Pavel Ivančic – a rising star in the world of fashion My guest on One on One this week is Pavel Ivančic, voted the Czech fashion designer of 2007. Together with his wife Radana he established his own fashion label Muset, which has been presented all over the world and received a number of awards at home. A graduate of Prague’s Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, Pavel Ivančic also attended the prestigious Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in London. I met him last week at the Designblok festival in Prague, where he presented his most recent work, and asked him how he came to study at one of the world’s leading art and design institutions:
“It was a long journey, actually. I decided that I needed a confrontation on an international level, not only in the Czech Republic. I also wanted to improve my English as well as my designer skills. It took me two years to get to Central Saint Martins. At first I worked on my own project which helped to get some funding – I got a scholarship. Then I had to get through attending procedures which took me another half a year. Luckily I was chosen for the 2007 school year.”
You said you needed confrontation. What would you say is the difference between the Czech and the British approach?
“It’s not only about the school. It’s about the fashion industry itself, because in the Czech Republic there isn’t really a fashion industry. There is no fashion business here. During my studies in London I had an opportunity to talk to great designers like Alexander McQueen, Donna Karan, Albert Elbaz from Lanvin and others. I also got the Chloe Award for the best work in the first semester. I got some funding from Chloe and they invited me to work with them for three months. So I spent three months in Paris, which was really exciting. I had a chance to see how a proper fashion house works. It is incomparable to the experience you can get in the Czech Republic.”
You said there was no fashion business in the Czech Republic. Is it because the country is too small or perhaps because of its communist past?
“This is a tricky question to answer. The textile industry is in a bad shape. Many factories have closed down and we have bad news from those that are still operating. Somehow it’s probably a decline of the culture of life in the Czech Republic, which is still emerging from the shadow of communism.”
“For example there is not a single shop in Prague that would sell Czech designers. There is no shop that would buy our things. Some designers have their own boutiques, but there is no other chance. Young designers in Europe or America, they just sell to designer shops or department stores. There is nothing like that in the Czech Republic.”
How difficult is it for a young fashion designer to start his own business here in the Czech Republic?
“It’s very difficult but it’s not easy anywhere else. It depends on many aspects and sometimes I think that talent only accounts for 30 percent or even less. You need to have some financial backing or you have to work on getting it. You have to be lucky as well and get along with the right people.”
You established your own designer label together with your wife. What is it like working together and how do you divide the work?
“We have worked together for a long time and somehow we share out the work naturally. One of us is better at this, the other at something else. But at the moment we have a baby so it’s a one man show at the moment really. It’s all up to me.”
What kind of fashion do you create?
“We do exclusive women’s wear, elegant, with masculine aspects.”
Is this why you actually called one of your collections ‘Venus as a Boy’?
“Exactly. The confrontation of the masculine and feminine phenomenon is the basic idea of all of our work and every collection is just a different way of processing the same idea.”
What do you think of Czechs and fashion?
“Well it’s getting better but if I was really critical I would say there was a lack of personal style. All the guys look as if they are gong on some trip. I would say that we are bad of using the opportunities. If you are going to have coffee with a friend, you should dress up and have a haircut and apply make up, even if it was just for two hours. But Czechs, they don’t dress up really. I don’t know why.”
How would you describe your clients?
“I would say that in recent years we are gaining more mature clients. Two years ago I would have told you they were women between the age of 25 or 35. But now we have customers who are 55 or more. They are strong, independent personalities who need something unique and they are not afraid to be - not outright extravagant - but visible, even if it means being simply elegant.”
Do you have more female than male clients?
“We do more bespoke tailoring for men, but have more female clients choosing from our collections. For example here we have a stand with samples and you can order things in your size and in the colour you prefer.”
What about events like Designblok, where you are currently presenting your work? How important are events like these for you as a fashion designer?
“I think Designblok is extremely important. It’s the only platform where we can show our work together with other designers, jewellery designers, furniture designers and so on. I think it gets more and more professional each year and the quality of the work has a very high standard. So I am really happy to take part in it.”
You told me that you also take part in other projects. Can you tell me what else you do?
“At the moment it’s between designing clothes and teaching. It’s not just designing our own collections, it is also bespoke tailoring for our private clients and we work for theatre as well. We did a really nice project in Warsaw and we did a piece for Laterna Magika in Prague. We also do some commercial stuff, like uniforms for Czech Railways and things like that.”
We have already mentioned your studies in London. What was the most important thing you learned during your studies in England?
“There is no other day. You have to do it now. That’s what I would say.”
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