Irina Marinescu - sunglasscurator

Irina Marinescu

After a well-reasoned period of absence, we are delighted to restart the monthly series of interviews with our GUESTCURATORS, people we admire for their professional and why not personal path in life.

Our July feature is starring Irina Marinescu, a Romanian fashion designer that launched her latest collection in June, a wonderful event of which we told you about here. Although very young, she is one of the veterans in the Romanian fashion, succeeding to built a household name on the market and most of all to still be relevant for the public. Considering her ongoing interest in the process, I.M. makes a beautiful case for the art of self-renewal by exploring the deeper gratifications that have kept her going all this time.

We sat down with I.M. at the showroom one sunny morning and learned about her take on fashion, her approach on it, how social media influenced her business and many more.

You’ve started your career in 2009, was there a space for it in the market? What were your other options beside teaching or being an artist? How did you choose to become a fashion designer?

That’s going to be pretty long story to tell! :) I have actually started my career in 2003, while being still a student in my 3rd year. A new market was rising and a new generation was ready to emerge and I was a part of it! I never asked myself I had any other options than starting as a fashion designer and building a brand. I had always dreamt of it and it seemed pretty natural for me to get it going. I was just a kid when I started dreaming about that. I was continuously drawing costumes and I wanted to do clothes, so it was just natural to choose that instead of anything else. Against all odds, despite the market, that was not a real one, my parents, the economy etc. I was pretty innocent and seemed really easy to make a decision and nothing could have stopped me at the time being.

What are your learnings so far? It’s all about the instincts / having good design and materials / have a good strategy / applying the marketing mix? What’s your strategy?

I think my only real strategy is to make the best out of each piece of clothing. To pay enough attention to details and to tell the story it is supposed to tell. Far more than this, there will always be something to be improved, there will always be more to accomplish and learn.

Irina is wearing DITA Bengal sunglasses 

As a fashion designer, what is your priority when working on a new collection? Do you keep as much control on design as possible? Do you consider other factors as well?

At the very first beginning, my only focus is on the story and documenting on it! I pay a great deal to stories. All things have a story that must be discovered and told. I also pay attention to trends and design, on details and fabrics. I love to work with natural fibers. I try my best to make the story as obvious as possible, as this is the way it works for me.

Do you have a special clothing item you love to reinvent every time?

It is probably myself that I keep reinventing mostly. My collections are always a reflection of my state of mind. They always reflect what I feel, what I am while working on them.

Tell us about your limited edition collection IM/SPLASH!-T’s.

SPLASH! became my every summer capsule collection starting two years ago. I am always having a lot of fun doing it, as every summer I find myself dreaming about the sea. I become nostalgic and dreamy. I go back in time to the Dolce Farniente and sometimes it even becomes hard to focus on work while in summer. So I have to make the best of it :))

How come did you decide to expand from clothing to jewelry or bags?

I had a jewelry line in mind, years ago. It just took me a long time to find what I have dreamt of. I wanted to work with a jeweler, someone to craft and work with his own hands, as I will always believe in the human touch! Forever! So I started a line with my darling friends Irina and Alexandra. They already had My Precious Buzztard – their own jewelry line – and they were already working with gold and silver. We knew each other a long time before that, so starting working together came pretty natural. We named the line – Thea Lamenthe. Our pieces are always Gold or Silver and they always have a story behind. With bags, well, from my perspective, that is not so unexpected. All designers have extensions of their collections, lines, capsules etc.

You were a Costume Designer for Child’s Pose, the Romanian movie which won the Golden Bear in 2013, in the Berlin Film Festival. Before that, also for the movie WebSiteStory. High-profile fashion designers have been involved in film production – Miuccia Prada for Baz Luhrmann‘s The Great Gatsby, Jean Paul Gaultier for The 5th element and the list can go on. I believe it’s nice to have other perspectives, why did you want to be involved in projects like this?

I never saw my job as a limited one, I actually thought of it as having no boundaries. Clothes can tell a lot and can be a great deal. You know, we tend to judge some people for the outrageous way they dress themselves, we judge young women for looking cheap, but we should all understand that the way we dress up has a lot to do with education, with where we come from and our background, with the music we listen too etc. You will never be able to convince someone listening to “manele” that they should stop wearing black very tight Lycra t-shirts, Golden belts etc. This is who they are and their clothes tell it the best. But going back from where we started, it was a great project to be in, I love doing movies. There’s always a great challenge. I am only a small part of it, but I have to play my part very wisely. I have to respect the director’s perspective, without ignoring my senses and, farther and the most important, I have to respect the character, the way the director sees it, in order to make it clear to the public. I wish I’d be a part of the above list one day… I always fantasized about The 5th element. I loved the costumes, but not more than I did regarding the ones in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. I consider that a masterpiece, I definitely think of it as one of my favorite movies ever.

This month, you were part of this year’s Swimathon, in order to bring support to children and young people affected by autism. Social Entrepreneurship for a better tomorrow. Do you plan to get involved more, even after the event?

