The visionary fashion designer Milena Silvano was born and bred in Italy but is now living in her leafy, East Sussex idyll which she came to via several years in East London. Milena’s garments are made from ethical fabrics, hand printed, with a healthy dose of ecological ethos and symbolic meanings, making them as much works of art as functional clothing. I caught up with the lovely Milena to find out a bit about what inspires her dreamy creations and how rural living is informing her creative practice.
How long have you been producing your own collections? Can describe what you feel your work is about and your ethos and how this has evolved since you started out?
I have been designing collections since 2001. I had a good following in Japan which allowed me to finance the collection but it soon became evident that my designs were simply tailored to suit the demands of the Japanese market, and I became unsatisfied with the work. I started making new collections in 2010. This time it was a lot more to do with the necessity to make things with my hands, and to connect with like-minded people through my work.
What is the inspiration behind your recent, beautiful SS12 collection of shawls and pochos?
The constant theme of my collections is to inspire the questioning of provenience and process behind the pieces. To do so there has to be a certain tactile quality to the garment that I think I achieve by being ‘hands on’ – a lot of the pieces are hand printed or hand dyed. SS12 was almost entirely made with ahimsa (or peace) silk, a hand woven, ethical silk made with cocoons picked after the larvae have escaped. The fabric itself carries a lot of meaning and magic I think, and I wanted to make pieces with almost no construction at all, pieces that could be draped on the body and have a symbolic meaning.
I love and am saving up for one of your community tunics, can you tell me a bit about what inspired them?
One of the main inspirations in my work comes from observing the clothing worn within cults and communes from the late 60′s. What fascinates me about them is the (apparent) lack of egos within the groups, and how that informed the idea of uniform. I also like the simplicity and purity of some of those uniforms… there is a photo of three Manson girls wearing these tunics made from what appears to be a white bed sheet that I find really beautiful.
Do you have any particular style icons?
I think this girl is pretty cool.
You recently left East London for the wilds of East Sussex, how do you think country living has affected your work and creative process?
I am definitely more open and attentive to my inner world here and I think the work benefits from it. It also makes a lot of sense to indulge in my passion for natural dyes in the countryside – plenty of opportunity for foraging dye plants and space to grow my own.
Have you been reading any good books or listening to good music recently?
Yes! Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard. I have also recently picked up: Women Who Run With Wolves: myths and stories of the wild woman archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
As for music… I have J Mascis and friends’ album ‘Songs for Amma’ on repeat.