Interview: MONIKA DOLNA

We spoke to designer Monika about her fascinating sketchbooks, a real insight into the designer’s mind. In the following pages, you can see her garments in our editorial feature.

Can you introduce yourself?

Hi, I’m Monika. I’m a fashion designer, but then I also have another job working in an office.

How did you get started as a fashion designer?

I studied fashion at the London College of Contemporary Art and Design. So that’s how I started, but I wanted to be a fashion designer since I was 11. I basically came to London because I wanted to be a fashion designer. It took me a while because I came here without any English.

So, how long ago was that?

It was long ago. Because in between, things happened, and it stopped me from doing what I wanted to do. But now I’m finally back on track.

How do you find your inspiration?

You work with a lot of shells and mushrooms. It’s everywhere in nature. When you focus on one element, you suddenly see it everywhere. It just comes alive.

Tell me a bit about your process?

You start with collecting pictures? I’m always visiting places, like in this case it was museums or I’ve been travelling, so I’ve always been collecting pictures. It’s all around me. Once you focus on it, it’s just everywhere.

You create so many designs, how do you decide which ones go forward?

It’s hard to decide which ones. At first, I just brainstorm the ideas, I put everything down and then I decide. It’s more about which ones could be possibly sellable, because I can go crazy on the paper but no one would wear it.

So, tell us about your recent work.

I’m building my portfolio, trying really hard, because I want to get out of the office. I really would like to work for a fashion brand. It would be a shame to not use the gift that I’ve been given.

What would be your dream position?

I would like to be a designer with my own label, but that’s a far, far dream!

What’s been your proudest moment so far?

I think when I had my first fashion show. That moment when you wait, and all the models come out, and there’s a lot of photographers – you finally feel, “Yeah, I’ve done it!”. That feels great!

What does fashion mean to you personally?

Fashion, I think it’s art. It’s the way we express our personality. I think people shouldn’t really follow trends, but it’s more about us. It’s something we like, something that’s “us”, so we should represent it.
How about your personal style?

I think I’m very classic. I’m very simple at home, too, I prefer to have everything white. It’s a white canvas, because then I see the ideas. If I’m surrounded by a lot of stuff – colours, shapes – then it would disturb my ideas. I prefer it really blank, and then the ideas come.

Do you have any unwritten rules in your work?

Let’s start with what I always must do: if I have ideas, I have to draw them. Because they come really unfrequently, when they come, they have to be noted, they have to be sketched. That’s what I definitely have to do.

Is there anyone that you admire the most?

I always admire couture designers, like old Valentino. I don’t want to say that the new one is bad, but I prefer the 80s and 90s that’s how I grew up. I was just admiring them.
What’s your next project going to be? I’m working on something which is again inspired by nature. It’s still in process.

Let’s take a look at your sketchbooks!

This is one where I’ve been drawing and didn’t actually make anything out of it. Still, I think it’s very rich for ideas. There were a lot of circles as inspiration – and as you can see, I see it everywhere.

Do you think there’s a particular theme or shape that runs through?

Yeah, balls or circles – and then we move to the nature part. It’s a process, as I go, each time I see something else. I see architecture, or ballet, and I try to interpret the shape into a garment. I see the pattern itself, what it does and how it looks afterwards. It could become a trail, or a skirt. It could work many ways.

Do you think you’ll revisit these designs, maybe make some of them?

Yeah, they’re always there for me. Sometimes there’s an idea in an idea, you know?
Do you enjoy illustrating as well? Yeah, these are very rough drawings, very quick ones. But I like to paint, use watercolours as well, but they aren’t really used a lot in my sketchbooks.

Do you prefer working with pen and paper?

Yeah, I prefer to draw. I guess that’s the only thing that worries. I can do Photoshop, but I’m not as good as on the paper.

I can see your process – you start with shape, then move into colour and texture.

Yes, and then it all comes together at the end.

Find Monika on Instagram @monika_dolna
Illustrations by Monika Dolna

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