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CEE_RO | Ilkapilka

Timeless, comfortable, fully hand-made and eco-conscious pieces with clean lines that are a perfect choice for any age group. Ilkapilka is a true representative of the slow design approach, also characterized by some Scandinavian simplicity and love for nature. Interview! 

Ilka Váncsa graduated from the department of textile design of the West University of Timișoara. Her passion for the different materials and fabrics has been present in her life since her childhood. After she finished university, she started to create her custom designed clothing pieces under the brand name Ilkapilka in her little workshop in Sfântu Gheorghe.

Initially you weren’t sure whether you wanted to continue your studies at the department of textile design, but then you finally ended up in this trade. What inspired you to launch your own clothing brand? 

After I finished my studies at the university, I moved back home to Sfântu Gheorghe. At this time, I didn’t have any exact plans, but I still wanted to express my creativity and then I started to design and alter clothes in an autodidact manner. Then, encouraged by my friend who was an ex classmate of mine, I enrolled into a 1 year tailor course, which proved to be a great idea. I developed a lot during the course, especially in learning the basics, which is very important. Then I gained courage to design, and I started to make my own clothes immediately. I launched my own brand in the very year I completed the course. Initially I sold my pieces on Etsy, but for two years now I have had my own website, which also offers an online store. I do everything from design to cutting, from sewing to packaging in my own workshop.

Your hand-made, limited series permanent clothing collection is characterized by natural colors, using natural, conscious and durable fabrics and clean, honest lines. What are your main sources of inspiration? 

I think we should follow the examples of the old times, how our predecessors viewed their clothes. They only had a couple of pieces, but they were of good quality, made of natural materials, and they cherished them and used them for a long time.

Photo: Khand Tenney 

My concept builds on the same notion: 

“we should only purchase a piece of clothing if we really need it, and we know it was made amongst ethical circumstances. If we know it is of good quality, and we are sure that we will not throw it our after a year because it is not fashionable anymore. People should realize that following the ever changing trends is an outdated habit.” 

Photo: Khand Tenney 

In creation, the fabrics inspire me the most, but I am flooded with sources of inspiration every day. The small community established on my social media platforms has the same mindset as I do, and they always motivate me. When I create a piece, I usually know at the very beginning what kind of garment I will make. I only use natural fabrics, such as linen, cotton or wool. I work with clean lines, but I love to spice them up with a playful detail, such as a few ruffles, straps or a pocket. 

Photo: Trudy Chin, Tierra Magazine

What special techniques do you use for creating your pieces? What is your work method? 

When I have an idea, I instantly draw it, and it occurs many times that a second or even a third design springs out from the first one. I strive to work with utmost care and precision both when cutting and sewing. I always create the first piece for my own size, so that I can try it on and see how comfortable it proves to be. As I love the countryside landscapes of my home and I go to nature a lot, the product photos are also made during these times, spontaneously. My models are not professional ones, but customers, friends or many times I myself. Lately I give names to every piece, which make them even more personal to me.

Photo: Trudy Chin, Tierra Magazine

I started experimenting with plant-dyeing fabrics a year ago. My favorite color is the pale pink dyed with avocado skin. Recently I created a long-sleeved dress named “Emma,”, which I only dyed with green nutshell. This makes a gorgeous, light brown color. I love that the result is always a surprise. You will never get two identical colors when dying fabrics, but every shade is exciting due to their naturality.

Your product palette is quite diverse: one may find various soft, ruffled pieces, dungarees, but other accessories including bags or aprons, too. You not only create clothing accessories in the traditional sense, but other household textile items, too, in the spirit of sustainability. 

Yes, I also create accessories such as textile shopping bags or cosmetics bags, as well as washable linen-cotton face pads. I also plan to create small food packagings out of linen. As more of us are trying to go plastic free, I think these accessories are needed.

Photo: Emilie Anne Szabó

What countries do you receive the most enquiries from? 

The majority of my purchasers are from abroad. People from the States and from different countries of the EU are interested in my products the most, but I have a lovely Japanese and Israeli buyer, too.

Photo: Victoria Pietri, Mothermag

I am thankful to all my purchasers, I found true supporters in them. It happened several times that they created gorgeous pictures with my clothes and promoted the Ilkapilka brand without me ever asking them. Most recently, a mother living in Boston purchased the naturally dyed Emma dress and the quilted jacket decorated with motifs. The lady is the originator of an organic plant-based cosmetics brand, and an article was published about her in the March issue of Mother magazine, in which she wore my piece. It was very nice of her that she mentioned me as one of her favorite clothing brands.

Photo: Victoria Pietri, Mothermag

What are your plans for the future, what novelties can we expect? 

In the future, I would like to make my clothes and products more available to domestic buyers, too. A few pieces of my collections will also be available at the soon debuting small store ‘Black Church’ in Brașov. In addition, I would also like to invest in a greater fabrics stock, and customers will also be able to choose from different materials and sizes on my website.

Photo: Khand Tenney

In addition, I plan to focus even more on natural material dyeing, and learn more about the technique. During the summer, my selection will also be expanded with several new garments and I plan to prepare another quilted jacket and a simplified linen trench coat for the fall.

Photo: Khand Tenney

If you feel like buying your own timeless and eco Ilkapilka piece, go and check out the brand’s Instagram page or website. 

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The CEE RO series presents the work of emerging artists and designers living and working in Romania amongst the countries of the Central-Eastern European region, focusing on the values of the local and progressive design culture.

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