NFTs and virtual social spaces are transforming digital fashion, but the ones driving the changes are the designers. In our Designer Spotlight series, we interview the aspiring designers to share their backgrounds as well as their perspectives on metaverse wearables.
Ilona Song is a fashion designer active on both digital and physical fashion. She is best known for her LUV dress, which gained a lot of popularity in the AR digital fashion platform DressX, and the virtual dress was worn by fashion influencers and celebrities around the world. Surprisingly, she does not come from a conventional fashion design background and was, in fact, inspired by her daughter to start creating fashion designs later into her career. In this interview, Ilona shares her story as a digital/physical fashion designer and what she tries to convey and express in her designs.
M&W: Could you tell us a bit about your background as a designer?
Ilona: I actually did not start my career as a fashion designer—in fact, I studied business back in college. I did enjoy observing design trends and had a good eye for details though, and I created the interior designs of my houses and offices. While I also designed clothes for myself and my friends, especially for special events like weddings or concerts, it was only until my daughter, who was attending Parsons at that time, inspired me to try out fashion design in a more serious manner. Since then, I took courses in Parsons and MoMA, and I eventually started my own fashion brand.
M&W: How did you start creating digital fashion designs?
Ilona: Before the pandemic, I used to collaborate with different people on my personal brand (physical fashion), but with the lockdown happening after COVID, it became extremely difficult to do photoshoots or create samples. That was how I first started looking into digital fashion.
M&W: Let's talk about your LUV Dress. Could you tell us the story behind this design?
Ilona: I am personally deeply interested in spirituality, and it helped me to shift to doing what I love to do. If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. And at that time, I was indeed tired of working (laughing). LUV stands for "listen", "understand", and "validate", and visually, I wanted to convey that love is essentially two hearts coming together. While the design started from a sudden inspiration, I did put in a lot of energy into expressing the meanings I wanted to deliver through this project.
M&W: What do you think makes your designs unique?
Ilona: I enjoy drawing inspiration from my surroundings, and at the same time, I also prefer to adopt the contemporary style of simple and distinctive patterns and shapes. I also think that digital fashion does not have to be cartoonish, and I try to make my digital fashion designs to be indistinguishable from physical fashion designs by carefully choosing and creating the textures.
M&W: Drawing from the popularity of LUV Dress, what do you think is the key to success for indie digital fashion designers?
Ilona: I really think it is important to be truly passionate about your designs and be able to find unique ways of expressing yourself. When you find a distinct style that could easily distinguish you from other designers, I think that is an important sign to start. Especially since the field of digital fashion is new, it is easy for designers to be strongly influenced by other designers in the space. Rather than thinking too much about others' feedback, you should believe in yourself, try to be yourself, and express your unique self and perspective.
Follow Ilona's designs and her phygital brand through these links: