The future of fashion is up in the air. With designers struggling to produce multiple collections a year and the extortionate cost of ingenuity, it can sometimes be difficult to spot the silver lining.
Oksana Anilionyte provides some hope. Born in Turkmenistan and raised in Lithuania, the Royal College of Art womenswear graduate took a shine to innovation, partnering up with scientists to create something completely unique: a fluid material that reacts to the wearer’s body temperature. In an industry that favours commerce over creativity, Anilionyte’s blend of science and design struck a chord. Fashioning a fabric that acts like a second skin, her Fluid Sense collection saw liquid-like designs melt into heads, necks and torsos, creating exquisite pastel patterns.
Such a forward-thinking perspective and fascination with all things anatomical can only lead to even greater things. We caught up with Oksana to find out more about her reactive designs, what it’s like working in the world of science and why she wants to change the course of fashion.
What sparked your interest in fashion design?
I have always been a curious person, creating random pieces out of anything that I could find. Exploring the body and its intricate shape led me to creating body-focused sculptures which became a natural process I enjoyed. After graduating from high school, I asked myself what I liked doing most. And the answer was clear.
Talk me through the liquid concept. Were there any difficulties on the way to turning a brave idea like this into a fully fledged collection?
After working with the MIT Media Lab, my mind was full of compelling ideas but it was important to focus on my vision. My aim was to combine the organic print and make it move and interact with the wearer. I’m fascinated by the relationship between the body and materials. I was researching the way that mood and feelings have a correlation with the temperature change in different parts of the body (as well as the fact that our bodies are mainly made out of liquid while only dry materials are used in creating fashion pieces). After lots of trial and error as well as work in the lab at UCL, I came up with the new material. Body temperature and natural perspiration stimulate the polymer-based prints that then adapt to the human body and become a second skin. This new form of textile has a strong relation to the wearer, creating a new sense of intimacy.
How was it studying at such a prestigious place as the RCA?
The RCA’s world famous womenswear course has truly changed my view on fashion as well as my goals and purpose as a designer. It has encouraged me to dig deep and find the core of my work. I always knew my aesthetic but after asking endless questions and thinking about the reasons behind my decisions, I realised that there’s more to my designs. The collaboration opportunities between fashion and science created a different meaning to fashion which I want to pursue. The RCA is an extraordinary place with some truly talented people and creative conversations that will lead to a powerful new generation of designers, artists and makers.
Working with scientists has obviously informed your aesthetic. How valuable are collaborations like these when it comes to developing new materials and techniques and ultimately progressing as a designer?
Collaboration is key to innovative work as different members bring new ideas, perspectives and skills. As a designer, I found interdisciplinary collaborations inspiring as I got to meet scientists and engineers and understand the way they think and see the world. It has been fascinating to translate new materials and scientific processes into a visual project that everyone can appreciate. It helped me to see fashion from a different perspective and question how we can merge the worlds of fashion and science.
Is science the future of fashion?
I strongly believe that we need to work together with science and technology to create a change in the fashion world. It is time to rethink the definition and purpose of fashion as well as the materials that we use. Science brings new significance to fashion and pushes the design process to adapt to different functions, features and systems.
You said you feel a huge responsibility to make a difference. In what way?
Fashion is changing every season but at the same time, it just goes in circles. As a young designer, I feel a huge responsibility to make a difference in creating new meaning within fashion together with changing people’s perspective on the industry. It is time to create garments that are more then objects; garments you can have a connection with and that respond to your body temperature, mood and movement.
You’ve interned at some of the great design houses. What did you learn from the teams at Margiela and McQueen?
Working at the top fashion houses gave me a great chance to understand the fashion industry and question my role in it. The experience at Margiela was unique as I worked with people who had been there since the beginning with Martin Margiela himself. The house had such a strong vision and purpose created through teamwork which is coincidentally my aim with fashion and science. I genuinely admire the Margiela team and see the experience as a great example to continue in my own work.
What’s next on the cards for you? Will you continue experimenting with your own label or head to work elsewhere?
I find collaborative work extremely exciting as these discussions bring new questions and ideas that can be explored. In the future, I would like to create my own studio lab where I could bring people from different disciplines together. I see myself working on different projects while still maintaining my vision and aesthetic.