Vivian Sredni (@viviansredni on Instagram) is a Colombian designer currently based in New York City. Having left her hometown of Baranquilla, Colombia, she hopped on a plane and headed to Savannah, Georgia to study at the Savannah College of Art and Design. She later graduated and moved to NYC to pursue her dream of being a successful designer. We had the chance to interview Vivian about her background, designs, process and her aspirations. Here’s what she had to say...
Solstice: You’re originally from Baranquilla, Colombia. What was it like growing up and living in the country? How do you think growing up there has formed your artistic side?
Vivian: Growing up in Barranquilla was an amazing experience that I wouldn’t change for anything in this world. I made amazing friends and created unforgettable memories along the way. My hometown means the world to me and anyone who knows me knows that I love Barranquilla. However I was set on leaving my hometown to pursue a future in art. I never knew what I wanted to do, I wasn’t a big fan of school, math, chemistry, biology, almost everything related to school wasn’t really my thing. I did not want to go to college at all when I graduated high school, I wanted to somehow move to New York or Los Angeles and work my way through life until I figured out what I wanted to do. My parents both laughed at my insane idea and they told me they wanted me to get a degree no matter what it was. When I had a better understanding of life I decided they were completely right, as always, and I should go to college to find out what my passion would end up being. I also realized that many people around me didn’t have the opportunity that my family was handing to me and I had to use this to my advantage to at some point be able to help people in need pursue their dreams and find their passions in life. I do believe that my artistic education came mostly from my family; they took me to so many places around the world and showed me so much so for that I am forever grateful to my parents and my brother. Eventually, as hard as it was leaving my friends and family behind, I ended up leaving for college to the US and this led to finding an entire world of opportunities.
Solstice: So you later moved to the U.S.A. and graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design. What made you move to Savannah in particular and not to cities that are more popular with Latinos such as Miami, NYC, Los Angeles, San Diego etc.?
Vivian: I wasn’t sure what to do when I graduated high school but I did know I wanted to do something within art, so I started looking for different colleges that concentrated only in art. I looked at a few universities and SCAD was the one who caught my attention right away. I loved how they said they would teach you everything from the ground up in every major; the fact that it was all art and design made me love it even more because it had very specific majors. I also knew that I would be surrounded by people that would be interested in art and design as well. Even though you would think Savannah didn’t have much of a Latin community, it did, a lot of students in SCAD are, and thankfully we all had the opportunity to be in such an amazing city.
Solstice: At what age did you start becoming interested in fashion? We are aware that you were thinking about studying photography, so what made you change your mind and study fashion?
Vivian: I have always been interested in fashion but I never really thought I would end up in the industry. I have a huge passion for footwear so it makes me really happy that I am fortunate enough to work with I love to do. Initially I was leaning towards photography but in all honesty, when I got to SCAD I was completely intimidated by the student work displayed in the photography building so this is when I started exploring different majors. I took different classes and started gearing towards careers in fashion. I took the intro to accessories design course and I fell in love with the craft. I wanted to concentrate on handbags when I first started but after taking the second footwear design course I was convinced that I would concentrate on that instead. Since then, footwear is my great passion and what I love to do.
Solstice: How are you finding being a designer? What are the highs and lows?
Vivian: I am currently working in a fashion footwear company in New York where I started out as a design apprentice, but I have recently turned to a product development role in the company since I love to get full visibility on the entire process that a product goes through. I have also chosen to go through the route of product development because I wanted to concentrate on my personal designs outside of work. This company has taught me so much about the industry and about the product in general and I am forever grateful to them for all of their knowledge and kindness towards me, I have met incredible people in this company that I am happy to call them my friends and not only my colleagues.
Solstice: What inspires you the most when you are in the first stages of the design process?
Vivian: I love to create and design while I am in the making of the products. But something that is a huge inspiration for me is architecture, specially now, living in such a big city like New York and being able to walk around and see everything around me is an amazing experience that I get to reflect in my designs and in the process. I also think a lot about past experiences in my life and how they can inspire me to make new designs and to create new concepts. And lastly, my dreams and aspirations are also a huge motivation to keep going no matter what. So, in general I would say what inspires me the most is my past, where I am and where I want go and who I want to be in the future
Solstice: Which designers do you look up to/have influenced your work?
Vivian: I admire so many designers, a lot of them are not in the fashion industry but they still inspire me so much, whether it is with their design process, their overall aesthetic, or their story of how they climbed their way to success.Some of these artists and designers are Frank Lloyd Wright, Raf Simons, Zaha Hadid, Jackson Pollock, Johanna Ortiz, Phoebe Philo, Frank Gehry, Yves Saint Laurent, Moshe Safdie and so many more, this list could go on and on.
Solstice: Could you please talk us your process from design to finished product?
Vivian: Well I don’t really have a set process from design to finished product, but once I come up with an idea I try to start developing it by sketching out different designs of shoes, bags or just objects to somehow get different pieces that I would eventually try to make them come alive and make them in to what for me are art pieces. The process of making shoes is so exciting to me and it is probably one of my favorite parts of the entire process, there is so much that goes into it and every little step means so much for the finished product. I love to put thought into every detail in the process because I know that it will eventually show in the finished product and everyone will interpret it in their own unique way.
