Interview by Nicole Danielle
Lara Klawikowski is a Cape Town-based fashion designer who enjoys experimenting with fabrics and unusual materials, and loves to design and make beautiful, thought-provoking clothes. Her love of fashion began when she saw one of the overseas fashion weeks being broadcast on the news on TV when she was little.
“They showed the finale on the runway with all the models wearing the most interesting, beautiful and eccentric clothes and then the designer emerged, laughing and smiling the biggest smile, insanely happy. I think it might have been Jean Paul Gaultier. I asked my mom what he was doing and she told me that he was a fashion designer. From then on, I spent my childhood fixating on being a ‘fashion designer’ when I grew up. I spent endless hours draping my mom’s clothes on myself, wearing them in the strangest ways, or squeezing into my doll’s clothes. As a teenager, I would pin, sew, paint and cut up my clothes, much to my mom’s horror. Changing the way clothes look was always a fun and fascinating thing to do in my spare time. When I matriculated I was unsure of what career to choose. I was considering studying medicine. My mom suggested I study fashion design first, so I could finally learn to make clothes properly and decide later if something as serious as medicine was what I really wanted to do. But the more I learnt about constructing clothes, all the technicalities and intricacies, the more I loved it, and now I don’t want to be anything but a fashion designer."
Nicole Danielle: Describe a typical day in the life of Lara Klawikowski.
Lara Klawikowski: Each day has more or less the same activities in no specific order. Wake up, go for a run really early, get dressed, get to my studio, draw, draft patterns, cut fabric, visit fabric stores, go out for lunch – where I always see something inspiring, drape fabric on myself, convert to patterns, sew or have my seamstress sew, see clients, do fittings, answer emails... I’m at my studio until late at night. Sometimes it feels like time doesn’t exist.
ND: You showcased your first ready-to-wear collection last year. Tell me a bit about that.
LK: My first ready-to-wear collection was a capsule collection of womenswear, entitled "BlindSight", and inspired by a visit to the Institute for the Blind. After seeing the creative work that they do, I became very aware of how dependent my career is on my sense of sight. I was intrigued by the idea of an imaginary state of blindness and what I would see in this state. I imagined seeing a canvas of pure white or pure black and shades in between, depending on the strength of the lighting in my environment. I was inspired by how the visually impaired see a texture by feeling it; how a sharper contrast in texture gives a more vivid image in the mind’s eye.
I used traditional cane-weaving techniques as inspiration for delicate woven panels with subtle geometry and mind-consuming texture, and haphazard pleating/sculpting to enhance the three-dimensional feel and mimic how the visually impaired may encounter unexpected shapes and re-construct them.
As a conceptual designer, I create fashion as art. My first ready-to-wear collection was a move to make a more commercial and accessible range, whilst retaining artistic details from my couture designs.
ND: Who or what inspires your avant-garde designs?
LK: It almost always starts with fabric. The way it can be shaped, sculpted, or manipulated into a new and unusual idea of beautiful.
ND: The best advice you’ve ever received?
LK: “Have mercy on yourself.” I’m extremely driven, ambitious and hard-working. It’s good to take a break sometimes.
ND: Style-wise, who inspires you?
LK: I think I’m more inspired by elements in the clothes people wear, than by a look in its entirety. I’m always looking for a striking design detail or an off-beat colour palette that I could incorporate into my work.
ND: What advice can you give to aspiring fashion designers?
LK: Enter as many competitions as possible. Even if you don’t win, a diversity of people see your work. In fashion, exposure is everything. People need to keep seeing you and your work.
ND: What do you do in your free time?
LK: I love running, reading, eating out and visiting all the markets in Cape Town.
ND: Favourite places to hang out?
LK: My favourite coffee shops right now are Skinny Legs & All, and Truth. I’ve always loved having lunch at The Kitchen in Woodstock and the Stevenson Gallery across the road is my favourite gallery in Cape Town. Love the South China Dim Sum Bar in Long Street. Cape Town Central Library has an amazing art and design section.
ND: Any plans for the future?
LK: I’d love to export my designs overseas and see how they sell there. I’d love to show my work at a fashion week in an overseas design capital.
Photographs by Nicole Danielle