Ever since he presented his fall-winter 2016 collection in Vienna, a terrific assortment of streetwise pieces that included an outstanding, much-photographed “Marlbro” jacket, Hvala Ilija has been a hit with the most cutting-edge international magazines. The 28-year-old, Vienna-based designer moved to the Austrian capital in the late 90’s after fleeing his war-torn homeland Bosnia. He notably studied at the university of the Applied Arts in Vienna, under the direction of Hussein Chalayan. Now a stylist and designer, he joined forces with Ivorian, Paris-based photographer Stéphane Gaboué in Vienna, dressing Austrian models Philipp and Adrian in his latest creations.
Can you please tell us about your background ?
I grew up travelling between Bosnia and Vienna after my family had to leave Bosnia. At the beginning it was difficult for me, and I felt very challenged by things like moving stairs, elevators and dogs in coats. But I quickly fell in love with Animes, Toys R Us & Coca-Cola toothpaste, and was ready to take on the moving stairs.
You grew up between two different cultures. How has that impacted your fashion vision ?
I was always interested in people coming from other places and adapting to a new environment while keeping their identities. I grew up with a strongly influenced X-Balkan background and vibe, but was also forced to adapt. So I had to find a balance, and I guess that’s what also shows in the collections and projects.
You’re still studying Vienna, but you’ve already designed a collection that has often been photographed in trendy magazines, and you also work as a stylist. How is this experience of being both a professional and a student ?
It began to become very difficult because I enjoy doing both, and both jobs require time and preperation. So I decided to take a break from studying to focus and work on my projects as well as my styling jobs. At some point, I felt like I wasnt able to invest myself in all 3 of the jobs, and I dont like to work that way. At the moment, I feel good about my decision and I’m looking forward to different projects that are coming up.
What are your main sources of inspiration ?
My main sources are memories, as well as the X-Balkan and Vienna. Then again, it can happen that I hear a song, read a phrase or experience something I want to see in reality and then all mixes up and becomes what it’s supposed to become at that moment. And honestly, you can’t always rely on the ‘main sources of your inspiration’, the real challenge being to stay open and not to get comfortable.
What inspired this new mini-collection ? I sense a strong science-fiction vibe here.
In his early 20’s, my uncle used to come to Vienna. He never stayed long. He just stayed long enough to save enough money to buy himself Levi’s jeans, a tracksuit, or sneakers. The rest he used to party in Vienna and bring back some to Bosnia. So while developping the idea, I had in mind this young, free, single guy, coming to a city ready for the nightlife. But it’s also inspired by the current situation in Bosnia, where the youth is forced to leave their home because they don’t have a choice. There’s a small reference point you find in the collection. Youtube it.
Are you planning to stay in Vienna, or would you like to move to another city ?
The dream would be to be able to travel around the Balkans while researching, documenting, connecting and creating the idea, but to come back to Vienna to work on the prototypes and finish the collection.
You seem to be very attached to Vienna. One of your caps even reads “Vienna”;
How does the city influence your work ?
I am attached to Vienna, but it’s more the Vienna I created in my mind than the Vienna that it actually is at the moment. I tried to answer this question, but with the current political situation we are dealing with, I don’t feel like talking about Vienna or giving it a shout out. Sry & Bussi Vienna…..
What are your future projects ?
I just wrapped up a collaboration I worked on with Paulaner Beer. That was a lot of fun and was presented in Munich. Currently, I’m working on the next proper collection and a few other projects that will be released in the near future that I can’t wait to share. But the main project is to stay focused and keep up the fun, to be honest.