Roksanda Ilinčić On Why She Has Her Sights Set On Asia Amidst Brexit Uncertainty

Shanghai Fashion Week 2019 will welcome a UK-based designer to its roster of talent, as part of the British Fashion Council’s China partnerships strategy: Roksanda Ilinčić. Launched in September with a little help from ambassadorial president David Beckham to create some noise, the project aims to facilitate access to the Chinese market for UK businesses.

During the trip, Ilinčić – who will be accompanied by fellow London Fashion Week brand Peter Pilotto – will set up shop in the Chinese fashion trade room Ontimeshow in order to meet potential retail partners, clients, media, stylists and influencers.

“China is booming and there is a big appetite for luxury clothing, but it’s difficult to communicate a message there,” Ilinčić explains. “It’s so far geographically, but also far removed from the PR, marketing and social-media channels that we use in Europe and America.” The celebrities who sit on Roksanda’s front rows in London, such as the Tate’s Maria Balshaw, the Serpentine’s Yana Peel and the actor Helen McCrory, aren’t immediately relatable or viewed as aspirational, for example. And the art references that underline Ilinčic’s deliciously-coloured daywear aren’t as instantly unpackable. “You can’t just create things and expect people to buy them without knowing what your brand is about and who you are trying to dress,” she notes. “It’s challenging because it involves lots of investment and time.” While in China, the BFC will continue laying the groundwork for business support systems and networking services to support homegrown talent in this endeavour to get to grips with the market.

It’s not just the disposable income that excites Ilinčić about Asian consumers, but the way they view fashion. “The customer is very thirsty – they not only want to wear the latest collections, but to wear things that are perhaps considered a little too fashion forward for the European market,” she explains. “For a designer, it’s a big treat to go somewhere where catwalk pieces will be worn with ease in real life.”

This experimental, risk-taking sense of style appeals to the fashion fan inside Ilinčić – the one who left her life in Belgrade and her qualification in architecture and design there to study womenswear at Central Saint Martins in London. “I like things that are vibrant and sculptural yet feminine, so the Chinese market really resonates with those parts of my DNA,” she enthuses, before explaining why now is the time to tap into this synergy. “The desire used to be for established brands and global players,” she says. “I think that has changed dramatically.”

With the uncertainty of Brexit hanging over UK designers, the BFC initiative is a vital lifeline. “It’s a big worry,” she shares of the ever-murky state of affairs in the British government. “The majority of my fabrics and my workforce are from the EU, but I can’t change my systems or put new strategies in place because we don’t know what is going to happen.” Don’t get her started on the delays of shipments, which will inevitably increase after Brexit. “The big problem with fashion is timing, you’re constantly being robbed of it,” Ilinčić says flatly. “To produce garments and deliver them at the right time is dependent on so many facets – Brexit is going to have consequences for us all.”

Brexit aside, Ilinčić the businesswoman prevails. “Asia is my next frontier,” she affirms. “That constant desire to buy newness and to be slightly ahead of your peers and your time is something that I’m driven by.” With a week in Shanghai to make herself heard, the market is hers for the taking if she shouts loud enough.


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.