we are stand­ing among the bus­tle of Ilin­cic’s stu­dio in east Lon­don.

An­other prob­lem, Ilin­cic tells us, is that she can’t get the zip­per up on the dress she plans to wear for the pho­to­graph, so will have to be pinned in. She rushes off to find her as­sis­tant while the pho­tog­ra­pher gloomily scans the sky: ad­vanc­ing cloud is about to plunge the stu­dio into shadow.

But then, in a cin­e­matic mo­ment wor­thy of the “Think Pink” mon­tage in Funny Face, Ilin­cic bursts back into the room in floor-length, gera­ni­umpink satin from her spring/sum­mer 2012 col­lec­tion. ‘‘Oh yes,’’ roars the pho­tog­ra­pher, grab­bing his cam­era. Ilin­cic smiles and poses with the self-as­sur­ance that be­fits a for­mer model.

Ilin­cic, 38, is Lon­don’s undis­puted queen of gowns. Her de­but col­lec­tion, pre­sented two years af­ter she grad­u­ated from Cen­tral Saint Martins in 2002, com­prised 13 cock­tail dresses in paint­box-bright colours. Dresses are still a peren­nial in her shows, though she in­sists that more than half her sales are now sep­a­rates. The Mar­got dress con­firmed her as­cent in March 2012 – it sold out 80 times at Matches re­tail emporium, de­spite cost­ing around £1,000 – and ev­ery­one from the Duchess of Cam­bridge to Lady Gaga has up­hol­stered them­selves in her gar­ments since.

Drink­ing tea post-por­trait, her com­po­sure re­stored, Ilin­cic laments her ex­haust­ing sched­ule with the aplomb of some­one who has mas­tered a healthy work-life bal­ance. Her hus­band, Philip Bueno de Mesquita, the founder of the trainer brand Acupunc­ture, and their daugh­ter, three-year-old Mia, are al­ways a pri­or­ity.

She is mat­ter-of-fact about her suc­cess. “I al­ways wanted my cus­tomers to feel com­fort­able and free in my dresses,” she says. “There are three-di­men­sional sculp­tural ele­ments to my work – pleats, big sleeves, dra­matic shapes – but you don’t have corsets or lin­ings sup­port­ing the struc­ture. It’s like open-plan ar­chi­tec­ture. No walls, no con­straints.”

The ar­chi­tec­ture anal­ogy is de­lib­er­ate – she stud­ied a com­bined fash­ion and ar­chi­tec­ture course at univer­sity – but Ilin­cic wasn’t al­ways this re­fined. As a re­bel­lious teenager in Bel­grade, she went through a phase of cus­tomis­ing her mother’s clothes,

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