Ioana Ciolacu Miron, FASH 2011 / 4. July 2013
Ioana Ciolacu Miron, FASH 2011 award winner, was crowned the “Designer for Tomorrow“ (DfT) by Stella McCartney in July during the Berlin Fashion Week. She told SDBI Director Joachim Schirrmacher what has happened in the past years.
One day after the DfT award ceremony everybody would like to know: How do you feel? You told me that in the beginning you didn’t realize that you are the winner while standing backstage, and that you were pushed on the catwalk.
Ioana Ciolacu Miron: Oh my god, I won! I won! A dream comes true. I’m the person that won, the person everybody looks up to now. Like they look up to Alexandra Kiesel who won DfT two years ago. I’m such a fan of hers and admire her work. And now I’m the one. It’s unbelievable. Everything was so quick and emotional, a real out-of-body experience. Now, one day after, I have a glimpse of the reality.
Can you describe your long journey to this success? From studying architecture, changing to fashion, taking part in our European Fashion Award FASH 2011 until today.
In my fifth year of architecture, I discovered that it was not the right thing for me. It needs a more technical mindset and a different approach. In addition, the options in my home country Romania to work on nice buildings are rather small. But I come from a family of architects, so I tried hard until I realized: I have to change something because I’m not happy with it. My two options were fashion or set-design. The Universitatea Nationala de Arte was closer to my house.
Are you by any chance a bit lazy?
Yes (laugh), that was one of the reasons. But I was always connected to fashion. After my diploma in architecture I started to study fashion. I had some free time and applied for our European Fashion Award FASH three years ago. The two outfits I did for FASH 2011 were my first project outside school. And then everything changed.
What did the 2nd Prize FASH 2011 change for you?
My life, my attitude. When you called me in November 2010 and told me that I’m one of the winners, it was also such a great feeling! I really went crazy. And I realized that I have a talent for fashion.
The European Fashion Award FASH strengthened your confidence?
Yes! Also all the experiences when we met. For the first time during the photo shoot in Berlin; some weeks later at the award ceremony. And everything and everybody was so nice: the photographer Gregor Hohenberg, at the huge ISPO MUNICH trade show, all the contacts and the networking with the other winners of FASH. But I was not prepared for what expected me when I came back home. It was a bit stressful because I got so much attention.
I got a lot of attention from the press. Romania was quite interested. SDBI sent out a very professional press release with pictures from the photo shoot, something that never happens in Romania when it comes to design. Everybody just took the information and pictures and presented it so nicely. And everybody contacted me. Everybody! I had to give so many interviews. From one day to the other, I became so busy and in some way helpless: I realized that I had to grow, to produce new ideas and new designs. In addition, there was also my diploma at school. I didn’t know what to do first. It was such a crazy time (quietly).
And then I am not so pleased with the designs I came up with afterwards and also with my diploma. It was done in such a short time and it was very hectic.
Your Diploma was not so important anymore?
Ioana Ciolacu Miron: Exactly! It was something that had to be done. And then I said: I need to take care of all this and I need to become organized. To stay natural and still be able to create.
So I started my business, built up a network and realized how important professional Public Relations is. But I had no investor or anyone to pay for it. That’s why I tried to keep myself interesting for the press. I did it on my own and created a personal collection. I chose streetwear because I really wanted to grow in the commercial aspect and start living from it. And it worked: Everybody bought it. I made lots of money, reinvested and produced some more. That was quite a blast.
I attended fairs, did another two collections, a fashion film and designed my website www.ioanaciolacu.com. And I was invited to shows. So I did another collection for the catwalk at the “Avanpremiere Fest”. It took place at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, a great building with good media coverage. Lots of people bought my collection, not only my friends. But the currency is different in Romania, so I set up the prizes accessibly. And made the production in-house.
Did you remember my tutor at Universitatea Nationala de Arte?
The German Katja Perrey?
She asked me to work as her assistant at University. So I started teaching in September 2011 and gained some amazing experiences, also because I found some very talented people. I asked one of the students – a really talented guy – if he would like to help me. I had a lot of production to do which I couldn’t handle on my own anymore. Unfortunately I was not able to pay. So I asked him to do an internship.
Alexandru Tunsu agreed and both of us learned a lot. I felt very guilty because he was still going to university and usually worked for me until late at night. That’s why I said to him: You will get 10 percent of the earnings related to joint work, e.g. at fairs. In the end that was more than an intern usually earns. I think it is so important to be human. The fashion industry is really superficial. He helped me so much, is so enthusiastic and gave me so much energy.
What he is doing right now?
He graduated this month. And he already showed his first collection consisting of 12 outfits in June at the “Avanpremiere Fest” show. I provided all my contacts and introduced him to my network. Now he knows a lot of press representatives and has the visibility I had one or two years ago.
How did you get the scholarship to do your Master in London?
In Romania I had the best school I could ever get. But even here the resources are limited and the teachers don’t have much experience. I felt the need to get in touch which people I can learn from.
So I applied for St. Martin’s and London College of Fashion (LCS). Both belong to the same university, but LCS is more technical and more industry related and St. Martin’s is more artistic. I choose LCS because they gave me a scholarship, and for the best mixture of creativity and industry. I have been studying there since September 2012.
Did you know the reason why?
They didn’t tell me. It is a Rector’s Scholarship scholarship, which pays the fee which is normally 5000 Pounds.
So you still have to work for your own living expenses?
Actually I’m in school and in the studio all day. I don’t have time for jobs like waitressing. But fortunately Alexandru Mistretu, my boyfriend, is working and able to support me.
Now I understand. You told me that you are attributing your winning DfT mainly to him.
And to my father, too. He is also supporting me. Because I don’t have time for anything else. It’s helps me concentrate.
And the most recent step in your career so far was to apply for DfT?
I encountered DfT when I heard about Alexandra Kiesel. I really like the way DfT presents the award. It’s such a great thing to have Marc Jacobs or Stella McCartney as a patron. So I applied in 2012, but without any result. I didn’t win anything. I was not even in the top 30. But at that time Marc Jacobs was the patron. I think he chose the designer. Maybe he was looking for something more glamorous or more artistic? This year I registered again because I received their newsletter. I applied with another collection, “Paradox”, and this time they picked me. Out of 350, you know.
What is your recommendation to students that now admire you, as you admired Alexandra Kiesel?
Well, design talent is not necessarily the most important thing for a fashion career. You need a little bit of talent, a bit of a mind for business, but the most important thing really is to be a down-to-earth person and a really hard worker. And when you are passionate about it, don’t be afraid of the extra work needed to gain serious awards. It really pays off!