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The references behind Ivana Damjanovic's otherworldly bags

The winner of this year's ITS x YKK Accessories award shares her eclectic moodboard of inspiration – from Batman to outer space

“My idea is to make something that sits on the edge of art,” explains Serbian designer Ivana Damjanovic, “but is still wearable.” Winner of the YKK Accessories award, presented at the 13th ITS Competition earlier this summer, Damjanovic creates sculptural bags from carbon and glass fibre. Inspired by the supernova explosion of stars, she conceived her winning design from an imagined ‘bag supernova’: what would a bag look like if we had never seen a bag before? The result is an almost embryonic, skeletal structure. Unzipping the bag – which incorporates specialist YKK fastenings – reveals an inner, zipped leather sac, carefully encased within the womb-like form. A graduate of applied arts in Belgrade, Damjanovic moved through various disciplines before settling on bags: from architecture, to interior design, sculpture, costume and jewellery. As she advises, “if you open and explore everything that is in your interest you can push boundaries, and actually produce something that is new.”

With this liberal attitude to creative discipline in mind, it is surprising to hear that Damjanovic does not draw on many visual references. “I live in an information bubble,” she explains. “Not because I do not have access, but because I believe that the mind has to stay pure in order to be able to create from the inside. I have to create what I really feel.” Here, Damjanovic lists the few inspirations that do influence her work – an eclectic mix spanning deep-sea creatures and Batman trilogies.


“I named my first bag collection ‘The Dark Bag Rises’, as it was definitely inspired by this trilogy. What I loved about it is that they finally showed Batman as a person; a person that has the money to invest in awesome technology, has a motive, and is driven. This alter ego, and ability to form a better person out of yourself – that is just fascinating. My collection represents exactly that, items that give you an extra kick of energy when you wear them. Because, you know, life is challenging. Sure, you cannot have the Batmobile, but you can have the kick-ass bag.”


“Technology and research is a playground. That basic child need to explore and play is what really drives me. Of course, curiosity plays a big role.”


“If you want to have the fresh perspective you cannot be on the ground all the time – instead think deep ocean or out of atmosphere. The things that they discover in deep oceans are just mind blowing! And we share the same planet. And then again, it all came from stars!”


“Discovering that every single chemical element in our body was once formed in the centre of a star had me in a head spin. Also the fact that an explosion of one star creates something new poses the question, ‘is the end really the end or is it just a beginning?’ The idea of a ‘supernova’ came naturally for a second bag collection. Inspired by the death of a star, I wanted to take on the aftermath of the death of a bag. What would a bag look like if we had never seen a bag before, and it was produced in a modern world using technology available now?”


“I know it should be pretty standard to collect inspiration from art, architecture, and fashion, but that really is not my thing. I am driven by emotion. I collect that emotion mainly from human interaction, film, TV shows and music. Chris Martin and John Frusciante: they seem to have nothing in common right? But there is a certain, very specific emotion common in both of them. I do not know how to describe it other than tension. There is an enormous emotional tension in their songs that is almost never discharged. I try to do exactly that when I am creating. Insert a little tension and power in the piece.”