Where did you grow up?
Bjanka’s background is Serbian Croatian… she was born in Germany to parents who were refugees from the war in the former Yugoslavia. They moved to Quebec when she was six and then two years later they moved to Ontario. She did her first few years of education in French and is fluent in Serbian.
When did you know you wanted to study fashion?
She said her interest in fashion started when she was a young girl and saw runway shows on TV. She attended an arts oriented high school and developed an interest in creative arts and fashion design…she took one fashion course in grade eleven. Bjanka basically said it has always been her dream and she doesn’t really know exactly when it started.
She learned some sewing in the grade 11 course and she and her Mom tried to learn sewing skills together when she said she wanted to go into fashion. Her arts classes helped her learn about the anatomy of the human body which helped her develop an understanding of how clothing fits on the body.
What would you say you have learned at Ryerson?
She has learned pattern drafting and really about how to translate something drawn out on a flat surface into something that would fit a three dimensional form like a body.
Why did you chose Ryerson?
While she had some back up schools in mind she really wanted a university degree and Ryerson is the school to study fashion design and earn a degree. She applied to some other schools for visual arts but fashion was her first choice. Even though it is nice to be on her own she is not too far from her family who live in Waterloo.
Tell me about your collection.
Bjanka is doing an “Art to wear” collection. It is more conceptual that a consumer based collection…more about being viewed as art maybe in a gallery setting than being marketable as clothing to a particular consumer segment. Her collection is designed as a comment on human interaction with fashion. She described art and fashion as having become elitist and distanced from people. She talked about art and fashion as a visual medium that transcends language and culture.
In her collection she is using “kirigami“, a Japanese art form that involves folding paper like origami but also allows the paper to be cut. She talked about the wearer as being integral to ensuring the pieces are displayed to their fullest potential and integrating the wearer and viewer rather than distancing them.
She is also attempting to inspire a debate about whether it is fashion or whether it is art. Each of the 5 looks will have kirigami incorporated into one piece which will be shown with more commercial “wearable” pieces. She said the collection gets progressively more fantastical and “art-like” with each piece. I took a picture of the kirigami element in her first look during class last week…it was very cool.
Doing a collection like this made some of the assignments related to target market and competitive analyses more challenging and unique. In her research rather than talking to retailers and buyers like most of the students she talked to curators and art dealers. For her target market analysis she looked at the art lover as consumer and the curator as consumer…people who might show art or might purchase art.
What has been your biggest challenge in your time here?
She talked about something that I hear from many students…managing the workload while trying to hold down a part time job and complete internships. Sometimes sleep is the first thing to go when there are not enough hours in the day. Bjanka described herself as a perfectionist so when faced with so many commitments she said she is having to learn to let some of her perfectionism go.
In developing her collection she has not been able to use some of the conventional resources available to other as she is doing work that is less conventional and more experimental. Finding the right material to complete the kirigami elements (or 3 dimensional pop up elements) is a good example of the challenges. She needed something that she could cut into that would not fray, that would hold its shape and that she could press with a hot iron without melting.
She ended up finding a textile that is woven and is white (which is the colour she wanted) through a company that makes materials for sails. She cuts the kirigami elements with an exacto knife so it needed to meet some very specific criteria to work as she envisioned it.
Who has influenced you as a designer?
She first named Chalayan Hussein. She said he divides his business into his art projects and his ready-to-wear lines. She was especially struck by the pieces he did where furniture was transformed into clothing – the spectacle stayed with her – part performance art, part interaction, part fashion. She knew she wanted to create something that captured an audience in the way that his work captured her. She used words life unexpected, playful, and whimsy. She also named Viktor and Rolf as examples of designers who do similarly spectacular things. We talked about their collection of tulle dresses with sections cut
out – amazing!
What advice would you give a new student coming into fashion at Ryerson?
She first said…”learn how to not sleep”…then laughed. Then she had some great advice. She said she would tell them not to get down on themselves especially if they were used to high grades or high praise in high school. She said that mentally adjusting to understand that less than positive feedback is not a reflection on you as a person or even as a designer…it is about learning and getting better.
What is next for you…what are your plans after graduation?
I felt bad seeing Bjanka’s reaction to the question…I suspect that most students who are months away from completing their university degree hate being asked that question…especially if they aren’t completely sure or don’t have a clear answer. She currently has an internship at Roots doing technical design in the accessories department. It is different from other internships that she has had with smaller businesses so she is learning a lot about what options are possible. She ultimately would probably like to have her own line but she has a dream about having an offshore manufacturing plant that is progressive and ethical…that employs and empowers women and helps build the local community. Sounds like a great dream to me.
I can’t wait to see Bjanka’s next piece of art in class tomorrow.