That the work of a designer is kindled and ignited by art, architecture and history is not always apparent. Very often, the influences are subtle — colors, choices of textile or ornamentation — but not so with the designs of Bulgarian born, Nadia Ivanova. When Ivanova is inspired by the Great Mosque of Cordoba or the way the architecture of the Ottoman Empire was reinterpreted by the Christians, these themes are palpable in her collection.
This Chicago designer, who often spends time in London, brings a perspective and a style that broadens our choices and our palate. This week brought an opportunity to sit down with Ivanova and explore her process and motivations.
Q: What were the first steps you took in the world of fashion?
Nadia Ivanova: [Having always wanted] to be a designer, I stood by my desires and said I am going to do this. Fashion school was something that came along with the desire to learn. After I graduated, I decided that I just needed to create and share my designs.
Q: Where did you receive your training?
Nadia Ivanova: Harper College in Palatine, Illinois and the American Intercontinental University in London, England.
Q: Did you begin as an apprentice or intern in another fashion house or did you just start out on your own?
Nadia Ivanova: I interned for up-and-coming London designer Ioannis Dimitrousis as well as for the amazing and legendary Bruce Oldfield.
Q: Can you talk a bit about your current project/s? What is the mood of your latest collection?
Nadia Ivanova: The latest collection “Piles” is inspired by the idea of taking something that is no longer of use and making it beautiful again, like piles of used wood. The collection takes ideas from contemporary artists like Vong Phaophanit, Conrad Freiburg, Tadashi Kawamata and Robert Smithson. The inspiration for the name “Piles” came from all the things that are thrown around but that can be reused in creating stunning and functional items. Garments taking new and unusual shapes; using textures and materials found in artists’ work spaces; these sorts of things all served to inspire me to create a collection using ingenious ways of cutting and constructing various fabrics and materials.
Q: Where do you find inspiration — for this current collection as well as past collections?
Nadia Ivanova: Inspiration is all around in my book. I mean literally anywhere; I can find it in anything: a gear from a bike, a napkin, a tree, a painting, a song, and so on. I have taken inspiration from various places. Some of my inspirations are: the wrappings of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, works of Salvador Dali, the evolution of Turkish/Muslim architecture, unfinished structures of skyscrapers, the song Lili Marleen by Marlene Dietrich, the movement of tectonic plates, industrial designer Ross Lovegrove and so on. I just follow what strikes my interest at that point and time.
Q: What drives you to work/to continue making collections each season? Where does the desire to design come from?
Nadia Ivanova: I love seeing my creations on others. It’s a warm fuzzy feeling that I cannot explain. I have always felt it. I just love to create art in the form of clothes. I actually admire all forms of art, clothing, apparel is just the one that I can do best.
Q: What in your personal life or in your history most influences/energizes your views on fashion?
Nadia Ivanova: [From an early age], there was always a wanting or longing to express myself as a creative individual but growing up and realizing that with it is the need to present myself in a professional light. This mature, yet creative image and feeling is what I am trying to create for others.
Q: Is your design style influenced by any designers? If so, who and why?
Nadia Ivanova: I admire lots of other designers, but I have not taken inspiration or influence from any before. A few of my favorite designers are: Hussein Chalayan, Commes des Garçon, Viktor and Rolf, Maison Martin Margiela and Yohji Yamamoto.
Q: Why do you design in Chicago?
Nadia Ivanova: My blunt self would say ‘because I live here’; but despite that fact, Chicago is a great city to get your point across. The fashion industry will grow and I with it. I have traveled and worked all over the world, but I am here now and it works for me.
Q: What would you like to see happen in the Chicago area to help the fashion industry to grow?
Nadia Ivanova: More of a unity between everyone in the fashion industry and the city. We don’t all know each other, but let’s all work together and help the city keep on rising.
Q: Any advice for the student of design?
Nadia Ivanova: Always follow your dream, but be prepared for all it might bring you. Your dream will come or evolve into something greater. Just keep working towards it without hesitation.
Nadia Ivanova’s collection, nai, may be purchased at TFM’s Bottega.