Unorthodox, forward and experimental are just a few of the words used to describe Chicago-based designer Agnes Hamerlik. Shunning the typical definition of fashion, her collections focus on the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which revolves around the idea of imperfection. Hamerlik manipulates fabrics while harnessing draping and unique embellishments to create truly opulent offerings. Here’s what the rising designer had to say about her design process, fashioning a red hot look for model/actress Irina Pantaeva and the designers that inspire her the most.
theFashionSpot: Tell us a little about your background and design experience.
Agnes Hamerlik: I’m a multidisciplinary artist and designer exploring different areas of interest, which can only help me express my creativity. I’ve always found inspiration from unpredictable sources — there are no boundaries. All my creative endeavors come from any visual art or literature. As an artist, I love to experiment with photography, painting and sculptures, which translate into the creation of my unique garments.
tFS: How long have you been designing?
AH: I have been designing and expressing my creativity since I was a child.
tFS: How did you get involved with the Fashion Incubator program?
AH: The Chicago Fashion Incubator is an innovative nonprofit that seeks to make economic impact in Chicago by helping fashion designers build their dream business. Bridging the gap between design school and entrepreneurship, the CFI provides Chicago-based designers with tools to establish and grow their companies. Pairing with the CFI, I received necessary space, equipment and educational mentoring on the business of fashion. I am not only a designer/artist anymore; I am a business owner and creative director of my company working closely with my dream team. The CFI gave me the credibility I needed starting out in the fashion industry. Working under the Chicago Fashion Incubator, I have the ability to explore my richness and creativity because creativity needs to have courage, bravery and fearlessness. I’m blessed to be able to stay true to myself following my dream and the Chicago Fashion Incubator builds links between fashion, education, arts and business.
tFS: What were your thoughts when you were selected to design for the Red Dress Collection?
AH: My thoughts upon being selected to design for the Red Dress Collection were that I was given a chance to bring awareness to a great cause. I have been very aware of Go Red For Women and was truly honored to be chosen to represent an amazing cause that supports the research of a disease that affects so many women. To be able to give women a chance by funding research and awareness through this event and my creation of a garment is a privilege that I will forever be grateful for.
tFS: Tell us about your inspiration for the dress you’re designing.
AH: The Red Dress is the opening piece for my new mini semi-couture collection “Botanical Fragmentation,” inspired by various forms and the disconnection in nature. This collection will feature dramatic draping, complex fabric manipulations and unexpected embellishments and details. I’m challenging myself to formulate new types of silhouettes, style lines, textiles and color palettes that will be cohesive with the decided conceptual format. Still following my design aesthetic and the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which is finding beauty in things that are imperfect and incomplete, I have another chance to express my fascination of decay as being just as wonderful and rich as an expression of life. Through the juxtaposition of handcrafted textures, I’m designing this new collection of one-of-a-kind garments as a state of accepting the imperfections and appreciating them as beautiful and complex. Looking at my collection, you can see the multiple layers of history we all have.
tFS: What does the Red Dress initiative mean to you?
AH: To be able to be a part of the Red Dress initiative is transformative. It is an opportunity to bring awareness through a medium as fashion and art. My business has long been focused on ethical and social impact programs by supporting women through programs like Kiva, but I have never had the chance to align my brand with a program that supports the research for a disease that affects so many women yearly. If creating a unique and artistic garment will garner even a little awareness to such a deadly disease, then I feel as an artist I have completed my job.
tFS: Which designer(s) are you most inspired by?
AH: I admire and am inspired by a lot of fashion designers as each of them have different qualities. I believe there is a place for everyone in the fashion industry, but the problem is finding your niche. I admire Balenciaga, Rodarte, Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, Rei Kawakubo and Junya Watanabe for Comme des Garçons. I am always looking forward to learning from the best. I respect all designers, locally and internationally, and their ability to create and offer something unique and inspiring every season. I don’t see anyone as competition, I strongly believe that we as designers can learn from each other and inspire one another.
tFS: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
AH: As a modern luxury clothing company, my brand is determined on fortressing a long-term and consistent sustainable business practice over the next 10 years and continuing into the future. Cohesive with the brand’s unusual approach to design, the same avant-garde aesthetic brings to life my company’s idea of sustainability.
I am committed to the future by using sustainable techniques, eco–conscious efforts proven through the reuse and recycling of textile; my goal being to eliminate and significantly reduce the amount of waste that occurs during the garment production process. My goal is to replace the need to consume and through these actions, make the world a better place.