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Designer Interview Part I: Milena Silvano


We're thrilled to get to know the Italian-born UK-based textile and clothing designer Milena Silvano. After her training in textile and fashion design, she worked  for a variety of brands such as Romeo Gigli, Costume National in Milan and Jessican Ogden in London amongst others. She also freelanced as a stylist before establishing her eponymous label in 2010. I've been a fan of Milena-not just for the beautiful textile garments and accessories that she creates, but for her design philosophy and process. We are proud to showcase her beautiful and seasonless scarves/wraps in our shop.

How would you describe your design approach and creative process- from design, inspiration, to creation of each collection?
I work on fabrics, patterns and toiles pretty much the same, as I think one thing informs the other, while also experimenting with colour combinations and dyes/print. It all comes together in the end, but I don’t like sketching my ideas (as I have a terrible fear of losing the feeling of something if I put it onto paper) so my head and my collection folder are in an ‘organized mess’ until the very last minute.

What are your current projects or collection?
I am working on a new collection for AW13, on SS13 production, and on a fanzine project.
I love textiles! How did you get started in textile and garment design?
I have always been into textures and making things and little dresses for my dolls. As a kid my imagination was caught by Italian designer Romeo Gigli, and by the imagery he was creating with photographer Paolo Roversi. They were challenging the in-your-face mainstream fashion of the 80’s with delicate and androgynous silhouettes and lush fabrics. My first job in fashion ended up being at Romeo Gigli’s, and that’s where I started learning about textiles in-depth.
Designs by Romeo Gigli
How has your designs changed and evolved since you started?
I don’t know that my designs have changed much, but definitely the process has.I used to sketch ideas down. I now prefer to mock up with my hands, as I feel that this process offers, at least for me, a more holistic approach to the design process. I have a phobia of clothing and textiles that look like they have been developed from an illustration. I try as much as possible to have a hands-on, instinctive approach to making garments.

Running a business requires a lot of time and passion for what you do-on your down time, what are your other interests, passions or activities that you enjoy?
Unfortunately I don’t have that much time to nurture activities outside my work (apart for yoga, which I couldn't live without!). For this reason, I try for my business to be part of my life in an inspiring and constructive way... whenever possible. Each season I'll use the collection as an opportunity to learn new skills and make new experiences. Hence my exploration of plant dyes, working with clay, and hand weaving. 
I find inspiration at home and places I’ve visited. Where do you find inspiration or how does your home or places you’ve traveled to influence your design?
It’s hard to pinpoint. I think that if you are creative person, inspiration becomes a byproduct of everyday life. 

Part of the creation of your designs involves working with other artisans and communities abroad. What do you love most about this process?
I love working with Indian artisans for their eclectic skills! I must admit that I've had to become a bit fatalist with the results I get, but when the magic happens it is so rewarding. I get genuine feelings of gratitude for the universe when a work relationship is successful.
Milena at Jaipur

I know it’s so hard to choose, but what are some of your favorite pieces from your collection?
I am really into the block printed bandanna scarves and dresses from ss13, I can’t wait for summer to wear them. I did a mockup of the block printed scarf while I was in Jaipur but left my printers to develop the grey dabu print (mud resist), and I am really happy with how it turned out.

Milena Silvano Spring/Summer 2013 Collection
What is your personal style or aesthetic? What are some of favorite your pieces, items you collect for you or your home?
I started collecting succulent plants when I visited Berkeley in 2010 and I came home with a string of pearl cutting. Since then, I can’t pass by a succulent plant without taking a piece home with me!

It's been so inspiring to get to know another talented designer and maker. I have so much appreciation for the hands on and down-to-earth approach that Milena applies in creating such timeless and beautiful pieces. Thank you so much Milena for sharing!And I love surrounding our place with succulents too. Stay tune for Part II, as Milena shares her travel tips for her native country (and one of my favorite place in the world!) Italy and of course England!
Images Courtesy of Milena Silvano

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