he postponement of Roksanda Ilincic’s London fashion week show—it had the misfortune of being scheduled on the day of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral—turned out to be a kind of blessing in disguise. Instead, she got to present her flamboyantly colorful, sculptural talents during the Frieze art fair week, at the Serpentine gallery, in an environment and to an audience that felt very much like her rightful habitat. Roksanda has moved knowledgeably in contemporary art circles for years and frequently collaborates with female artists and intellectuals. Her bold silhouettes are ideally cut out to strike head-turning impressions at gallery events.
Even the gods of London weather were shining on her as her show began, circulating through the Black Chapel that was made by Theaster Gates as this year’s Serpentine summer pavilion commission. On the soundtrack came Serbian Orthodox church choir music from Roksanda’s home country. The designer recently lost her father, and the procession of her clothes—loosely based on roses, the floral tributes placed on graves—was dedicated to him.
It seemed to work as a kind of design catharsis to process feelings of loss. Roksanda is always at her best when she lets go with shape and vivid color. This time, it became spectacular, as she dragged out dress toiles from past seasons. “I just draped them one on top of the other to spontaneously create these new volumes. I think a whole dress went into forming one of the sleeves at one point,” she laughed.
Then, they were transformed into yards of taffeta—red, magenta, green—with free-form whorls and undulating rosiform hemlines, invisibly buoyed up with crin. One dress was so deeply layered and tiered that it almost looked as if a giant lettuce was walking by.
More color and sense of movement came from the vast screen-printed silk scarves flowing out from the backs of garments in vivid pinks and greens, combinations inspired by the feminist artist Pipilotti Rist . “We launched scarves during Covid,” she said. “And they took off! I heard, even, that some people have framed them!”
She also ran whole, papery dresses through the printer, so they came out with uncolored ‘blank-space’ creases. Throughout, you felt almost as if the designer’s pen was literally there on the body, drawing the recurring long black ribbons and wiggly lines in a single gesture, fixing jacket fastenings with a scribble of abstract metal, drawing circles for bag handles.
What this collection achieved was showing Roksanda’s range—she also does tailored pant suits, swaggering full-length coats, and slim draped dresses amongst the huge show-stopping ones. No doubt about it: she’s a kind of artist, for the artistic kind. Her show acted as a private view for exactly the people who want to wear her clothes.