IN THE VAN 2013 #02 ::

“From a very young age I had a passion for both music and drawing. After a great deal of soul searching I decided to pursue my love of the visual arts”. That’s how the freelance designer Agnes Kolignan describes herself – frankly and honestly, exactly how she works. You probably don’t know her, but maybe you are lucky enough to wear her creations without realizing it. Born in Lodz, Poland, she is specialized in print and embroidery, and she worked with luxury brands such as Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Giles Deacon, Givenchy, Marjan Pejoski, Gianfranco Ferré, Balmain, Roberto Cavalli and Sophia Kokosalaki. After having studied at Central Saint Martins in London, in 2006 she came third in the L’Oréal New Talent Award. The next year, she established as a freelance designer, and since she always has been influenced by jewellery, she decided to launch her own jewellery collection. “Alongside seasonal collections, I also create and print my own personal projects, consuming litres of green tea and playing the piano”, she wrote on her website, and it’s not hard to believe it. Agnes Kolignan is a wild creative spirit, and watching her prints gives you the idea of what fashion should be – something enchanting that brings back memories of youth, beauty and love.

DROME: You are a freelance designer specialized in print and embroidery. Can I ask you which are the bright sides and which are the bleak sides to be a freelance?
Agnes Kolignan: Working freelance has allowed me to collaborate with a number of different clients with a greater variety of projects and a larger network. Working as an in-house designer I would be confined to the style of the brand and the customer base that it targets. As a freelancer I can manage my own timetable, which is an advantage and crucial for a free spirit like mine. I wouldn’t have been able to start making jewellery if I were in an office eight hours a day. Managing different clients simultaneously can be tricky though as deadlines are often similar: it’s either feast or famine. There is also an element of uncertainty, which people, who have long-term contracts don’t experience, but I guess that in the current economic turmoil it’s not really relevant anymore.

D: Do you remember your first memory about fashion? Was it a love at first sight?
AK: Definitely McQueen’s early shows shaped my fashion aesthetics: collections like La Poupée (1997), The Overlook (1999), Eshu (2000). Haunting and mesmerizing like the girls in the ice-rink from the Shining-inspired show or Shalom Harlow being painted by a robot at the S/S 99 presentation.

D: You worked with luxury brands such as Balmain, Roberto Cavalli, Givenchy, Sophia Kokosalaki. Nowadays, who would you like to collaborate with?
AK: My ultimate dream is to make something for Bjork.

D: Did you ever see somebody wearing something you created? How it was your reaction?
AK: Yes, it’s happened to me on numerous occasions. It always makes me smile!

D: You are a jewellery designer too. What’s the difference between designing clothes and designing jewellery? I mean, you need a different approach, don’t you?
AK: I started on a course in wax carving at BJOP in Paris in 2010 with the incredible tutor André Bertolo. Although most of my print designs are hand-drawn I still need to spend quite a lot of time working on a computer. I have been taking inspiration from jewellery a lot for my prints and my desire for a very artisan, hands-on approach led me to creating my first jewellery collection. It is different to my other work in a sense that I have only my own guidelines to follow and don’t have to think about the practicalities of the design or its commercial aspect. I can be totally self-indulgent, which is not case when I’m commissioned a print or an embroidery design and when I’m usually working to a brief.

D: On your website, you wrote: “I am really interested in all creative ventures, not just fashion”. What would you like to explore now?
AK: I am fascinated by the visual arts. Fashion is not my only interest: working on interior design, designing costumes for a music video or making the artwork for an album cover could be equally gratifying, especially if I get to work with inspirational people.

D: Which is your favourite quote, the one that summarizes your life (more or less)?
AK: Recently I’ve come across this quote by Robert Rowland Smith and stuck it next to my desk: “Following your dream can be lonely, as it sets you apart from others. Just because it’s the right thing to do doesn’t make it easy”.

D: What advice would you give to young people that would like to enter the world of fashion design?
AK: You need to work, work, work and eat, sleep and breathe fashion.

text by Gabriele Girolamini