I must start with a confession: I am, probably, the most perseverant person in the world. Especially when I like something and I really, really, really want to to take an interview to somebody (the perks of being a journalist). Well… when I want to shop something, too, but that’s a different story. So that is the truth about this interview: I see Bianca Popp’s designs in a fashion show two or three years ago, I googled her (it’s easier) and I ask around for her e-mail. Then, I discovered that a friend is her friend and… so that story started. (CLICK on the gallery above, for more pictures)
No kidding, Bianca is a Romanian designer to keep my eyes on. Black and white, simple yet sophisticated, with a Japanese vibe… “As a designer, you live in the future, you are always a few seasons ahead and you lose touch with the now, with what costumers want and like now. I hate this. The beauty of what I’m doing is exactly the excitement of the client when she sees a dress for the first time, when she tries it on, when she feels special wearing it. But when I did that dress two years before, and I did 200 others in between, I feel disconnected from the dress and the joy of the client doesn’t belong to me anymore.”, says Bianca Popp (www.biancapopp.com). But do not rush the story yet…
About the beginnings, the challenges of the new era in fast-forward-fashion industry, the dreams and the fashion system, in one sincere interview with one of the most amazing Romanian designers I know.
Who are you? What was your professional path? When and how this brand story started?
I am 41 years old, I studied journalism, I practiced journalism and I taught creative writing and semiotics, I was preparing for an academic career when a friend asked me if I was interested to have a shop. So practically, my career started with a shop. I have been doing clothes since childhood, it has been one of the two things that keeps me focused and still (the other one being reading), and it was just something that I was doing for myself and for my friends and for friends of friends, also for time to time I would be doing some costumes for theatre plays, but as a curtesy to friends. It had never occurred to me to “become” a designer until I had that shop, and even then it was more like finding a place where I felt completely happy and free.
Do you remember your first sketch? Your first piece?
My first piece was a pair of draped trousers in white damascus, made from my mother’s best bed sheet, while she was at work and i was home alone. It was in the summer between my 6th and my 7th grade and I still have them, I’ve been wearing them until late in my twenties. Hand stitched to last a lifetime. But of course that I made a lot of clothes for my army of 60 dolls before that, each had at least 10 outfits. Like now, I liked to cut and torn and tie, and many of my best pieces are versions of those doll dresses.
You work already for some time in fashion. How do you think fashion industry has changed? In a good way or in a bad way? Why? Τhe biggest challenge as a designer right now…
I see a lot of new things, but I know that many of them are new just to me. My perception of what I am doing changed over the years, and although I’ve been making clothes as a permanent job for 15 years, my understanding of the system and perceiving myself as a designer occurred late, maybe 7-8 years ago, after finishing a master in styling at Instituto Marangoni in Milan, when I got a job as a designer at 10corsocomo, and I understood that I am able to do the job professionally and I accepted what others saw in me. Until then, I was just a poet making dresses, as my friend Maurice once said. Since then, I’ve been more and more aware of the system, of the industry, of the business. I began to care about the whys, not only about the hows. And this is where I see a change, in the whys.There is this polarization, the DIY versus the Made in China, the handmade with a story versus anonymous slavery, the care versus the indifference. There is a lot of new technology, some very affordable, people can 3D print their shoes and their jewelry and their buttons at home, they can laser cut their clothes at the corner of their street. In a way, it feels like old times, when all women had to know how to sew, because it was in their job description to make the clothes for all their family and not many afforded to pay somebody else to do it for them. But now it’s reversed, because it’s more expensive to do it yourself, it’s cheaper to buy regular Made in China. Designer’s clothes are a paradox, because they are expensive although most of them are made in China. The fashion market has changed a lot, less buyers are willing to take risks ordering, less designers are willing to make stocks, so it’s becoming faster and faster, clothes are being produced while the collections are in store, depending on the sales of each style, more like Zara. A few years ago, a designer would make the collection one year and a half before it hit the stores, to send pictures to the buyers 3 month prior the fashion week, so the buyers know to reserve a part of the budget for that collection, during fashion week to take orders, to have 3 months for the fabric to be produced and 2 months for the clothes to be made and to deliver one month before the season started. The whole process was taking 2 years, if you consider also the research of fabrics, the research of ideas, the building of the concept, the first prototypes, the modifications, the give-ups and and the add ons. there is this new tendency that might become the new norm, of not showing 6 months before the season, of not making 4-6 collection a year, or 8 to 12 when you do both women and men, but instead to have just 2 collections, mixed, showed one day before they hit the stores. Because now it’s super complicated, and people get confused, all people, from designers to costumers. As a designer, you live in the future, you are always a few seasons ahead and you lose touch with the now, with what costumers want and like now. I hate this. The beauty of what I’m doing is exactly the excitement of the client when she sees a dress for the first time, when she tries it on, when she feels special wearing it. I want to be there at that moment, I want to be present not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. This moment is my biggest satisfaction. But when I did that dress two years before, and I did 200 others in between, I feel disconnected from the dress and the joy of the client doesn’t belong to me anymore.
You had a beautiful collection in Paris. How hard was to get “into the system” of Paris Fashion Week? How long did you work for the collection you have presented there?
My Paris experience was a wonderful adventure and things just happened. It took me 4 weeks to do the collection and I was very pleased with it, I wanted to do a show, but I wasn’t thinking about something big or important. I did not hope to get into the system, all I did was to convince an agent to take me in and she did what she knew it was to be done. After one year and a lot of thinking, I can say now that the answer to this question is “Money”. You can not enter a luxury system without affording it. So, it costed me a lot and i was not prepared to keep paying. If you only do a show, like I did, and you don’t put a lot of money in communication afterwards, and you don’t go to the parties where you’re supposed to go, if you don’t know the people who can introduce you to the right people and if you can’t afford the lifestyle, it’s a one off. Nobody tells you what it means in terms of costs. Doing a beautiful collection is only a small part of the job. Having somebody pushing it towards magazines afterwards is more efficient than doing the show. Good reviews can help you getting an investor, but if you are young and your voice isn’t clear yet, the investor is most likely to kill it and you just become a name on a brand that is supposed to produce money and nothing else. Luckily, I had an excellent agent and she did a wonderful job in both making people coming to the show and in giving my clothes to stylists. But I understood that I need to grow my business a lot before going into the system and this is what I am doing now. The collection.
Why did you choose black and white and the (almost minimalist) cuts for your designs?
I suppose I am very lazy (she smiles). I prefer to think much and to work less. I enjoy finding solutions of one cut garments. I let the fabric be and I follow its flow, building natural shapes. City life is complicated and twisted. We need structure and stability. We need clothes that function well in many dysfunctional environments. I have a countryside nostalgia, coming from my idilic childhood, and I am trying to adapt that pace of life to a very dynamic and chaotic way of life. So, clothes are simple, but somehow disruptive.
What you are have in mind for the next collection?
I am continuing on this path of investigative design, exploring the loss of meaning we are all experiencing living in a city.
If you would have unlimited resources and possibilities, how do you imagine your perfect collection? That includes the concept, the place to be presented, the city etc…
I don’t know. I have never thought of that. I am more of a now person.
What is next? (plans for this year)…
I am launching my shop on line very soon and I am growing my distribution worldwide this year.
Style is… a personal history.
Your all times favorite designer… Yohji Yamamoto.
Your shopping secret address… Not much of a shopper.
Your favorite city for inspiration… Amsterdam.
The 5 pieces everybody should have… Everybody should dress like themselves.
Favorite for going out… Not much of an out-goer.
Celebrities wearing your designs…Sia, once.