IDENTITY DRESS Nika ravnik niOka

Designers, IDENTITY DRESS 2013, News, Past Editions, People

Nika Ravnik, designer @ niOka

13 Aug , 2015   Gallery

I met Nika Ravnik, Ljubljana based designer of niOka at the first edition of IDENTITY DRESS back in October 2013. To be more precise we were both part of the selection and happened to sit in front of each other at the welcome lunch that the IDENTITY DRESS team had organised for us. Her friendliness and simplicity struck me right away; when she talked to me she had a huge smile and we started chatting and getting to know each other over the meal.

I already had done some research about her work (not trying to be a stalker, I was a buyer and did my homework before the trip) and clearly she awoke my curiosity when she mentioned her dress wasn’t “in line with what I’ve done before at all”, she didn’t try to hide her anxiety, yet excitement of having achieved something completely different than what people would expect from her. The next day, everybody clearly understood: Nika is much more than a no-size eco-geek designer; she had something in her, much deeper than that. Her highly acclaimed perception of form and the woman’s body was incredibly on point and made us all wonder: what is hiding inside her?

 


Nika Ravnik, designer of niOka / Photo: Ivian Kan MujezinovićNika Ravnik, designer of niOka / Photo: Ivian Kan Mujezinović

 

When taking my call, she exclaimed:

[Nika]
Eric and Matjaž told me that you are working with them on the next edition of IDENTITY DRESS, I’m happy to meet you again this year!

[Feyrouz]
I didn’t even need to ask her anything to start, that she just continued…

[Nika]
I’m fine, still here, actually yesterday I got a last minute invitation to go to London to showcase at
TranzitStore, a Pop-Up Store, part of London Design Festival in September, so I have to prepare a mini collection for that. It will be really busy, because I don’t have a lot of time left, but I’m happy as it’s a good opportunity. That’s why I took it. TranzitStore is a retail event showcasing independent British and Slovenian designers and brands curated by Petra Green of Room39, a Slovenian interior designer based in London. Her stuff is really nice, you should check it out! I look forward to it, because I think the British market corresponds more to my ideal target, so it’s quite exciting for me to discover the public’s reaction to my clothes. I like the concept, in fact in my opinion, fairs nowadays are even more important and stronger. Compared to fashion shows I think they are much more relevant if you want to do business in this field. The shows are meant to expose a public image; it’s a great and of course a very important tool for big and stronger brands, however I believe fairs are much more relevant for independent designers.

[Feyrouz]
It’s a good point, fairs are also longer, over a few days, not just 15 minutes like a show, where, if you missed it, you just missed it.

[Nika]
Exactly, it’s more accessible and more productive, as visitors are intentionally focused on your work and not on the style of the fashionista crowds or who is in the front row, which actually eliminates the purpose of presenting your fashion. 
Unlike the closed circles and the notion of the unattainable in the concept of fashion shows, people here can touch things, and talk to you; it’s another approach. I think personal contact nowadays is very important; people are more and more happy to have this easy-going, not so formal way of doing business, especially in our field. So yeah, I prefer this kind of presentation if you ask me.

Nika Ravnik is much more than a no-size eco-geek designer; she had something in her, much deeper than that. Her highly acclaimed perception of form and the woman’s body was incredibly on point and made us all wonder: what is hiding inside her?

 

[Feyrouz]
So, speaking of your fashion, you differentiate yourself through your sizing. It’s pretty interesting that you do one size fits all. Do you create all your clothes in that way, or how do you structure it?

[Nika]
I don’t really have the traditional small-medium-large sizing, because most pieces are oversized. Instead of offering different sizes, I like to present
different ways of wearing one piece in various materialsOf course when I have orders for fitted clothes, I like to do it too. But when you are researching your way of design, your design philosophy, you come to understand the way you do things. I realised I’m more comfortable in creating clothing in one size, especially dresses. I do a lot of these, especially for this season’s collection, which is made out of rectangles in which I cut a pattern with zero waste. It was quite a challenge for me to make a dress, while respecting the length and width of fabric without any waste. The decisive part was when I put the pattern on the dress form and draped the fabric; I didn’t know in advance how it would turn out, so it was a real experiment. What I love about it, is that even with the exact same pattern, it can sometimes become a totally different dress by only draping it. I’m always playing with the fabric, and I like that I found out this way of designing is my thing.

 

I don’t think I’m the kind of designer who has everything ready on paper or a precise envision, I never know how it goes and I like it to be that way. Not knowing until the end how the final result will turn out is the thing that keeps me going. Of course, I have some basic idea or a concept in mind, in fact there is always a detail of some inspiration that I like to amplify. I think that’s how one could explain my way of working.

[Feyrouz]
This reminds me of your IDENTITY DRESS! I remember we were talking about it and you mentioned that until very shortly before the show you didn’t know where it would lead you, so the dress you made was also an experiment in a way, wasn’t it?

[Nika]
Yes, yes totally! Originally I took some photos of the timeless Rex chairs, I have them at home. I caught myself staring at them for some time and then decided to take a lot of pictures of the details, the different angles of the pattern. E
ven if the pattern of my dress looked random, it wasn’t at all. I photographed the profile of the chair and superpositioned it with the frontal pattern, then manipulated the photos. Eventually I created my own pattern design through this. So it was something new, but the inspiration was very concrete.

