Season after season we see new colours, collections and styles but while fashion changes rapidly the concept of clothing design hasn’t changed much in 100 years. Conventional textiles still cover bodies in traditional silhouettes signifying social code. Then again, maybe it doesn’t make sense to disrupt a $1.7-trillion industry. But shouldn’t there be more progress in design than mere tweaks and style changes? Shouldn’t there be innovation that alters the concept of clothing and traditional fabrics? 

In just five years the eponymous label has grown rapidly and now offers two lines

Without asking every designer to become Suzanne Lee – the famed bio-couturist known for brewing bacteria to create sustainable fabrics – if SA is to continue making international waves with its fashion offerings, we require a few daring designers willing to stretch the boundaries.

 One such designer is Cape Town-based Lara Klawikowski – a Cape Town College of Fashion Design top graduate who, prior to graduating, already had two prestigious awards under her belt: the Vodacom July Young Design Award as well as the 2010 Sactwu Condom Dress Competition. The latter provided Lara with the seed fund she needed to start her own line.

Naming Iris van Herpen, Rodarte, Hussein Chalayan and Maison Martin 
Margiela among her icons, Klawikowski is no run of-the mill designer. In just five years the eponymous label has grown rapidly and now offers two lines – the signature avant-garde as well as the popular ready-to-wear line. Even though Klawikowski has received many accolades over the past five years, she is more at ease talking about her latest collection, which is inspired by the meta-morphic qualities of fungi.

Lara Klawikowski
Lara Klawikowski
Image: Sean Calitz

Her latest collection is as unconventional as fans have come to expect from the non-conformist designer, showcasing dyed cord that has been applied to fabric using acrylic. Klawikowski explains, “Adding cord to a delicate fabric like chiffon distorts the shape. The floaty and ethereal chiffon becomes very sculptural, moulding itself into a unique and organic shape.” Art and historical fashion are influences, resulting in innovative garments with a distinctive austerity and other-worldly splendour best described as wearable art – each season Klawikowski plays around with silhouettes challenging the de rigueur design idea of symmetry. 

I listen to music when I work, I find the more obscure it is the more I can get lost in it.

This season’s bold yellow, aubergine and red colour palette is completely different from anything she’s done before. Yet, the unusual draping, the clever tailoring and the use of unusual materials screams Lara Klawikowski. 

“I’d like to think my label has a strong brand identity, which speaks to a self-assured and strong modern woman 
looking to express herself with daring clothes that have been made using couture techniques.” 

Besides trawling through the couture archives in the central library, Klawikowski enjoys reviewing art journals and draws inspiration from thought-provoking artists such as Daniel Arsham and Baptiste Debombourg. “I find their installation art inspiring; they create surreal worlds in which I can imagine my designs. I’m currently enjoying Viviane Sassen,” a fashion and fine art photographer she dreams of collaborating with one day.

“I listen to music when I work, I find the more obscure it is the more I can get lost in it.” Her catalogue comprises unknowns, such as Seattle indie-rock band Say Hi, The Shins, Swedish rock band The Cardigans, to better-known bands like Radiohead, Beck and Casabian. Five years from now, “I would love my own store,” she coyly offered “and maybe overseas stockists.” The fashion savvy ought to keep a keen eye on Lara Klawikowski. Her designs are an important commentary on the zeitgeist of South African fashion. Klawikowski will be showcasing her work at the Cape Town Fashion Week.

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