This spring, the Austrian Fashion Awards celebrated the country’s best designers, offering the opportunity to discover fresh new talents, among which is Hvala Ilija. His terrific men’s pieces, recalling the sportswear vibe currently coming from London and Moscow, was one of the week’s standouts. We photographed the collection on model Philipp, a fellow Austrian, in the streets of Vienna. We also caught up with the designer to find out more about his background, his projects, and fashion in Austria.
Where are you from?
I come from a small village in the north of Bosnia, and my family came to Vienna when I was 4 years old. I grew up between Bosnia and Vienna. I was educated in Vienna, but spent most of my holidays at my Gran’s in Bosnia.
Where did you study?
I studied design at Schloss Hetzendorf under the creative direction of Fabrics Inter_seaons, and later Ute Ploier. In 2015, I got accepted to study fashion at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna under the creative direction of Hüssein Chalayan. Let’s see where this will lead to.
When and how did you realize that you wanted to become a fashion designer?
The first time I earned money. It was the first time people rewarded my work with a prize and cash. I was used to struggling in school and barely making it to the next class, but getting appreciation for something you did with your own hands was kind of a reality check for me.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
Situations inspire me. Most of the time, it’s just about situations that happen in my personal life, so I guess I am inspired by my personal surroundings: people, places, phrases, sounds… It always starts with a mood or a bigger picture you see in your mind. I keep this mood in mind, then experience it in different situations. And at some point, it starts making sense, and you all of sudden you know what you’ve got to do.
Are there designers that you particularly admire, and who maybe influenced you?
Admire is a big word, and I don’t think that I do that, but again, their hustle motivates me, as well as their ability to speak a clear language via garments. But of course there are people that seasoned my personality, people like Rick Rubin, Ulrich Seidl or Dave Chapelle.
How is it being fashion designer in Vienna?
It’s slow… very, very slow. There aren’t enough platforms for young designers, and people who make important decisions at magazines, tend to stay in their comfort zone. They don’t take any risks, which forces a lot of creatives here to leave. So basically they’re doing the total opposite of what fashion is supposed to do – taking risks. But we also have some great young talents here, such as the stylist Max Märzinger, the photographers Rudolf Strobll, Katarina Soškic (Serbia via Vienna), and also models like Stella Lucia & Helena Severin.
What are your current projects?
This summer I’m finishing my first women’s project and starting to prepare the next men’s project. Besides, I’m adding more people to my team and working with photographers and models from abroad. These last two years, my first project gave me the opportunity to connect with a lot of talented and awesome people, so I will definitely take the chance and work with them.
Where can one purchase your clothes?
You won’t find them in any store, not any time soon. The opportunities were there, but it didn’t feel like the right time. Plus, there’s never been more “fashion“ than these days to purchase, so it’s nice to not just throw it out there. I only sell when people place orders, so you can send a message to my mailbox via my homepage and order.