The magic of Lara Klawikoski is that there is no designer quite like her. Her designs are instantly recognisable for their soft, ethereal quality and yet, the designer continues to innovate through her designs as well as her choice of materials. Like watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream, her creations feel at one with nature – often incorporating the natural form of flower petals, hanging leaves and windswept trees. It is no surprise therefore that she describes her work as “wearable art” rather than fashion. A graduate of the Cape Town College of Fashion and Design, Lara has been a firm favourite at fashion shows, showcasing her first prêt-à-porter collection at South African Fashion Week in 2013. Despite gaining commercial appeal and growing as a designer and creative entrepreneur, the label has never lost its connection to the whimsical. But it all starts with the material – which is often re-fabricated or upcycled. Speaking to Independent News, Klawikowski explains: “It begins with fabric. Any intriguing material I’ve found or created, sparks inspiration for me and leads the design of a garment…Even a small piece of a unique material, pinned randomly on a mannequin, can inspire an entire collection.”
But sustainability and innovation are not just gimmicks, reserved for weird private projects. Klawikowski has even designed bridal wear from recycled, biodegradable materials – bringing the commitment to sustainable work, materials and process to even the most ‘mainstream’ of projects. With just 10 years in the industry and a searing hot career ahead, Klawikowski is set to be a leader and legend of local earth-conscious fashion.
In Lara’s words
Part of the appeal of my work has always been the element of surprise in what materials I have turned into something wearable, and the women who wear my designs appreciate the thinking and process behind the designs they are wearing. As a local designer with a small business, I find it difficult to source sustainable fabrics, as there is little or zero information available about the origin of fabrics sold in local fabric stores. The majority of fabric and materials used for bridal and occasion wear is synthetic – pure plastic. Given that a wedding dress is worn once, the bridal scene is an extremely polluting industry. For my latest bridal collection, ‘Strange Flowers’, I looked at all the small sustainable changes I could implement. The collection consists of bespoke upcycled bridal designs created from recycled materials, re-fabricated by hand at our studio in Woodstock, Cape Town. It 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.
Visually, the collection was inspired by the unpredictable and unusual, organic textures and shapes of flowers and plants, and how this can be mirrored in re-fabricated materials for clothes with a unique flora aesthetic. As each pattern piece is created by hand and has its idiosyncrasies, wearing one of these designs is like picking a flower to wear. The intriguing textures and proportions of the designs prompt the wearer to look closer and inspect what they are wearing.
Since a wedding dress is one of the only times someone makes an effort to investigate every detail of what they are wearing, a custom-designed wedding dress made from recycled, upcycled materials, re-fabricated by hand promotes the appreciation of slow fashion. I used plastic refuse bags and bags sold at grocery stores including Pick ‘n Pay, Woolworths and Checkers packets, layered and sewn together, to form panels of collaged colours, smocked and sculpted into dress shapes.
The plastic bags are an ideal material, as there is transparency about their origin printed on the bags. The name of the manufacturer is printed on the bag, it’s clearly stated that they are made in South Africa, from 100% recycled materials and that they are recyclable. This simple transparency makes the plastic bags a better choice than most bridal fabrics found in local fabric stores. The same sewing techniques can be applied to natural fabrics such as linen, hemp or silk for more conservative versions of the avant-garde upcycled plastic designs. This collection was an exercise and challenge in using recycled materials to create something elegant and glamorous in a sustainable way.
Lara won both the Changemaker Award and the Innovation Design and Materials Award at the Twyg Awards 2020. The Awards were sponsored by Country Road, Petco and the Cape Town Fashion Council.
Lara receives the Twyg Changemaker Award 2020 / PHOTOGRAPHER: Tash Singh
Portrait of designer / supplied
Wrapped up in LARA KLAWIKOWSKI SS 2020 ‘Strange Flowers’ designs: Bougainvillea Smocked Cotton Dress, Dusty Pink Smocked Cotton Skirt, Maroon Smocked Cotton Skirt & Beige Smocked Cotton Top worn simultaneously & featured in @sickymag PHOTOGRAPHER @michaeloliverlove STYLIST @_mynameiscarla MUA @richardpaint MODEL @graobe_noelle @bossmodelsa