Inflorescence: An Interview With Local Talent Lara Klawikowski

 It has been Matsidiso's greatest honour to be a part of the incredibly talented Lara Klawikowski SAFW digital show this year- 'Inflorescence'. Be the first to gaze your eyes on her newest collection and join us for the socially distanced SAFW debut on April 29, at 9pm. Tickets now available on Quicket for just R90! 

Lara is a South African fashion designer and illustrator of Polish and Russian heritage, based in Cape Town. She launched her eponymous label in 2010 with a focus on avant-garde design, after graduating from CTCFD and winning the SACTWU Condom Dress Design Award.

During her studies, she won the prestigious Durban July Young Designer Award, was a top 5 graduate at the CTFC Graduate Shows, runner-up in the FAD Awards, and completed an introductory course in shoe making and shoe design. She showcased her first ready-to-wear collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town in 2013 and was also a semi-finalist in the SAFW Renault New Talent competition.

Lara Klawikowski designs wearable art - bespoke womanswear handcrafted at her studio. Her designs are intriguingly tactile and artisanal, with a distinctive artistry, femininity, edge, and other-worldly beauty. She employs unpredictable pattern-cutting and garment construction, organic draping and proportions. Her love for unusual detail, texture and innovative use of fabric has led to constant experimentation with recycled, upcycled and re-fabricated materials.

Lara Klawikowski won the Innovative Design and Materials Award, as well as the coveted Changemaker Award at the TWYG x Country Road Sustainable Fashion Awards 2020.

Her bespoke creations can be ordered from her studio and her ready-to-wear designs are available at boutiques in Cape Town. So, without future ado- an interview with her to learn about her process and most recent collection. 

How did your journey in fashion begin? When did you fall in love with making clothing?

I fell in love with clothes when I was child. I spent most of my childhood dressing up - in my own clothes, my mom’s clothes, even trying to squeeze into my doll’s clothes. I was fascinated by clothes, and how draping and pinning fabric on myself (or my sisters) can change how it looks. The possibilities are infinite. Being a fashion designer was a childhood dream but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life after school. My mom suggested I study fashion design while I make up my mind, so I would at least learn how to make clothes properly in the meantime. I studied at Cape Town College of Fashion Design and realised it was what I was meant to do, and I haven’t changed my mind yet.

When did you first become familiar with the concept of sustainability and when did it make an impact on your life?

The concept of sustainability and even the word ‘sustainability’, only surfaced about 5 years ago. My earliest memory or exposure to the concept of sustainability, and recycling, was a school trip in pre-primary to a Coca-Cola factory, where we were shown the process of how they clean thousands of glass bottles to be re-used. It was amazing, and sparked my love for factories and how things are made. I also remember there was a soft-drink can collection project, where we were asked to collect used cans, ones we’d used or found as litter. Each grade had to create a giant art piece by laying the cans on the netball and tennis courts at school, for a prize, and then all the cans were sent away to be recycled. It was beautiful to see the creations, but more importantly gave us an idea of what end-use waste looks like collectively. For a long time, I linked recycling and sustainability to recycling food and drinks packaging and not littering exclusively. I’ve since learnt there is an extremely broad spectrum when it comes to leading a sustainable lifestyle, and even more so when it comes to the fashion industry.

Labeling my brand as sustainable wasn’t on my mind but when reviewing how I have designed and created from the start, I found I follow sustainable fashion practices unknowingly, simply because they make the most sense environmentally, and financially as a small business.

Creating made-to-order bespoke pieces and producing small, conscious runs of my collections has made my business sustainable. My fascination with fabrics, where they are sourced, what they’re made of, how they’re made, how they are used to make clothes, how the clothes are made and who makes them, being conscious of the creative process and limiting waste in each step, and sharing all this detail with the people who wear my designs, so that they are aware and grow appreciation for the products they are investing in, has made my brand inspiring and successful, and impacted my life positively.


What materials are your garments made from? And how did you discover these materials as a source for inspiration to make your incredible apparel?

I’m drawn to unusual materials with interesting, unexpected sculptural qualities when I design clothes. The fabrics and plastics are made from recycled materials or I recycle them at my studio to create new materials and textures. I love seeing a material or fabric waste transformed into something new and spectacular, and I’m inspired by the surprise and amazement from others when they discover what a design is really made of. 