 

[Feyrouz]
I like how insightful you explained this; in a way, everything has already been done – in nature, architecture, engineering, design, and so on. It
s not that we cannot create anymore or that there will be no new things, but I believe every pattern, structure or mechanism is already in nature. However, the work that we do as artists or designers is to take these elements and translate them into our creative language. We take what appeals to us, we leave out what we don’t think is interesting or relevant. And it ends up being a reinterpretation of our vision of things.

[Nika]
Definitely.
 I second that everything is already in the nature, but the point is how we perceive things around us and how we make something of our own, something new and authentic, just by manipulating these shapes. I think it’s just the way our world developed, really.

 


IDENTITY DRESS 2013 by niOka (Slovenia) / Photo: Vid VoršičIDENTITY DRESS 2013 by niOka (Slovenia)  /  Photo: Vid Voršič

 

[Feyrouz]
YES! And again, that is actually the identity, isn’t it? Every designer obviously has an individual identity. By taking those elements and reinterpreting them in
their own creative visual universe, they invite the spectator to see designer’s true identity. What I thought was very interesting in a way – before accepting the IDENTITY DRESS challenge you were mainly known for the versatile one-sized pieces that you can change and play with. Then for the purpose of the project you created something completely different, and I also think you kind of discovered yourself because of that.

[Nika]
Absolutely, it was totally not me in a way, but you know the approach was really my own. 
If a person just looks at it, they would say “Oh, but that’s not your style”. But then, if I explain the story and process behind it, then of course it’s mine! It’s my thing, my approach and therefore indeed, my style. So it becomes my style, period.

[Feyrouz]
I think that’s very important and interesting because we always assume the style of a designer is forever defined. We often see this within the big fashion houses – when a new creative director takes over creating really modern looks and outfits. Sometimes they seem so different to the original clothes and cuts from the time of the founder. It becomes a mental conflict, as we always tend to compare the aesthetic and the visual consistency of the brand over the years. It’s like with you; people compared what you did to their visual memory, but the most important is actually the essence or the philosophy of the designer in their work.

I think the beauty of it is that all the constraints you had with the IDENTITY DRESS put you in a complete different perspective. Hence you looked out for something different and that’s why you rediscovered yourself in the essence, I believe. The philosophy was the same because when you explain it, your concept makes sense and that becomes the real you, because the values in your work are the same. We don’t always need to be visually coherent, but the most important in art is the philosophy and the message behind.

[Nika]
True. A
nd the story, I believe. I never work telling myself  “Oh, today I want to do a beautiful dress!”, I actually can’t properly work if I don’t find a story where I can project myself or hold on to. So I like to have a story and maybe have some basic idea of a product. The story upgrades it, it gives it the soul.

 

[Feyrouz]
How do you go about that? Do you put yourself in the story? How do you trigger the creative process?

[Nika]
In the beginning I’m a bit lost. It’s the most difficult part, because I don’t know where to start.
Eventually, I just start somewhere and then everything unfolds by itself. When I work like that I need to be on my own. It’s ironic, as people usually want to socialise when they need a break. For me it’s the total opposite – I need to be in my world, I have to isolate myself for a few days, or a week. I really need to be focused and immerse into my work, knowing that I’m here, working, sleeping, waking up, working, and so on. That’s the only way I feel I can be productive – especially in the first stage, the most important one, where you are conceiving the foundation of your project.

A lot of people don’t seem to be able to do that, lots of my friends often wonder how I manage it. I am aware that some need to be sociable all the time. Of course I like to talk about my work as well, but maybe later on, at the stage when something is already taking shape. Then I like to talk about it with others and get their opinion on my ideas.

[Feyrouz]
You can actually compare it a bit to pregnancy …

[Nika]
(laughs)
Maybe, I never thought about that!

[Feyrouz]
What I mean is, in the beginning the creation is in the body to be protected – in our context, in the mind and it needs time to take its form, again that’s nature. 
And when it’s ready, when the “baby” is literally fully formed to come out into the world, you can show it to people and share your creation with the rest of the world. What a funny metaphor just popped into my head! (both laugh)

But I do understand there is often a misunderstanding with people who constantly want to hang out or need proximity with others all the time. For people who have a strong, almost obsessive passion, it sometimes seems as it’s a social connection with their craft. I believe it’s a different kind of fulfilment. Some have a really strong connection with ourselves and it’s fulfilling us to the point we may not crave for connection with other people at some times.

[Nika]
Yes, that’s my point.
I’m not judgemental, I just look at life with different eyes, I guessIt’s not so easy… Sometimes you feel really strong , and sometimes you feel extremely weak. Of course when you feel weak you want to feel loved and accepted, you like having a lot of support. It’s normal, there are ups and downs. See, if I had a job at the office, or any sort of regulated 9-5 routine, getting home at the end of the day, I would have need to be sociable and hangout, get distracted, relax with friends and so on. But here I have 24-hours shifts if I want to! (laughs). It’s different with our work. You are searching solutions for some things, and suddenly you find yourself speaking to yourself. (laughs) You’re constantly connected with your inner self in your own world. It’s almost like your world is parallel to the rest of the world. It’s essential for our creativity and without it, I believe, we are not capable of achieving any results.

[Feyrouz]
Beautiful, thank you!

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Feyrouz Ashoura By    
Feyrouz considers herself as a fashion sculptor, graduated in couture at École Supérieure des Arts et Techniques in Paris. She also worked as a talent hunter for a Dubai based fashion store and managed to network with many aspiring fashion designers from around the globe. Feyrouz is in love with carefully selected vintage garments, but to keep it simple - offering her anything containing avocado or coconut makes her feel like on a rainbow!



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