We just did it last Saturday. It was my first time to be a part of something like it and I will definitely repeat it! I almost couldn’t believe how motivating it was. I would get out of bed at 7 o’clock (I am not a morning person) and go directly to the pool to train myself. It felt incredibly good and I also had a great team. Anca Nuta, Aura Badea and Cezara Cartes have been wonderful and the combo was great!!! I think we kind of made a bound and we are planning to do it again. We were actually thinking to keep on training every week, with or without a reason. And I think that from now on, we will always be happy to jump when needed. :)

Now let’s talk a bit about on how you promote your label. How did the digital era of commerce influence your business? You have a website, a Facebook page, even a blog – do they help you improve your sells?

Yes, they do! I love people and objects. I love books, paper, pencil. I love the way they smell and feel, but it is not my decision to make when it comes to the evolution of the digital era and I also cannot deny its benefits. Yet, I have to say it…with no lack of modesty that I, as in myself as a person, am the best way to promote my label and it is not because I am some kind of special element. It is just because Romanian people still feel the need to know more, to put a face to everything they buy and consume and their curiosity has no limits (unfortunately). Facebook is one of the most important tools and I promote things that are in our interest, new items and all sort of other things. My blog is a reflection of myself and I try to keep it neat. I give people a piece of me, another one, consciously, as I always had the feeling they’re more curious about myself than my work. It isn’t easy to accept that, as my work is a great part of who I am also. A huge one. I could be anyone. It could be anyone behind the line. It doesn’t matter. My energy is in every piece of clothing that we make. They all have stories to tell, every single one of them, but still, if I am not there to support it, it isn’t the same and that can be frustrating sometimes. I love the philosophy on which Maison Martin Margiela was built, but that’s not going to be possible locally, in the near future. Unfortunately, again.

Do you shop online? What is the most frequent item you get online?

I do. I get shoes. 99% of the time I get my shoes online. I always find what I need and manage to get something that I can’t shop for locally. I am not talking about the price, but about getting things that are close to unique. I hate having the same with other hundreds of people. That’s why I always keep it simple and never consider the trends 100%. I only take what fits and describes me. I am not a fashion victim. I love vintage pieces and most of the favorite ones I have are vintage.

Well, I never really managed to put a label to it. It is pretty hard to see yourself from the outside, but I guess my signature style is pretty much a combination between minimalist wear, tom boy and beach bum. I love simple things with clean cuts and perfect finishing, but I also love “heavy” vintage items. The most important is to feel good about what I am wearing and also feel that it talks about myself.

Tell us why you think sunglasses are important for your style and outfits.

They are an accessory, as worthy as any other. For many people they are a signature, as they are for Lagerfeld. I enjoy having many pairs and I used to buy any pair I loved and fancied, no matter if they belonged to a certain brand or not. But that was a while ago, when my eyes weren’t so picky. I recently started wearing opticals so I have to choose carefully. If the lenses are no good, then there is a lot I cannot do, especially see too good. :)) More than that, sunglasses can bring the final touch. They can make a character or make you feel like one.

Do you remember your first pair of sunglasses?

I don’t, unfortunately. But I do remember one of the first pairs. I must have been around 14 and I had this pair I was in love with that resembled Ray Ban Clubmaster. I don’t think they were Ray Ban, but I loved them anyway. I think I even have a photo somewhere in which I am wearing them proudly.

How do you choose your sunglasses? What’s the main criteria?

As I said before, there was a time when the only criteria was based on the style and the way they fitted me, but now I can no longer afford the luxury of doing that, as I need good lenses. So beside the style, I need good lenses, not too dark and not in cold tones.

We know you have a special connection with vintage eyewear. Tell us more about it.

We (B and I) had a vintage boutique a few years ago and we were selling sunglasses and frames too. Vintage ones, of course. We used to pick them from any place we were traveling, from fairs and flea markets. We were in NY one time and B took me to this amazing Vintage Boutique, where they were only selling sunglasses, frames and opticals. It was a pretty expensive place, since they were only selling huge brands and they had a very outstanding selection. I left the place with a pair of oversized Ray Ban Wayfarer. I still have them and I don’t remember ever seeing another similar pair. I have the same relationship with Vintage sunglasses as I have with Vintage clothes, objects etc. I am addicted to their stories and I think time makes them extremely precious, even more when they are in great condition. I just bought myself two vintage pairs, in the short trip we took a week ago. One pair has no name on it, but they are made in France and have extremely good lenses and the others are just frames and they are more than 15 years old, but you can easily see that when it comes to objects like this. They always have these great details and finishing, which you cannot find that often in our days. That’s one of the things that make Vintage Pieces so special.

Which is your favorite piece from and why?

I love Dita – Condor Two, mostly because of the lenses. They are not opaque and you can see the eyes of the one who wears them. I sometimes like to hide behind the lenses, when I am tired or less social, but for most of the time, I like to show my eyes. I do pay a lot of attention to people’s eyes and hands. Plus, especially this ones fit perfect with my colors. I also love the light frames and the way they fit with my hair and freckles.

Please associate the DITA Condor Two sunglasses you picked with a place or song.

Photos taken by Roxana Marcu at showroom in Bucharest