During the past Feeric Fashion Week in Sibiu, we had the pleasure of witnessing the collaborative collection of talented Romanian designers Sebastian Roncea (of Sebastian Roncea Design) and Lavinia Ilies (of Wonderland by Lavinia Ilies). Roncea’s unique leather accessories were paired perfectly with the tailored mens and womens garments of Ilies, set against the backdrop of tall trees in the forest of majestic Brunkenthal Palace. This was a carefully concocted collaboration that enhanced and strengthen both collections, highlighting the merits of each brand. We had the opportunity to get to know Roncea and Ilies, learn about their individual journeys as designers and how their paths led to their impressive collaboration.
Can you share with us your backgrounds and beginnings in fashion design?
Lavinia Ilies: After I graduated Art and Design, I worked for a few years custom tailoring on my own, learning the trade and acquiring skills. Following this, I worked for a couple of years as a designer and pattern creator for a very well known Romanian footwear brand – Guban where I learned a lot of things. In 2014, I represented Guban at Feeric and it was there where I first got a taste of things to come, I was so impressed with the people, the designers, even the staff and I immediately knew that I wanted to make it on my own as a designer, with my brand and my creations. And here I am, this is the second year I’ve presented my collections at Feeric Fashion Week.
Sebastian Roncea: I started three and a half years ago, after producing my first bow tie and then for a year and half, I only created bow ties for different events, customers and models. It was on a shopping trip where I wanted to buy a leather bracelet and not only could I not find one to suit my style, but the price of what was available was not equivalent with the quality of what was being offered, so I decided to buy a patch of leather and create my own leather bracelet, to my own liking. It got people talking and this was the spark that lit the fire.
We absolutely loved your collaborative collection at Feeric Fashion Week! Could you tell us how you came to work together?
Lavinia: Thank you very much! In 2015, a friend introduced me to accessories designer Sebastian Roncea, and I loved his work. We had a small collaboration in Timisoara at a fashion fair and that went great. After that, I knew we had to show together again at Feeric.
Sebastian: We are so happy that you liked our collection, we hope we got our message across – modern and urban with a Russian tinge. I started the collaboration with Lavinia a little before Feeric Fashion Week – she showed there last year for the first time and we both knew we wanted to create something together.
What was the inspiration behind your individual collection?
Lavinia: My inspiration for the ‘Tsardom’ collection was Russian culture, from the traditional military costumes to the urban dweller who enjoys wearing something a little different. It reflects on the geometry and architectural structures that can be found in Imperial Russian buildings, the domes, the ornaments and the angular power that it contains.
Sebastian: My view was based on simplicity, the precise geometric shapes and elements that make Romanian traditionalism. Wooden handles are painted by hand, rhombus-shaped insertions were inspired from Brancusi’s columns and handbags with hand-knitted covers. I started looking into the art movement named Dadaism and from there came the collection name “DADA” – simple shapes, contrasts and textures all merged into creating interesting, artistic accessories.
How did the creative process work between the both of you?
Lavinia: We spoke a lot, we saw each other in person only about two or three times (I am from Timisoara and he is from Brasov), but we put our minds to it and did it. We are both very busy but we worked it out, researched intensively, sent pictures back and forth, chose colours, fabrics, structures, themes and spent a lot of time in the studio individually, perfecting every detail.
Sebastian: I think that because we are from different cities, we brought together slightly different vibes to the collection – our image research and the sketches made everything come together from an amalgam of thoughts and ideas. We communicated very well and created a good association between clothing and accessories.
What sort of elements/fabrics do you both enjoy working with?
Lavinia: I enjoy working with leather, wool and tweed. I really love to hand block-print my fabrics, it gives the garment a personal, unique touch and it is slowly building up to become a statement for the Wonderland brand.
Sebastian: The fabrics that I like the most are leather, wood, knits and metal. The textures and the architectural feel of these combinations give my accessories shape, the way clothes are worn and understood. Each product hides something different and gives a new silhouette.
What are your thoughts on the current fashion scene in Romania, and what do you hope to see more of in the future?
Lavinia: Personally, I believe we need more art, more individualism from new upcoming fashion designers, as well as more of a “feel” to the industry through more festivals and events which promote us. It would be excellent if the press and media promote all types of fashion, if they’d look to talented upcoming designers and not only to consumerism and big brands.
Sebastian: I wish fashion events such as Feeric Fashion Week were more common in Romania. I would love it if we would reach a point of being able to compete with fashion weeks abroad and if people would take notice and look at the way we represent our country artistically.
Lavinia, what was your process for creating the concept of your collection?
I was researching for new collection in magazines, online, in books, etc., and I found some really old photos with cossacks, structures and details from Russian architecture and it stuck with me. The geometry, the colours, the fabrics, the seasons – and after weeks of sketches and months of work ‘Tsardom’ was made!
Sebastian, how do you decide on which materials and shapes to use for your accessories?
The accessory designs are not established before, this is made during the creation process. Colours and geometry are established throughout this process. When I come across a patch of leather, I think of a new pattern, of the way it deserves to be shaped and cut and what kind of accessory will it eventually become.
Apart from fashion design, could you each share with us something that you enjoy in your spare time?
Lavinia: I LOVE to cook! The second favourite thing after working in my studio is cooking. Food relaxes me, it brings me pleasure. My heart also belongs to my dog Pepper, the cutest beagle in existence. He is everywhere I am, whether at the studio, home or on holiday, he is my most hard-working, resilient assistant and companion.
Sebastian: I like skiing and mountain trekking. I enjoy photography very much and taking photos and for that I travel, but most of all I like to be in my studio, creating.
We’ve gotten to discover a bit of Romanian culture and especially its cuisine, but what is one of your favourite traditional Romanian dishes that you would definitely recommend?
Lavinia: There is no greater traditional Romanian food than what is cooked at my grandmother’s home in Transylvania. I eat at all sorts of traditional restaurants but there is no comparison between what they serve and what she cooks. She makes the best sarmale which are somehow similar to the Greek dolmades‚ a corn flour based dish called mamaliga usually eaten with cheese and I can swear she makes the meanest and greatest stew!
Sebastian: If I follow my heart, my grandmother’s home is my favourite restaurant. She is the perfect cook, she worked for 35 years in the kitchen and makes really good food! If I could, I would take everyone to eat at her place.
Lastly, what is in the future for both of you individually, and will there be future collaborations between you?
Lavinia: I think the collaboration will be permanent, because in my opinion there is a unity in the association of my garments and his accessories. I think we share the same vision for fashion. My future plans are to grow my brand, to work hard to achieve my goals and my dreams. I want to create a new style for the modern person; to take them out of the box and out of those daily ‘uniforms’ into something with vision and great style.
Sebastian: They say “be careful what you wish for, because it might come true.” Dreams are not far away from reality if you trust your power and pretty much anything can be achieved through work, if you’re passionate enough. I see myself showing an awful lot of other people too, my ideas transposed into products. Collaborations with Lavinia are just starting and we want to do other collections together. We will definitely not stop here.
Sebastian Roncea & Lavinia Ilies @ Feeric Fashion Week / Photos by Fang Bo Hung and Cornel Petrus