 Some might assume that plastic as a material might be sticky or hot. How does this material feel on your skin? What are some surprising facts about the materials you use that someone might not assume? (example you can wash it)

As the recycled plastics are combined with other natural fabrics and stitched they are perforated to a degree and become breathable. Natural linings are added to some of the designs. Re-fabricating the plastics also results in qualities like flexibility and make the pieces moveable on the body and comfortable to wear. I’ve tested the durability of the initial designs by multiple machine-washes, as a safety precaution during the Covid-19 season, and found the pieces are extremely durable and maintain their quality and shape, far better than ordinary fabrics. They also dry fast and don’t require ironing!


What are some of the weirdest questions you get asked about your apparel? (if any)

Someone once asked me if my designs are edible, as they read some of my designs are made from organic fabrics! I think this is an excellent example of how sustainability buzzwords are misinterpreted by consumers. 


What inspired your SAFW 2021 Collection? How did you choose your colours?

My SAFW 2021 collection is a continuation of my bridal / wearable art collection ‘Strange Flowers’, inspired by unpredictable and unusual, organic, floral shapes and textures, that can be mirrored in a design by using re-fabricated panels of material handcrafted from recycled plastics and upcycled fabric waste. The intriguing textures and proportions prompt the wearer to look closer and inspect what they are wearing, and in doing so, grow a consciousness of the design and creative process and an appreciation for slow fashion.

As a wedding dress is often the only time someone will spend more time selecting and examining every detail, it’s an ideal opportunity to encourage more sustainable fabric choices, especially given that most traditional bridal wear fabrics are synthetic and eco-unfriendly, and a bespoke wedding dress is usually only worn once. 

As each panel of material is handmade and has its own idiosyncrasies, like a flower, each design is one-of-kind essentially.

The new collection was inspired by this. With the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, I felt the concept didn’t have enough time to develop last year, as no one was able to wear the designs. The new collection was designed with the dream of attending events, socialising and getting dressed up in beautiful clothes again. I drew inspiration from the parrot tulip - its vivid, painterly splashed plumage-like petals, in happy shades of pinks, yellows, oranges, purples and greens.     


How long does it take you to make one dress? Can you walk us through the process?

The process begins by deciding on a colour palette based on the fabric waste and off-cuts available, either collected at my studio, or for my latest collection, collected by Rewoven, a sustainability initiative that collects fabric waste destined for landfill from CMTs around Cape Town and sells the waste to companies who recycle and upcycle.

I begin with a rough idea of the designs for garments I want to make but the shape and drape of the fabrics or materials re-fabricated at our studio gives the designs their direction. I decide what textures I want to create and how many panels of material need to be made. This eliminates making too much and limits fabric waste.

Re-fabricating the materials involves different creative processes like connecting fabric bits together, collaging, shredding, layering, sandwiching or combining the fabrics with recycled plastics and materials. Creating a square meter of re-fabricated material takes about 1 – 2 hours. A single design uses 2 – 20 pieces, depending on the design, size and volume. Once the panels are created, it takes 1 – 5 hours to assemble the design, and sew finishes and trims.     


What are your dreams for the future- for yourself on a personal level and your brand?

My dream is to see more people wearing designs. I also dream of showcasing my designs at international fashion weeks and selling my designs overseas. I’m happiest when I am designing and creating, so the more my brand grows, the more I can design and create!


What do you hope for the future of fashion?

I hope to see a growing appreciation for clothes and slow fashion, and a more conscious and less wasteful approach to consuming. I’m excited to see how sustainable technology in the fashion industry develops and I want to be part of it.


Where can you follow your journey and purchase your beautiful works of art?

You can follow me on Instagram @lara__klawikowski

My ready-to-wear design are sold at The Bello Studio and Merchants on Long, and bespoke designs are available to order from our studio in Woodstock.

And right now, you can buy tickets to our SA Fashion Week digital show taking place April 29, 2021- where you can be the very first to view my newest collection with Matsidiso Shoes @Quicket for just R90! 


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