ARTIST INTERVIEW: Ilana Kohn
Ilana Kohn is a clothing line based in Brooklyn and produced in the NYC garment district. Prior to working in fashion, Ilana worked for close to a decade as a successful commercial editorial illustrator for clients such as the New Yorker, the New York Times and Kiehl’s, among many others. With a life long love of fashion, in 2011, Kohn began to craft ideas for a clothing line with a mind to creating easy to wear, clean & classic clothing that would serve to be a new canvas for her bold, colorful patterns. The line has evolved from four basic silhouettes into a full-fledged collection, providing boutique buyers and shoppers a wealth of choices for easy everyday dressing. We spoke to Ilana about her background and perspective on creativity.
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now.
I actually went to school for illustration and worked as an editorial illustrator for close to ten years before the recession hit and took all my work with it practically over night?! So I went back to school for Historic Preservation (historic architecture) and while I was there, I got pretty bored not painting & drawing all day every day, so I taught myself to sew & pattern. One thing led to another and here we are.. 🙂
How do you find a balance between practicality and beauty in your creations?
I think that when we work on silhouettes, it’s pretty easy to find that balance, I like practical silhouettes. Prints, however, those are another story. When I started the line, it was actually exclusively prints! And it was really hard to balance out what was fun to design vs what I would actually want on my body?! I have so so so many print designs on my computer that I love but would prob never want to go to the trouble of actually producing for a garment…
Do you have a favorite creation, artwork, or design of your own?
Lol, it’s always something from the newest collection. As maddening as the quick pace of fashion can be, I really do love that we get to start over so often… in the creative sense at least…?! It’s always so exciting when fresh samples come back from the factory, but then you work with them so much, you get sick of them, come up with new ideas and it’s on to the next thing.. That said, right now we are in market for AW18 and we have a pair of high waisted, tapered leg trousers with pockets based on vintage boy scout pants (thanks for the inspo Caroline Ventura!!). Those are prob my fave for like the next week or so.. 😉
How do you define success in your art or craft, or alternately, what does failure mean to you? What criteria do you use to evaluate your own work?
It really comes down to two things I suppose, whether I personally love it and am proud of it.. And let’s be real, whether it sells or not? Same goes for failure really, although even if I love it but it sells poorly, I certainly wouldn’t call it a failure..
Do you have a daily working routine? Can you describe it?
Pretty much: wake up after like an hours worth of snoozes, shower, throw on some maybe/maybe not clean clothes, get coffee, walk to work, answer emails, put out various fires/play triage, go home eat pizza/sushi, watch netflix, go to sleep — wash & repeat! Exactly what I imagined my glamorous life in fashion to look like.
Do you think community is important to creativity? If so, how?
ABSOLUTELY. We just finished AW18 market a couple days ago and seeing all my buddies from out of town and all the new stuff they cooked up for the season, it was beyond inspiring. And just to see them, feeling their creative energy/spark does so much for me. The community really is one of my absolute favorite aspects of this industry. And speaking of market, as much as a pain in the butt it is to pull together all the logistics for us to share a space to show each season, it really is worth it to get to spend that time together under one roof!
Did you have any artists or creative people in your family? If so, how did they influence you?
Not really to tell you the truth?? My mom worked at a credit union and the most creative thing she’s ever done was a Purim costume she made for me once… It was one of my dad’s undershirts that she RIT dyed pink and sewed sequins all over. It was pretty pretty great. My dad was a naval engineer growing up so I would def say he’s creative in that sense. He’s not an artist but most definitely creative. Regardless, they were always incredibly supportive and beyond indulgent with me letting me take classes and letting me dress however stupidly I wanted to. My mom used to take me jewelry shopping at Petco… And then I would come home and my dad would saw the loops off my choke chains to prevent anyone from grabbing it, LOL.