London Art Spot: Alisa Bieniek

A Polish-Dutch designer, Alisa studied design and styling at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. When she graduated, she had the unique opportunity of undertaking an internship with Alexander McQueen in London about five years ago. She learned a lot from him and her experience with his perfectionism has shaped her collections today. A recent graduate of the London College of Fashion, Alisa uses laser cutting and digital print to build a 3-D look with layers, transparency and movement.

For this week’s London Art Spot, she talks about the unusual inspiration behind her latest collections, the differences in approach to fashion in London and Amsterdam and, of course, a bit about her experience working with Alexander McQueen. 

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
A lot. I am surrounded by many individuals, people who are fashion aware, but at the same time dress in the way that reflects their personality and backgrounds. I meet people from different parts of the world who happen to have some sort of an impact on my design. It makes me look at the clothing from a different perspective. There are so many interesting places to see, galleries to visit, events to attend. All of this has an impact on my work. After all London is the Metropolitan city that never sleeps. I also have a lot more respect for traditional English tailoring. I put more attention to detail and the finishing of the garment.

LLO: Which piece in any of your collections are you most proud of and why?
The layered printed dresses as they are very wearable. The wearer can put his own order of the layers depending on the mood. It also reflects well the idea behind my concept. I like to translate 3D illusion through layering and transparency. Each layer of the prints presents a different stage of an opening flower. While wearing all the layers on top of each other, the illusion of 3D occurs.

LLO: When you moved to London in 2005, you had the privilege of participating in an internship with Alexander McQueen. What was he like as a person and how has this experience influenced the way you approach your own work today?
AB: Alexander McQueen was a perfectionist in every way. I was involved with the Autumn/Winter 2005 collection and I worked on the embroidery. Lee is pushing people forward; all of us worked on each piece of the collection. I was overwhelmed with the amount of time that each of us worked, sometimes even till early morning. Everything had to look perfect. Lee could notice every little detail. If the skirt was a couple mms too short, it had to be done again. His professionalism motivated me to work harder and maintain focus.

LLO: Tell us a bit about the techniques used to create your “Eclipse” collection where two identical models are then used to show off each piece.
AB: My work is also influenced by a movie director and musical choreographer Busby Berkley. His choreography performances involved complex geometric patterns which made the trademark in Busby’s career. The stage held hundreds of showgirls lined up in circles performing interesting patterns which gave an impression of looking through a kaleidoscope.

I wanted to reflect that effect in my presentation and so I have worked with Marta Tomecka, my colleague from Digital Fashion course who edited the pictures in the After Effects program. She has worked on the Eclipse movies which were shown during an exhibition at Mall Gallery.

LLO: Your collection “Future Circulation” is completely different from “Eclipse”. Tell us about your inspiration for this collection and your muse, Rachel.
I used to be very much into Sci-fi films like Star Wars or Matrix. The collection is inspired by cult movie Blade Runner from 1982. It represents the cyberpunk vision of the future where the man has developed the technology to create replicants, which are essentially humans who are designed for labour and entertainment purposes.

One of these replicants is Rachel. Although she had real emotions, everything else was too perfect about her look and behavior and the way she walked which was artificially improvised, as she was programmed. Her structured clothing influenced her straight posture and attitude.

In the 80s, the designers were inspired by the 30s and I have tried to find the balance between these two centuries and translate it into my design. The jackets are the statement pieces of this collection; it is made for powerful women who like to be in control. With the Eclipse collection, I have finally found myself with my designs. It is a conceptual more mature and wearable collection.

LLO: Having studied on fashion courses in both Amsterdam and London, have you noticed any specific differences in the way each city has inspired a unique sense of fashion – both in the shops and on the streets?
AMFI collage is focused on the commercial market, while the Digital Fashion Course at LCF offers a new approach on fashion and an artistic view on design. It has a lot of great workshops that support creativity.

I see a lot more individuals in London than Amsterdam. It is a city of mixed cultures and styles. Even if you wear something absolutely ridiculous, people won’t judge you; you can be yourself here. 

There are so many boutiques stocking independent and young designers. It is a great spot for fashion students. You can see the quality of the clothes better and places like Dover Street Market challenge you to work harder.

LLO: What new techniques and skills have you acquired throughout your MA course at the London College of Fashion that you plan to continue to develop in your future career?
AB: I will definitely continue working with digital print and laser cutter. I also discovered interesting 3D software programs which I am willing to develop, such as OptiTex 3D cloth stimulation and 3D Studio Max for modeling, animations and rendering package. As I have used very delicate and difficult-to-sew fabrics for this collection such as leather and all sort of silks, I have improved my pattern skills and learned new sewing techniques. 

LLO: Favorite place to shop for clothes in London?
I like the mix of high fashion with some designer pieces. Selfridges is good because it has a bit of both. Dover Street Market and Liberty for window shopping.

LLO: Which other up-and-coming London-based designers should we keep our eyes on?
AB: For 3D animations, Marta Tomecka. Kelley Kim for her combination of different techniques with knitwear, laser cutter and digital prints and Katarzyna Roguszczak for the accessories.

LLO: What’s next on the agenda for you?
I would like to work for a company to gain more experience and better skills with production. In the future I would like to set up my own label.

Thanks Alisa!

For more of Alisa’s work, check her website: