Liisa Orgna

"The best ideas have come by accident or a mistake..."

Estonian designer Liisa Orgna has been creating clothes since childhood and is following in the footsteps of her mother, a successful sportswear designer. Liisa went onto study design at the Estonian Academy of Arts, and now based in Estonia's capital city of Tallinn she is focusing on nurturing her namesake label. Her current collection Sportlx, embodies an intelligent fusion of classic feminine shapes, hi-tech fabrics and minimalistic sportswear.

How did you get into fashion?
I have always been drawn towards fashion. When I was young, my mum used to sew cute dresses for me but I thought they made me look too girly as I have always been more of a tomboy. What I would go for is a pair of skinny jeans and an oversized tee.

Even though I was and still am all about comfort, I was constantly drawing and designing pretty princess dresses. I remember sewing glittery and colourful clothes for my Barbie doll which I got for Christmas after years of begging for one. My mother had boxes of fabric samples from the place she used to work so I literally went nuts as she gave me free reign to use them. Years later in high school we had fashion contests every spring. This was a turning point and helped me to realise what I wanted to do.

Where are you from?
I come from Tallinn, the capital of Estonia which is a rather small city with population of less than half a million. It is quite fascinating and lovely, with its gorgeous Old Town and especially in the Winter when everything is covered in thick layers of snow.

The smell of caramelised almonds fills the streets and mulled wine is the drink of the day. My home university is tiny - I had only four course mates beside me in my year, and the study itself is very personalised. Through my home university I have obtained a good grasp of technical skills which have assisted me with designing, constructing and sewing. On my last year I decided to study a year abroad at RMIT School of Architecture and Design – probably the best experience I have had so far. Their fashion department has absolutely amazing staff and facilities!

How did you define your particular style or approach to fashion?
Over this year I have been trying to find new methods in construction and I find it often quite challenging but extremely interesting. You would probably look at some of my garments and wonder, ‘Well, what is there so special about that pencil skirt or a top?’, but when you start to observe them from the construction aspect you would go ’’Oh yes, that is something new.’ I am taking a minimalistic approach to my garments. No one wants to look like a full on Christmas tree, so therefore I aim for simplicity.

What has influenced your approach?
My mother has been my biggest influence. Formerly the head designer in an Estonian sportswear company for over 10 years, she was always somebody I looked up to and aspired to be. When I first started becoming really involved in fashion, I had aspirations to work in sportswear.

The ultimate dream for me was to be head designer at Volcom or Nike, but after my first year at university I started appreciating couture and feminine style. I shifted away from sportswear a little, but it will always be an influence for me and is something I always revisit.

What is the problem with fashion today?
There are many issues with fashion, but I think the biggest one for me is the general public’s lack of understanding of what we do. Whenever I meet new people and they ask me what I am doing they always say something like, ‘Oh that must be fun and easy, everyone can do fashion, why do you even need to study it?!’ Would you build a house without knowing how it's done? No.

Unfortunately, most people simply don’t understand how much effort, time and free labour goes into creating fashion, especially when you are an up and coming designer, and at the same time trying financially to support yourself and to keep creating. It must be one of the most competitive and toughest industries.

What are you most proud of in your work?
Quality, innovation in construction and the total look of the collection is integral in my work.

What does the future of fashion look like?
I feel like past few seasons fashion houses, designers and brands are getting more and more similar to each other. It use to be easy to recognize designers by their style. I also think new fabrics will emerge which will inspire creativity.

Do you have any other creative pursuits?
I have done lots of art courses ranging from ceramics to silk painting. A year and a half ago I picked up fashion illustration and developed my own style which is quirky and so far I am loving it. I even have a small fan page on Facebook. I am also passionate about home decor and architecture. Sometimes I find myself browsing more interior magazines than fashion ones and then I am all like ‘Hold on girl, what are you doing?!

It’s almost expected that designers sell online these days, is this the way forward for new designers?
I think it would be very difficult to move forward as a new designer without an online presence, but there are both positives and negatives to selling your designs online. Having an online store allows you a little extra time to finish a garment once the order has been placed rather than having a whole rack of them all ready to go in a boutique. Selling your wares online also gives you a much wider customer base as well as international exposure, which is such an advantage in the fast paced world that we live in today.

People can now look for, and buy clothing while sitting on the couch having their morning coffee, which is so much more convenient than going from store to store trying to figure out what to get. The main downside to online shopping is the sizing, which is where I think boutiques will still always have a place. It can be very difficult to work out your size when you’re buying something made out of a woven fabric with no give, or even if it will suit you at all, sometimes we just need to try clothes on. Online shopping is most definitely a great direction to go in, but nothing can beat the experience of trying on and feeling a garment first hand - so having a presence both online and in store gives a designer the best of both worlds.

What do you value more, process or outcome, concept or quality of craftsmanship?
I must say I am obsessed with the process of making a garment. It can be the smallest detail, curve or construction method and I am all hyped up. The best ideas have come by accident or a mistake. I can feel adrenaline rushing through my veins when I am extremely happy about how things are coming along. At that point I find it hard to fall asleep. Going through the ideas in my mind, smiling, talking it through ‘this is absolutely fantastic’, and drop a couple of tears of joy. It is a euphoric feeling. And of course quality! There is nothing more disturbing than mismatching seams!