This is a very, very special treat I have ready for the Jackverse to devour. I want to introduce you to upcycle fashion designer extrordinaire, Alina Maria Ionescu. She’s a fantastic designer, creating incredibly unique pieces for clients around the world.
And it’s time Alina got Jack’d!
JW: Art. It’s a subject very near and very dear to my heart. And even with a divide nearly 10,000 kilometers wide, artists still speak the same language – one of the heart and soul. While I cannot speak of the artist in Romania (your home country), I can speak to the state of artistry in the United States.
AI: I don’t consider myself actually a real artist. Real artists are (for me) painters, writers, opera singers, instrumentalists. The Rolling Stones are real artists. I make a product, something that can be used, that is why I like the idea of wearable, art, because this is how I feel about my work. I hope that I can give my customers tools to express themselves better.
Artist in Romania don’t get support, it’s a capitalist society and if you have the means to earn your living is cool, if not, its your problem. There are the celebrities, the same as in The US, the pop singers, the TV stars, the girls that just became celebrities and are called artists because they wear a really short skirt and had their 3rd boob job.
Maybe you should know a little bit about my background. I’ve always painted and drawn … I loved it. But eventually I realized that I cannot live from a painters revenue. If I don’t sell, I need to take a job as an art teacher (and teachers have crappy salaries) . So, I decided to face the real world and went to Med School. I was half way to becoming a doctor when I left med school. I was twenty-four when I started design school, full of hope, but very quickly grew disappointed with my teachers. They only focused on the historical elements … how things used to work when there still existed big fabrics (the industry has been dead in Romania since 1990).
I was always good at improvising, and I started thinking outside the box – what could I do with my passion and with the stuff I have. Eventually I discovered the blogosphere. I was not so much into the internet, but I started a blog to feature my handmade accessories and some of the clothing that I upcycled.
And so … harajukubling born.
At the same time a Romanian platform similar to etsy was launched and I listed some items, without any hope of selling. I worked as a real estate broker, and I made ok money. Working on my fashion and accessories was a hobby. After I got the first payment from a sale, I was like, wow, somebody actually is willing to pay for the tings that I make. It was the best day of my life. Better than the first kiss. And I started working in my spare time on my fashion accessories. Chokers, cuffs, real fashion intimidated me, because I could not handle patterns. I found patterns so restraining. My great-grandmother was a seamstress, but all her items looked the same, only in different colors. So, I decided that I wanted to work with a freedom from patterns and limitations. Each time somebody asked me if something could be made, I asked myself “How?” I dove in to see if I could work out that “how”.
It was no fun … crazy at times. I was learning by trial and error, because design school in Romania is not like Parsons – its all theory, and not practice. I had the feeling that they weren’t trying to prepare us for the real world. They prepared us for a corporate world that does not exist here. And to be honest, jobs as designers are hard to find. Even more honestly, the industry bleak.
JW: Between the lack of social and financial support, to the idea that success only comes when an artist is seen on television, movies, or the radio – artistry in America is in a poor state. Theaters closing, music overrun by talentless pop stars, television inundated with reality TV, authors struggling to make ends meet.
AI: The so called talent shows are also here … the same “talents’’. The tabloid papers are best sellers. What can I say, there are many parallels between Romania and the US. People want to be famous … and fast. There is one thing that annoys me. When I say to people that my workplace is home, and that I don’t have a boss, people look at me like I don’t work or pay taxes. It used to bother me more, but now I don’t think about it much. Let each one think what he likes … I love my work. There are some days, and I think each self employed person knows of them, when you just feel like you don’t know where to start. Like today, I had so many ideas, and they were all under the surface. I just could not grab them, hold them. Still, I am thankfull that I have ideas, its like with Turkish coffee, you need to be patient and wait for the grounds to settle on the bottom of the cup, or what you taste is nothing but bitter.
JW: And let’s talk artistry in fashion! You’re a designer (and a damn good one). It has to be challenging, knowing how little artistry goes into making the clothing worn by the average consumer.
AI: See, I just refuse to think about the clothing changes. I mean, there are so many: H&M, Zara, Mango, and so on, and so on … I don’t compete with chain stores, I don’t have the means or the wish to compete with them. If I need a pair of pants or just something to keep me warm, there are plenty of shops available for every day clothing. If you want something unique, I am your man-woman, well, you get it.
I hope that the woman (or men, I have a few fun drag queen customers from san Francisco) that buys from me can integrate the items that I make into her look. I want people to really own my designs, I don’t want them to feel like they wear a costume (unless it is used as a costume).
Clothing can change the way you act and feel, completely change a persons dynamic.
Check out Alina at the following locations: