Fashion designer Lara Klawikowski has made a career of her childhood joy
When I first saw fashion designer Lara Klawikowski’s creations at the 2014 Mercedes-Benz Cape Town Fashion Week, I was completely mesmerised - as one piece after the other intrigued me.
She used delicate fabrics to create innovative designs, with intricate folds and draping, that made the garments look like they were artistically put together on the models.
Her floating artworks were clearly inspired by nature. Between abstract flower petals to oceanic movements, each garment resembled a watercolour painting that had come to life.
At a recent event, I spotted Klawikoski doing illustrations of the guests who had eagerly lined up and were patiently waiting their turn to have their portraits done.
Having seen her artworks, I couldn’t wait for it to be my turn; to have my Klawikowski’s portrait.
As I sat across the table from her, watching how effortlessly she put ink to paper and delicately and strategically placed flower petals, I had a glimpse into how she creates her pieces.
In true “fan-girl” style, I couldn’t stop talking about my love for her work.
I subsequently had the opportunity to find out more about this South African artist.
Tell us about yourself
I was born in Worcester and grew up there. My family heritage is a mix of Polish, Russian and a bit of German. I moved to Cape Town to study fashion design after high school, and I’ve lived and worked here ever since.
Where did your fashion journey begin?
I was always enthralled by clothes. I spent most of my childhood dressing up and draping, wrapping and tying my clothes, my mum’s clothes, my doll’s clothes, and even on myself and my sister.
A family friend of ours also sewed and she would give us interesting clothes to play with, made from off-cuts of her projects, so there was an endless supply to play dress-up.
What was your earliest fashion memory?
I remember seeing a fashion show on TV when I was young. It was coverage of an international fashion week. Seeing how happy the designer and everyone was, made a deep impression on me, and I was fascinated by the idea of being a fashion designer. My mom suggested I study fashion design while I make up my mind about my career. Her thinking was that I would at least learn how to make clothes properly instead of safety-pinning everything.
How would you describe your creative process?
It begins with fabric. Any intriguing material I’ve found or created, sparks inspiration for me and leads the design of a garment. I spend a lot of time draping and playing with materials on a mannequin (and I still drape material on myself), and then draft the pattern from there and develop the idea further. Even a small piece of a unique material, pinned randomly on a mannequin, can inspire an entire collection.
How would you describe your work?
My designs are artisanal and different from the mainstream. They are imaginative, intriguingly sculptural and tactile, and have an otherworldly beauty and edge. Unexpected proportions, unpredictable use of fabrics and re-fabricated materials, and a meticulous finish and construction are key traits of my work.
Tell us about your latest collection and what inspired it?
“Strange Flowers” is a collection of bespoke up-cycled bridal designs, created from recycled and biodegradable materials, re-fabricated by hand, at our studio in Cape Town. The collection was inspired by the current global insistence on growing awareness of what we wear, what our garments are made of and who made them, and the emphasis placed on choosing to wear garments that are least harmful to the earth and humans.
Where do you see your work locally and globally?
My work is different from any of the local designers and, to me, that is extremely important. It was great to see many of the silhouettes and shapes I used for my latest collection appearing at the Paris Haute Couture shows recently - I feel like I’m on par!