Well-known for her sexy, untraditional designs, Anna Bolina comes back to the fore with the new daring and experimental pieces of her Spring/Summer 2024 collection, recently showcased at the New York Fashion Week. The runaway, which took place in a Brooklyn industrial warehouse, uncovers sexiness in new ways elevating traditional signifiers of femininity with bold and intimidating looks that exhibit Bolina’s uniqueness within the fashion industry. Her untraditional collection, like her artistic persona and fashion brand, challenge the industry and the world in a unique dramatic setting because if one is not “going as far as they can, what’s the point.”
Anna Bolina is a fashion designer who exhibited her new collection, S/S 24, at the New York Fashion Week. Bolina started and established herself in the fashion industry despite not being trained in fashion design. Her previous collections introduced unique, untraditional, and sexy elements which she developed and elevated in her new runaway show maintaining a will to challenge traditional fashion rules.
Congratulations on your Spring/Summer 2024 runaway show at New York Fashion Week! You opened your show retracing the origins of your fashion career by exhibiting tube dresses with bold fonts and statements printed on them. What were the reasons and the meaning behind this choice?
The girls walk out in the printed tube dress, the product most associated and recognised with the brand, contrasted the couture and experimental runway looks presented afterwards. It highlighted the struggle myself and many designers find in this industry - the push and pull of wanting to be artistic and needing something wearable and sellable on a large scale. That at the end of the day, these fashion shows might be performative events, but fashion is at its core a business. I also wanted to point out and pay homage to the fact that for years, selling these screen printed products has allowed me to hold events at this scale.
Another element that returns in this collection is your use of recycled materials. Upcycling for the runaway can surely be seen as an ethical and a political statement, but is this eco-friendly approach useful for your creative process and does it contribute to the message your collection aims to convey?
It is a natural way of working for me. Because I was not trained in fashion design, I use deconstructing to learn how garments are produced. My process usually started going to second hand stores and finding an article of clothing I feel inspired by. Most of the time, I can find the exact same piece over and over again, making me realise how much of these clothes are just produced and thrown down the pipeline until they end up at a thrift store in Brooklyn. It made me realise that instead of working with a factory, why not cut out the middleman and take advantage of the overproduction. The difference between luxury goods and fast fashion has collapsed - I see them as essentially part of the same problem. Clothes that are worn and discarded season by season.
Looking at the looks you showcased in this runaway, one can find traces of the empowering sensual element that distinguished your previous collections. However, this characteristic sensuality was differently inclined in the new pieces. What caused this evolution in the sexy style of your brand?
I am always challenging myself and the audience to see sexiness in new ways. In the beginning, the brand was rooted in traditional signifiers of femininity - fishnets, sheer shirts, tight dresses - but I wanted to elevate these elements, putting them into a high fashion space and making the models look bold and intimidating while wearing them. With this collection, I worked with silhouettes that weren’t as form fitting, elements that were made to cover up the body or men’s sportswear, and less traditionally quote unquote pretty makeup. These clothes are made to surprise you in how sexy they are. Sexiness is all about how confident you are - anything can be sexy, and I’m always trying a new way to show that.
As a fashion designer based in New York, does this city, known worldwide for its fashion scene, influence you as an artist? What role did it play, if any, in the design of the collection?
New York City itself definitely inspires me. You can walk around looking totally unusual and out there and no one cares. You see every type of style, every type of person being their individual self. It gives you that freedom - you are just one of many people a day that stand out, and so you aren’t nervous to be bold and unique. That plays a role in myself and every collection I make.
The location of your runaway show, a Brooklyn industrial warehouse, suited and enhanced the cool tones of your collection’s palette, characterised by a small range of colours in which black and white are dominant. Would you say this basic palette aligns with the basic hot style that your brand is said to contribute to define? Would you agree with this stylistic categorisation or how would you entitle your fashion narrative?
I wouldn’t define my brand as “basic hot” - in fact, the whole point of my original designs were trying to figure out a way to look hot without being basic, simple, or safe. There were a lot of interesting designs happening in men’s fashion at the time, but none of it felt sexy to me. I would describe the clothes I make as a challenge - they take courage to wear, and challenge the world to decode them or think twice about fashion in general.
As in every artistic context, the setting contributes to the meaning of the subject. In what way did this particular place uphold your artistic vision?
For this season, I wanted everything to be pushed to the extreme. I wanted the show to be larger than life, inspired by experiences that provoke an emotional response by the intensity. The venue we held it at provided the space we needed and the set was designed to provide a dramatic setting. This came from a general underwhelming feeling coming from the fashion world. These runway shows require a lot of resources - if they aren’t going as far as they can, what’s the point.
The juxtaposition of textures, designs, and materials dominates your collection. What does this visual contrast aim to convey to the public that follows you and to the fashion industry as a whole?
I find mixing textures, materials, and shapes in untraditional ways - for example, leather with plastic, sportswear with evening wear, etc. - creates contrast within the outfits. A lot of fashion design is made without a box of what factories will produce, however my garments cannot be made by anyone else because they are put together with a large percentage of found materials. Therefore, they are very specific to me and my surroundings. I never let the traditional rules of construction hold this process back.
As we have seen, your brand is charged with significance. Is there a change, or a debate that you would like to spark and establish within the fashion world through your collection?
Yes, I would like people to start thinking about what these runway shows are for, who they are for, why we keep doing them.
You are known for being active on one social media account which is both your personal and your brand one. Why did you choose to merge the two rather than separate them like most of your colleagues do?
I’ve never wanted to create a separate account for my brand for multiple reasons. I find that with the amount of small fashion brands appearing, it becomes hard to decipher the meaning behind them without knowing about the person creating it. I find some of the most interesting parts of fashion history come from when there was a story of the designer themselves as well. I want to take my audience along with me, to see where I started, and what happens next, whether it’s success or failure.
The New York Fashion Week where you showcased your Spring/Summer 2024 collection just came to an end. Are you already working on your next runway show or is there any collection launch you are currently focusing on?
I’m always working on what's next.