Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town is around the corner and with designers from across the African continent coming together to showcase their latest and greatest it is bound to be three spectacular fashion-filled days. This season, The Wire will make sure you have front row tickets to all the action! Words: Bianca Agenbag
Meet designer LARA KLAWIKOWSKI set to show on the 23rd of March at 18h30
The young designer showcased her first collection at MBFW 2013 and has been a staple in the lineup ever since. With a mind overflowing with creativity no collection is ever the same – always pushing the boundaries in the most unconventional and unexpected ways. Lara’s exquisite avant-garde designs have been described as inspiring, imaginative, purpose-driven and eclectic, pulled together with distinctive austerity that truly turns it into wearable art. We chat to her about her upcoming runway show and one thing is certain –  her mind is as whimsical as her designs.
CSA The Wire: Fashion Week is around the corner! What are some of the elements that we can expect to see in your new collection?
Various manipulated material surfaces creating tactile print-like fabrics, woolen embroidery and appliqué, quilting, geometry, signature re-fabrication and hand-woven weaves.
What inspired your collection? 
The inspiration for our A/W 2017 collection was initially sparked by historical architecture in Cape Town CBD. I visited City Hall and was inspired by the details of windows, doorways, staircases and mosaic floors. I became intrigued by the way Capetonian women dressed 100 plus years ago and imagined a contemporary version that references the elements of historical urban Cape Town fashion and the architectural geometry of the city. I was inspired by the diverse cross-pollination of fashion in South Africa historically, that still exists, more so today.
Where do you usually draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from anything unconventional in beauty – unusual, intriguing textures and colour palettes, strange proportions and perspectives, clever twists on the norm, intricate, time-consuming details of historical garments, and ballet photography – how ballerinas are frozen in their movements.      
How far in advance do you start planning for Fashion Week?
The ideas for a new collection swim in my mind for years. Editing them for a new collection takes about 2-3 months.
How do you approach the production process from beginning to end?
I begin with an idea and play with fabric. The re-fabricated materials we create dictate the design, drape, construction and proportion of a garment, and are often too unpredictable to follow a pattern. Pattern follows fabric in my studio. Once the design is constructed in real life, we convert it to a pattern for further reproduction.
What criteria do you use for selecting models for your show?
I love unconventional beauty – a model with strange features, unique bone structure, and an other-worldly energy. What I find most inspiring is how a pool of models may have precisely the same measurements but a single garment fits differently on each one of them. Uniformity in women’s bodies does not exist and this inspires me to continue designing garments that challenge conventional proportions in womenswear.
Which designer are you looking forward to most for Fashion Week?
Cleo Droomer, it’s his first show in 5 years and we both studied at Cape Town College of Fashion Design.    
Do you have any rituals before a show? Any superstitions?
The preparation for a show usually involves a lack of sleep. It’s become tradition to work straight through till morning the night before the show, checking final details in the dead of night. The sun rising as I leave my studio in Woodstock on the morning of my show has a special feeling – a new day, new collection, new life. I eat peanuts or strawberries and drink litres of orange juice through the night and I take a two-hour nap before a show. In a way, it feels like the collection may not be as good if we finish before the due date.Describe your design aesthetic?

My designs are intriguingly tactile, artisanal and imaginative. I employ advanced pattern-cutting and unexpected garment construction, unusual draping, re-fabricated materials and asymmetry. I love referencing historical fashion and creating contemporary interpretations with a distinctive artistry, edge, and other-worldly beauty.
Tell us more about your love for avant-garde?
Avant-garde fashion is strange in proportion and beauty. It escapes the norm and provokes emotion and fascination.
You‘re known for your use of unconventional materials – Please elaborate a bit?
I favour unconventional materials in fashion as they make the design process more thought-provoking and result in original garments. In South Africa, there is a lack of quality fabrics for fashion and this has challenged me to be resourceful and it became my top inspiration.     
Most memorable career moment?
There have been many. I love the backstage moments before my models walk the runway at fashion week. Knowing another collection is complete and about to be shown to an excited audience is exhilarating!
Which artist would you like to collaborate with?
Tim Walker. He’s my favourite fashion photographer.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
An alternate fashion world in Cape Town. When I’m in the CBD, I imagine all the women in sight wearing my intriguing designs and how conceptually fantastic it would be. It’s inspired me to amplify the wearability of my garments.
One goal you are determined to reach in your lifetime?
I want my brand to outlive me.


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