Numéro : What was your first memory about fashion?
Idris Balogun : My first conscious memory of fashion, was sitting in my father's closet and looking at the fabrics and being so enthralled by how his whole identity existed in this small space where I sat, the way he was perceived by others sat on racks in a dark room, and I sat there and took it all in.
Which designers inspire you as a child and today?
When I was younger, Ozwald Boateng inspired me because he was from where I was from yet his life looked almostfairytale like. As I got older, I learned more about design and designers, today I have many inspirations including Haider Ackermann, Dries Van Noten, Christopher Bailey and of course Mr. Ford.
As a child, you used to skip football to work for a tailor shop in Savile Row. How did you start ad why so young? What did you learn from this experience?
I don't think at the time I was conscious of my age, all I thought about was the feeling, the idea of being a tailor at the time seemed so romanticized for me, to be able to build garments with bare hands from nothing seemed to me a kind of magic. I still think that my experience on "The Row" was such a special one and one that I am extremely grateful for, it taught me the importance of purity, and integrity as well as attention to detail.
At 21, after a short time at the Fashion Institute of Technology, you were hired at Burberry by Christopher Bailey, whom you had already met at Savile Row, what did you learn from him?
I think with Christopher Bailey, I learned to treat design almost like poetry, he had such a way about what inspired him, at the time I knew more about pattern drafting and cutting or hand sewing than I did about design and creative direction, naturally I was always learning and being inspired by his leadership.
A year later, in 2017, following the departure of Christopher Bailey, you left for Tom Ford. Was it different? why? what did you learn form him as well?
It was such an experience working with Tom Ford, particularly because it is not a house with much internal visibility, it was a small team which was different for me coming from Burberry, but I think Tom Ford really honed what my idea of luxury was and being from Savile Row where design is under a microscope, to see the same attention to detail be given to ready to wear was beautiful.
You also said in one of your interviews to have become a “cultural clone” of Tom Ford, what did you mean? Why did you leave the house in 2018 to launch your own brand?
Yes, I remember this quote, I was speaking on the mindset I was in while I was working with Mr. Ford. I think his direction is so sensual and luxurious, it is a very tempting lifestyle and I found myself almost trying to clone that mindset for myself while at the house, I felt at the time it made me a better designer under his direction.
In 2019, Winnie New York was born, what does this name mean?
The brand was birthed after the passing of my grandmother, and so I decided to create something as an ode to her memory.
For the fall-winter 2021 collection, a year after your first steps at Paris fashion week, you collaborated with Canadian artist Tau Lewis known for her upcycled installations. Could to tell me about your collaboration? How do you view the ecological and sustainable commitment in the production of your pieces?
It was an honor to collaborate with someone so talented, I have been a fan of her work for a while and so to get the opportunity to work with her on a collection was amazing. It was where my calling to create in a more sustainable way was formed, I was inspired by the sculptures she creates, and I have tried to sew that into the Winnie DNA as well as the collaboration with Artists. For example this season we will be collaborating with the artist Alida Rodrigues whose works are inspired by self-identity and are beautiful.
Tradition and transmission run through your collections. For example, the Spring/Summer 2022 collection taking inspiration from the year (1960) when 36 African nations gained their independence. How do you manage this “aller-retour” (back and forth) between heritage and innovation? How do you integrate elements of your own culture into a tailoring based on classical rules?
I have a bit of a complicated upbringing, being born in New York, being of Nigerian heritage and spending some early years there and then being raised in England before returning to New York eventually. I think it makes for interesting inspirations, connections and conversations. I am not one or the other, I am all of it all at once and so I have the same approach in design, I think it's all about finding the thread that connects these ideas in a balanced way.
What inspirations feed your artistic practice? How would you describe your present and future aesthetic?
I am inspired by so much; I think the aesthetic for Winnie if it had to be put in words would be sartorial ease, I strive for the patterns to give a feel of ease in the wearability of the clothes. Of course art, sustainability and my heritage play major roles in my creative direction of the brand.