Ilana Kohn Talks Assembling Comfort And Contemporary Clothing



When it comes to the contemporary fashion community, designer Ilana Kohn says there's nothing else quite like it. She even told us, "Being a part of Brand Assembly has definitely helped us in that we get to be part of an amazing community of like-minded designers who we can mature alongside with." 

Naturally we were happy to hear this, and even happier to have the chance to catch up with Ilana at her studio! We've always loved her affinity for bold color palettes coupled with easy silhouettes. When it comes to cool comfort, Ilana is leading the charge in creating clothes that one can wear with the least possible fuss or worry. This focused approach is a result of Ilana's personal preferences when it comes to fashion, as she is all about ease and functionality. With this in mind, we spoke with Ilana about the role design has played throughout her career as an editorial illustrator turned fashion designer, her design resolutions for the season, and her overall outlook on the contemporary market. Check out the full conversation below and visit The Style Line for an exclusive second part of this interview.

Please introduce yourself!

Hello! I'm Ilana. Outside of fashion I am basically a couch potato cat lady who loves nothing more than a relaxing day puttering around the apartment with my furry turdlettes whom I value more than anything.  

Walk us through the transition of illustrator to designer. What are the biggest similarities between these two crafts and how has your work as an illustrator translated to your design process?

Long story short, I went to school for commercial illustration and worked primarily as an editorial illustrator up until the recession totally put the kibosh on publishing. Feeling pretty lost, I went back to school for something completely unrelated and became restless not painting day in and day out anymore. So I started sewing, then creating my own patterns, then I started selling them through a blog I had at the time, and one thing led to another. By the time I was ready to graduate, I decided to ditch my degree and went full steam ahead in fashion. That was around January 2012.

As for similarities between the two industries, one of the main things I'd say is that neither is pure art. You have to work within commercial constraints. As an illustrator, I had to depict something very specific for every assignment. I also had to keep in mind that the image was to be used for print and needed to be understood at a quick glance, so there had to be a level of clarity within the image. I'd say the same thing pretty much goes in fashion - I'm never designing just whatever I feel like. I am thinking about so many things when I'm designing and working within so many constraints (not a bad thing!) such as pricing and what will sell, be that colors, silhouettes, fabrics... As for how my working as an illustrator has translated into my work in fashion, certainly what I just said about learning to work within commercial constraints. Most importantly though would be the prints I design for my line. It's nice to still be illustrating in that capacity!

What inspires your love of bold patterns and bright palettes and how do you think these elements have shaped your identity as a designer? 

That's just me I guess, I've always been drawn to boldness and bright colors -- friends from back in my illustration days joke that I still use the same palette as I did when I was illustrating and that my style really hasn't changed much from illustration to fashion. That being the case, I wouldn't really say those are things that have shaped me as a designer, those are things that are just me!

How would you generally describe the contemporary market and what are your thoughts on this growing community? 

I would definitely describe the contemporary market as growing very quickly and a great place to be. So many new stores and opportunities are popping up daily and overall, I find it to be the most lovely supportive community - nothing like how most folks would imagine fashion!

Here at Brand Assembly we are all about keeping things fun especially with regard to fashion! How have you learned to keep it fun and what advice can you offer to emerging designers who may be struggling to find their passion (again)?

Ha, over here at Ilana Kohn, we are ALL about keeping it fun! We certainly didn't get into the racket for the money so what else is there? To struggling designers, if it's an issue of mojo, I might really tell them to cut their losses and try something else unfortunately. Unless your heart is really in it, there's no reason to slog through all this madness unless you DO find it fun (even the crappy bits). But assuming their heart is in it, I'd say two things: always be good to and take care of your vendors (granted, pick them carefully!) - take care of them, be nice and be honest and they will take care of you. And stay organized, it's the key to everything!

Talk to us about any design-related goals for the season ahead. How do you hope to see the Ilana Kohn brand mature? How would you say being a part of the Brand Assembly community has nurtured this?

We've actually been paring back our use of prints (sad, I know!) but it's actually been opening up a lot of new doors creatively! We get to play more with actual textiles and have more time and budget to play with washes, since all of our time and budget aren't being eaten up by prints which are money money money and labor intensive. Being a part of Brand Assembly has definitely helped us in that we get to be part of an amazing community of like-minded designers who we can mature alongside with. 

What do you assemble daily? 

Being comfortable. That is our be all to end all and that will never change.