5 Minutes With Julia M'Poko of Mo'ko Elosa
After studying fashion at the Cape Town College of Fashion Design, Belgium-born Julia M’Poko launched Mo’ko Elosa – a ready-to-wear fashion label that caters for both men and women. Each garment is designed and produced in Africa with a minimalistic and refined approach. Since founding her label, Julia has showcased her designs at South African Menswear Week A/W 2016 and hopes to stock her garments in countries like Nigeria and Ghana by the end of 2016.
Interview by Nicole Danielle
Photography by Clive Myburgh
Pictured here is a grey wrap skirt, cropped top, and shawl from Mo'ko Elosa's Misogi collection featured in Meet Me Halfway, Georgette, August 2015
Why did you choose the name “Mo’ko Elosa”?
Mo'ko Elosa is a name that is based on its meaning and endearment to me. “Mo'ko” means “one” in Lingala, a native tongue spoken in Congo, and Elosa was my grandmother’s maiden name.
When did you know that you wanted to be a fashion designer?
I have somewhat always known I wanted to be in fashion from an early age. I was always so inquisitive when it came to garments and the functionality of clothing and how it was made. I remember attempting to sew clothes for my dolls with my grandmother’s leftover fabric when I was a little girl.
Did your grandmother make clothes as well?
My grandmother did make clothes but she specialised in making wedding dresses. I started off having a great interest in following the same pursuit but somehow wound up enjoying ready-to-wear more.
Your debut womenswear collection, Misogi, is beautifully simplistic and I love the fabrics.
Thank you. The Misogi collection was inspired by a Japanese Shintu practice “Misogi” whereby the process of cleaning and purifying the body takes place. I instantly knew I wanted to use soft-textured fabrics to bring across the clean lines used in the design of the garments.
A lot of the pieces in the collection are quite structured as well, which I think adds a nice element of surprise.
The structure comes from the need to have my garments grounded and to have a solid foundation, which I feel is important when going through a process of renewing oneself.
Is that why you chose the very soft and neutral colour palette?
The colour palette coincides with the message and influence behind this collection. The soft hues illustrate the delicate nature of novelty.
Would you say that the aesthetic of your brand is very much the same as your personal style?
In many ways yes, I would. My style is somewhat simple when it comes to my preferred silhouette and colour palette.
Describe what the journey has been like since the launch of Mo’ko Elosa.
It's been pretty hectic. I’ve been in production which is a lot more tedious and time consuming than I expected. But so far it's been an incredible learning experience.
Why did you choose to launch in Cape Town?
Cape Town is a hub of young creatives and the energy one gets from being in such an inspiring environment fuels your artistic expression.
Are there any people in particular who influence your work?
Biggest influence I would say is Karl Lagerfeld. He has a way of paying attention to detail that is extremely inspiring. I admire how he is able to create a story within a collection and do so effortlessly with two different brands. And he is an amazing fashion photographer.
What are your thoughts on sustainable clothing in South Africa?
I think it has a little way to go but is making progress. It is very important that we create an environment that enables the industry to be sustainable by buying into the local market and manufacturing locally.
What advice can you give to someone wanting to launch a clothing label?
The best advice I would give, which is something I should have done myself, is to get as much experience in the industry as possible before getting into the business.
What projects are you currently working on?
South African Menswear Week S/S 2016/2017 is coming up in July, which I am quite excited about!