Eriona Idrizaj takes us through her design journey
by - Geralda Cela

When you’re based in a city like London, it’s hard not to be inspired by the architectural surroundings – bold designs, sharp textures and loud shapes that construct the capitals Landscape. But under these impressive, monumental buildings lies another story – riddled with deep social and political problems such as poverty, homelessness and waste. Issues which designer Eriona Idrizaj brings to the fore in project, City Obsessed.

Sensitive to her surroundings, she pieced together her collection by combining documentary photography and hand-drawings of ideas to bring light to these issues in collaboration with three other young designers.

Here we met the designer to talk building her brand, the city and her design processes.

What have you been up to lately?

I’ve been working on a family collection for my boss Kristalé, who wanted me to design and hand sew her and her kids a Neutral based look. She wanted to go for a very simple and ancient looking shot , something warm and homely. The collection was a success and we are now waiting for the edited photographs to be finished. 

Where are you currently based?

I’m still currently working on building my brand. So I work from home and university studios. If all goes to plan with timing by the end of the year I will launch 2 collections via a website and a pop up shop. 

Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into menswear design?

First time I found out that fashion was the path that I wanted to go down was in secondary school in my textiles class. I had hand sewn a little handbag and I just loved sewing and all the little details that went into actually bringing and hand-drawn design to life. Eventually, after school, I went to Fashion Retail Academy, and during my 2 years there I found out that menswear was what I wanted to design. I’m more of a streetwear kind of girl and have always loved baggy hoodies t-shirts and hats. Even though I’m doing menswear it’s more or less unisex. These days everyone wears menswear you can never go wrong with it.

Your clothing brand is called ERA, where did the idea for that choice come from? 

I’m currently still deciding on a brand name, for the time being I’m using ERA as that’s my nickname. Working around my concepts and trying to come up with a unique name that represents my background and my style. 

Where do you draw your inspirations for a collection from?

All of my inspirations that I get come from architecture. I love buildings and symmetrical  silhouettes. I’ve always had a thing for shapes. What I usually do is walk around and take pictures of building and then use that to build a shape and build a garment around the body. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a menswear designer?

Im currently in my second year of university. And at the end of each term I have to do a FMP ( final major project) I get 3-4 months tops to build a 4 price collection and that’s always so time consuming and stressful. It’s extremely challenging and sometimes comes to the point where I want to break down and cry , but all of the pressure is also a adrenaline rush that makes me rush past all the stress and exited to see the final outcomes. 

Talk us through how you’d go about bringing a design to life?

Firstly I have a concept , then I start my research. I gather imagines from books magazines the internet and real life sources to. I’ll then use those to start building shapes. I play around with the same shapes a few times and develop different ideas from one and repeat that multiple times until I’m happy with one final one. Then I start to sample any idea of details like zips , sleeves pockets etc. Ones I’ve mastered the sampling I will make a toilet of the garment in the fabric I have chosen. Finally I then make the final garment and have it photographed.

How do you source your materials?

I go to loads of different fabric shops and get samples first, play around with textures and decide on the best one for the design I have. I go to Shepard’s bush market mostly as there are so many different shops to chose from, and in Hackney, I tend to go to a huge warehouse and buy from there too.

Tell the City Obsessed collection?

The City obsessed collection was a university group project. We worked in a group of 3 people. As a group, we focused on poverty and homelessness. We took pictures of rubbish and construction sites that had thrown out any old materials and from those images built shapes to then create final looks. It was a really interesting project as it was quite different from something we normally did. 

And are you more of a city or countryside person?

I would say I’m more of a city person, I’ve always been intrigued by big buildings and never-ending city lights. But don’t get we wrong deep down in my heart I’m also a countryside person. I love me a quiet and peaceful scenery where I can sit and think, take in all the nature to inspire me within myself and grown from that. 

If you could collab/ work with any other designers and brands who would it be? 

I would love to collaborate with Craig Green. He’s a inspiration to me. I love how he uses huge silhouettes and and mixture of different colour ranges and explores that very widely.

Who do you admire artistically or generally and why?

I admire my best friend Laurent. He is one of the most purest souls I’ve come across in my life. He is full of ideas and inspires me and motivates me each day to get to where I want to be in my career.  He is extremely talented and I love the way he sees life through his eyes. That pushes me each time to never give up even when I’m at my lowest he always manages to pick me back up and inspire me more and more each time.