Solstice: Your designs are little more conceptual than commercial, especially your shoes, would you ever consider flipping that and going more commercial?
Vivian: I would love to. My true passion is conceptual design and I would love to concentrate on that but I would also be open to any opportunities, especially if it comes to collaborations with other fashion brands. I feel that collaboration is a great experience for everyone involved, there is so much learning that goes into collaborating with different designers and artists. So, I would love to eventually collaborate with other brands since I know I’ll be able to learn a lot and that is something that I love.
Solstice: Tell us about your current collection?
Vivian: This was my senior collection in SCAD, it is such an important collection for me because while creating it I found my passion and my true happiness, creating and coming up with crazy ideas that can somehow translate to shoe and handbag designs is so exciting to me. With this collection I had the opportunity of exploring materials I had never worked with which made the process thrilling but challenging. Thankfully I had the help of so many people around me, whether it was with emotional support or helping me with the physical products, a lot of people where there for me and thankfully they are still in my life. My very good friend, Maximiliano Acevedo, helped me with the development of the products in the entire collection, not only did he help me transform my crazy ideas into reality but he also made me have the best time ever. My professors and friends at SCAD helped me get through rough patches throughout the collection and they made me stronger and they inspired me every single day. This collection is about how some things are not what we perceive, whether it is from something physical and material or from something intangible, like personalities or feelings, and that is why it is called Illusions.
Solstice: What are your plans for your next collection?
Vivian: I am currently working on a new conceptual collection, I am working on something that is sort of an extension to the concept of the Illusions collection, not in regards to the design, but mostly to the concept. The materials and design language that I am using for this next collection is very different and I am very excited to keep working on it so that I can release it as soon as possible! One thing I can tell you is that there will be a lot of surfaces with reflection and replication.
Solstice: What are your opinions on fast fashion and sustainable fashion?
Vivian: Being in the industry has made me realize how much waste there is and it has made me gain so much more consciousness about certain factors that relate to sustainability. During the design process and the development process of a collection only, which is what I am currently exposed to, there is so much waste of material that could get reduced and I just feel like it is a matter of awareness of everyone that is a part of the industry and a responsibility for the big companies that have a voice to make an impact and take a stand to try and make this a priority in the industry, not only in the beginning stages of a collection, but throughout the entire process and throughout every single department in a company.
Solstice: What advice would you give for any young aspiring fashion designers out there?
Vivian: Follow your instincts and whatever your heart says, do it. Please don’t compare yourself or your work to others, concentrate on yourself and your work and everything will come out so amazing you won’t even believe it yourself. This may sound cliché, but do not hesitate yourself, do not stop believing in your dreams, there is no such thing as “too big of a dream”. And to those who have these huge dreams, make them a reality.
Solstice: Would you ever consider moving to the major fashion cities in Europe? London, Milan and Paris.
Vivian: I would definitely consider moving to any of the major fashion cities in Europe, if an opportunity ever arises I would absolutely consider the idea of moving, every time I get an idea pitched, an opportunity given to me or something that I have looked for is possible, I like to go for it, you never know what anything you do in life might bring to you, I believe that everything happens for a reason and that if something doesn’t go as planned it is an opportunity to learn and to keep growing.
Solstice: What are the top 5 things you cannot live without and why?
Vivian: I know these first two I’m going to say are not things but I really couldn’t live without my family and my friends, they are the most important people in life to me, they support me in everything I do and always have my back. I couldn’t live without music because it is something that inspires me and I can connect to it really easily. I could not live without any sort of camera, I like to capture moments that I can keep forever and I enjoy to take pictures in general so I wouldn’t like to not have one in my life. I could not be able to live without being able to give back, that is one of my biggest passions in life, I feel so lucky to have everything and everyone I have in my life and for those that don’t have the same opportunities, I want to be able to give back to them and try and give them opportunities, I love to be able to make their days easier but most importantly, happier and more hopeful. Lastly, and extra one, I really couldn’t live without the desire of keep growing and to keep learning, I always want to get better at everything I do.
Solstice: Colombia is growing again after years of strife and is now among Latin America’s most prosperous nations. Do you ever plan on going back to live there again?
Vivian: It makes me so happy to see what this question begins with, Colombia means so much to me and I am so happy it is such a resilient country after everything we have been through. I don’t know what the future holds but as I said, I am open to every opportunity, I loved being raised and growing up in Barranquilla and I would love to eventually have a family and kids and for them to have an amazing experience growing up as I had in Colombia so I would be open to it, no plans currently but I love Colombia so much.
Solstice: What do you hope you’ll be doing/where do you hope you’ll be working in ten years time?
Vivian: I want to build a foundation for people in need, I want to be able to give them incredible opportunities and for them to be able to have an education system in which they can learn and absorb about whatever they are interested in to be able to pursue their dreams and go after what they want to achieve. I would also love to have my own studio where I could be able to showcase my art pieces and where I could be able to work on them. At some point in my life I would love to join these two in some type of way because these two things mean so much to me. I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing, but I always want to be surrounded by the people I love and the people that inspire me and wherever life takes me, I’m looking forward for the adventure.
Interview conducted by Declan Rice
Featured Designer: Vivian Sredni
Photographer: Francisco Betancourt
Make Up Artist: Juliana Munera
Stylist: Jose Criales
Model: Liana Wright-Mark