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:

London Art Spot: Julia Francis

One of few who knew what she wanted to be when she grew up from a young age, Julia Francis not only pursued her ideal career as a make-up artist, but has made a success of it and has accumulated an impressive list of clients. Advertising for Bacardi, Ford, L’Oreal and Pantene. Make up for Michelle Ryan, Nick Cave and Jamie Cullum. Editorial work for Cosmo, Company and Harper’s Bazaar. She’s also worked with directors George Lucas and Tom Hanks. And that’s just a short list.

Despite the big names above, my first discovery of Julia’s work remains my favourite. That is her body-painting. Over 10 years ago, after painting the belly of a pregnant friend, she started Embody – an organisation to recreate this positive experience for many other pregnant women. 

For this week’s London Art Spot, Julia has taken a few minutes out of her busy life to tell us more about Embody, let us in on who her dream clients are and where she shops in London for fashion and beauty essentials.

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
 I spend half my time in London and half my time in brighton so I find creative inspiration from each. There is always somewhere new to discover in London and as there’s always new discoveries, there’s never that sense of boredom. 

LLO: Do you remember the moment you decided to become a make up artist?
 I remember I was about 12-years-old when I decided I wanted to be a make-up artist; it was my dream job. By the age of 14, I’d made enquiries into colleges and visited the one I wanted to go to. Nine years later I began the course. I haven’t a clue where it came from though as my mum wasn’t remotely into make-up and it’s pretty young to become fascinated with something when you’ve not been influenced from someone at home. Guess it was just my calling!

LLO: You’ve got a wide range of talents – beauty, fashion, body-painting, commercial work. Which do you enjoy most and why?
 I love doing close up beauty work. Seeing the detail of the makeup and perfecting every tiny stroke knowing it will be magnified when seen as a photograph. It makes me concentrate more on technique when its close-up.

LLO: There’s some incredibly big names in your list of advertising clients – Bacardi, Herbal Essence, Pantene – Which have been your favourite projects and who is your dream client in the advertising side of your work?
All jobs bring something different. Working on a series of commercials for Bacardi was one of my favourite projects as it was exciting and challenging. Working on Star Wars as a body painter is also pretty high up on the list though. My dream client would have to be one of the big make-up brands such as Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent.

LLO: The same goes for celebrity clients – Jonathan Ross, Julie Delpy, Colin Firth. Who has been your favourite model so far and which celebrity would you most love to work on if given the opportunity?
 Like brands, all the people I have worked with are different too and I couldn’t say who my favourite has been. Given the opportunity, I would love to do Kate Winslets make-up as I think she has a great face and I like her down-to-earth approach to life.

LLO: When I first discovered your work, it was through the Embody website which you created in order to offer body painting designs specifically for pregnant women. Can you tell us about that?
I started Embody 10 years ago when I body painted a pregnant friend. I was so impressed with the impact the body painting had on her and how good she felt about her body when she was painted that I took it from there and approached pregnant women in the street to paint them. I soon built up a portfolio of designs and it went from there. I now get commissioned from individuals to design bespoke ideas for them and present them with a set of photographs of their painted pregnant body. For more info, see

LLO: Best place in London to buy make-up?
Space N K, Selfridges

LLO: Favourite London fashion shops?
 Cop Coppine, Happie Loves it, Diesel.

LLO: What projects have you got on at the moment?
I’ve just finished a couple of shoots for Head & Shoulders and last week was a shoot for Colgate. I constantly look to work on new ideas with photographers and am currently putting together some ideas for the next shoot.

LLO: Favourite London-based artists?
Too many to mention. 

Thanks Julia!

For more of Julia’s work, check out her website:

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