IFA Paris’ recent graduate design winner, Dune Pavlova exudes fashion in every essence of her being. Born in Zagreb, Croatia, the 23-year-old designer has always possessed a fascination with the intricacies of cultural unions.  Her collection for this year’s theme ‘East Meets West’ impressed our jury panel through its evocative colour gradient and texturized silhouettes, inspired by Japanese symbolism with refined Parisian technique and Savoir-Faire.  Her ability to translate cultural symbols and history into a modern, wearable collection exemplifies her talent and capability to meet the demands that are currently imparted on Creative Directors. She succeeds by feigning any overtly literal interpretation of an idea, instead opting for a unique and edgy conceptualization of commonly used imagery –  perhaps why she lists Alexander Wang and Givenchy among her favourite fashion labels. We have no doubt that Ms.Pavlova will quickly be snapped up by a major fashion house.  She took the time to share her insights with IFA Paris about the preparation for this year’s show.

What does this year's theme 'East Meets West' mean to you?

The East Meets West theme evoked my desire to create a collection inspired by the very impact of extremes.By letting my mind travel along the globe I stopped at times when I felt the energy I was looking for and dug deeper within two cities that especially caught my eye.They are Tokyo and Japan on the one hand, and Brooklyn on the other.

Going back in Japanese costume history, I found that interplay of extremely fragile and eternally strong materials and shapes in the traditional Samurai costume.

The colours I used in the collection are entirely inspired by one of Japan’s national symbols and colour donor of its ensign, the Koi fish.In search of ultimate coolness along with a modern aggressive edge and genuine urban style, I stopped my journey in Brooklyn, New York.To join these two worlds I decided to combine them in keeping with my own roots and aesthetical background of the Parisian silhouette and French savoir-faire.

Can you tell us a little bit about the initial conception of the design process, and how you incorporated your theme into the final aesthetic?

My real intention was to work with extremes, which is something you can see and feel when you look at the garments. I only choose the finest natural fibers, like cashmere for the coats and silk for the dresses. The mixture of a very light and rather fragile fabric like silk with materials like leather; wool and cashmere embodies that feeling. On the one hand I decided to use these fabrics for the extremes' sake and on the other for their origin, as silk for example plays a big role in Asian history. The shapes of the jackets and coats are initially inspired by the samurai warrior costume, but modernized through the pattern and sportswear elements. I found it very important to use the leather in the most modern and casual way as possible, so I was very careful where and how to place it for the jackets not become costumes and remain up-to-date. Also the color chart is entirely based on one of Japan’s number one symbols, the koi fish and its waters.

What was the most difficult part of realising your designs?

Finding a balance between the expectations of the school and my own ideas and aesthetics. My definition of a good designer is someone who respects the codes and tradition of the house he works for and reinterprets them.In this case I decided to look at IFA being the label, respect the theme it gave me and translate into my own language.

What surprised you the most along the way?

That I was actually able to realize the exact idea and feeling I had about the collection from the very beginning until the end. That experience was fantastic.

What does it mean to you to have won this year’s show?

I feel honoured and happy!It is important in everyone’s career to sometimes get to the point where all the initiative finally pays off and your work is being acknowledged. It’s the best feedback you can get that you’re actually on the right track.

How were the final moments leading up to the show? Did everything go as planned?

As my project was rather big regarding the expenditure of time, I didn’t have a choice to let things pile up right before the end. I started working on it early and didn’t accept a lot of compromises regarding my time management. As you can’t plan everything in life, unexpected challenges still came up and I was forced to make some decisions. I initially planned to add an accessory line to it, but that was the only sacrifice I had to do to be able to finish the collection without renouncing on the number of looks or letting the workmanship suffer.

Did your instructors help you throughout the design process? How did this lead to the final aesthetic?

I must say that I have never been that lucky and grateful to profit from such great professors. Not only was my styling teacher working for years at Maison Martin Margiela but also my sewing teacher worked with plenty of the greatest couture houses worldwide inter alia Chanel, Valentino and many others. We connected both on a professional and personal level. Respecting them and taking their experience seriously helped me to be disciplined and 100% focused on what I was doing as I knew I had someone credible to ask if I didn’t know the answer myself.

What’s next for you?

I will make a list of 5 designers or studios I’d like to work with, try for a position there and cross fingers to be accepted rather sooner than later.