London-based Serbian designer Marko Mitanovski is well known for the carefully-crafted drama he injects into his statement-making collections. Using geometry, historical references and natural influences as the basis for his work, Mitanovski’s precision and dark, brooding feel have been well publicised – in Dazed, Vogue.co.uk, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, L’Officiel and I-D magazine, to name a few. And, with a client list including Lady Gaga, Skunk Anansie, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Paloma Faith, this conceptual couturier is a go-to for awe-inspiring work. With Marko soon to debut on The Glass Pineapple we decided to find out how this talented designer works.
The echoes of performance or theatre can be heard throughout your work. Can you tell us a bit about this theatrical aspect of your collections?
Music or performance are not that major an inspiration for my work. Historical influences, architecture, sculpture and nature are my biggest sources of inspiration but I suppose the theatrical elements of these creates a performance aspect. As do my clients!
Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ influenced my SS16 collection, where faces can be seen ‘escaping’ from the garments. This is how I chose to interpret fear and anger, so in this way, emotions do become a physical interpretation, or a performance. Shakespeare’s Macbeth has always been inspirational too.
Can you take us through your design process? From the moment of inspiration to the start of construction.
My process involves a lot of research. Most of this happens over the internet, which I’ll use to find more details about topics that take my fancy. I can spend hours getting lost in a thread of information. When natural elements have been the basis for my research, I’ve ended up discovering more about volcanoes, lava, animals, skeletons, birds… In cases like this, the way these influences come together to create a collection will only be defined later.
In other cases I’ve worked with amazing sculptors and jewellery designers to create pieces through purposeful collaboration. For example, a sculptor created the shape and structure of the piece from clay and I would then use this as the basis for a latex garment. So in this way, the construction was the process.
Would you ever produce a commercial collection or collaborate with a retail store to create ready-to-wear items?
I have definitely made compromises when it comes to wearability but I could never compromise my credibility as a designer… Silhouettes can be more commercial and fabrics can be more commercial, as long as they fit into my ethos as an artist. I could never do a jeans and t-shirt line!
Your work shows an acute interest in symmetry and architectural shapes. Has this always been an interest of yours?
Yes. I like drama and shapes are a good way to create drama. Using solid black also helps to stir up drama, along with plays on interesting or unexpected textures.
Emotion is a big part of your aesthetic. Is audience engagement and the narrative of the collection as important as the designs themselves?
The importance is the same. I’m telling a story. Whether I’m exploring the circle of life with paintings, minerals, plants, prehistoric creatures, primate skeletons, birds or buildings, I’m describing the essence of life and the story behind it.
The process of creation is like therapy for me. I’m either in a therapy session or I’m getting an adrenaline rush, the emotion I feel goes into my work.
You have an impressive list of clients, all with their own unique brand of drama. Do you often turn clients down if you think they’re not a good match for your overall vision?
Yes, there’s always a story I want to tell and not everyone will be right for it. Compromise can sometimes be necessary but my artistic agenda has to be maintained.
Which personality would you most like to dress, alive or dead?
Bjork – I absolutely adore her work! She is extremely inspiring and her work is breathtaking. The time and concepts that go into her presentation are obvious and the results are beautiful.
PJ Harvey would also be amazing to collaborate with!
What has been inspiring you for the coming season – Can you give us a hint of what’s to come?
I can’t say much, but I will say that it won’t be all black…
(SS16 Catwalk – see the show report here)